The outcome of the UK general election resulted in the Conservative Party winning 331 seats thus allowing David Cameron to form a majority government. This may sound perfectly reasonable at first, they did win the most seats so surely Cameron has a mandate to govern and implement the policies within his party’s manifesto. However, the question does need to raised, do seats translate to votes in a first past the post electoral system? The short answer to this question is no, the seats gained by a political party are not proportional to the amounts of votes cast in that parties favour. The Conservatives only received 37% of the vote on a 66% turnout, this means that 63% of the electorate that voted did not vote for the current party in Government, not even taking into account those who did not vote and those who are not on the electoral register. Thus by forming a government the Conservatives are by definition defying the will of the people, which undermines the very concept of democracy.
Now of course this can’t be completely blamed on the Conservative Party themselves, this is due to First Past the Post (If you don’t understand how First Past the Post works I urge you to visit http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/) which is our current electoral system for our General elections. It rewards concentrations of votes in target constituencies and not the actual number of votes cast for a party. This resulted in 52% of the votes cast in this election being completely wasted. The fact that over half the votes casted were essentially meaningless truly demonstrated how profoundly undemocratic First Past the Post is. If our “democracy” entails the people conveying their will on who will govern them, but 52% of those peoples opinions aren’t taken into account and do not relate to seats in parliament, then this is not the type of “democracy” anyone would want.
The “Establishment” will of course argue that the advantage of First Past the Post is that is creates a strong stable government with a clear mandate that the people can hold to account. But this argument poses the question of how accountable is a Government that when the majority of people did not vote for it. Surely one of the functions of an electoral system is to allow the electorate to give a verdict on whether the current Government has been serving the people adequately and thus keeping the government accountable. But when that Party can be re-elected on a minority of the vote with the majority of people voting against them, then that is not providing accountability but eroding it and making a joke out of any argument about accountability. In other words, the jury passed a verdict of guilt but the the defendant was elected into too government regardless, there is literally no other way to explain it. First Past the Post does not and cannot provide accountable governments, contrary to what Jeremy Hunt argued on question time, but actually stops governments being held to account as they do not need the support from across the spectrum of the population compared to a more proportional system.
Typically the response at this point is along the lines of coalitions being unstable so First Past the Post is worth the lack of representation because it creates a strong single party government. Obviously I could say that most of Europe has been functioning on Coalition governments to a great success as they create an atmosphere of cooperative politics rather than adversarial politics. But no one is talking about the far bigger issue. The idea of sacrificing representation for a strong government, that as stated earlier cannot be held to account, is an incredibly dangerous position for any Government to be in regardless of whether they are left or right, liberal or authoritarian. A government that does not represent the people but is in a stable and powerful position is no different to a dictatorship, plutocracy or monarchy and does not have a legitimate mandate to govern. In fact, it allows any Government to abuse its power and create legislation that hurts parts of society that don’t vote for it while creating legislation that benefits only its core voters.
One of the other arguments in favour of First Past the Post is its convenience. Its cheap, easy to count and supposedly uncomplicated. But why on earth would we choose an electoral system that decides who is in our government and legislature purely because it’s convenient, this should not even be part of the discussion. It’s quite frankly disheartening that a debate about our supposed democracy becomes an economic debate, clearly showing that First Past the Post cannot be defended on the grounds of democracy. Arguing that its uncomplicated compared to other electoral systems is equally as ridiculous. First Past the Post is arguably counterintuitive but what really makes the argument meaningless is that we all vote in the European elections which is a regional party list system. Both Wales and Scotland use a form of AMS for the Scottish parliament and Welsh assemblies. So there is clear evidence that the general public are in fact intelligent enough to use electoral systems, contrary to the demeaning and patronising argument we are hearing from the Establishment that us peasants (to use the technical term) aren’t intelligent enough to vote.
Ultimately, First Past the Post cannot be defended whether you are on the left or the right if you want any type of democracy. Its the most unrepresentative electoral system that perpetuates a two party system. Its completely unaccountable with parties winning elections with far less than 50% of the votes. Combined with the fact its actually quite dangerous as it creates what I like to call a “vaguely elected dictatorship” which gives Governments far too much power without being representative or accountable. However it is very unlikely that either labour or the conservatives will make any reform as it benefits them both. So we the people need to campaign through any tactics possible to make this change because even though it wont solve all of the issues facing Humanity, it will allow us to have a slightly more legitimate government. We also need to address the bigger issue facing us and that is a Government that is not representative of the people, cannot be held to account by the people and is ultimately illegitimate.