Today I am sad.
I am sad because the Tories have a slim majority in Parliament and therefore their program of cuts and sell offs will continue.
They support TTIP, a trade deal that will allow corporations to sue countries. They want rid of human rights legislation. They are selling off the NHS piece by piece, to their mates. They are fragmenting our education system, leaving the majority of the population with poor quality education; students are burdened with debt. They have promised to cut £12 billion from the budget, and the DWP have suggested that the sick and disabled are the ones to go for.
The Tories help the rich to rob the poor, and our electoral system lets them.
According to the BBC, this year’s turnout was 66.1% of the electorate. What were the other 33.9% doing? Could their votes have made a difference? Why did people not vote? Is it fear, apathy, feelings of a forgone conclusion? Have they forgotten those who fought and died, who were imprisoned and transported, to get every one of us the right to vote?
The electorate, the number of people who can vote, stands at 46,425,386. Out of that figure 11,334,920 people voted Conservative. That’s 24.4% of the electorate, and yet they have 50.9% of the seats in Parliament (331/650 – giving them a slim majority of 12).
19,301,734 people, or 41.6% of the electorate voted for a party other than the Conservative Party. 20.1% of the electorate voted Labour, who now have 35.7% of the available parliamentary seats. And at the other end of the scale, the Greens got 0.15% of available seats – 1 seat – while receiving 2.5% of the electorate’s votes.
The number of seats a party receives is clearly not proportional to the number of votes cast. If it were the seats would be shared out differently. To continue with our examples, if the entire electorate voted then the Conservatives would have 159 seats, Labour would have 131 seats, and the Greens would have 16 seats. As it is only 30,636,654 people voted, so the seats would be slightly different. The Conservatives would have 240 seats, Labour would get 198 seats, and the Green Party would have 25 seats. That is a Hell of a difference, isn’t it? The Conservatives would still have the most seats but not a majority.
Allocation of seats based on the proportion of votes cast is called Proportional Representation. Proportional systems sometimes break the connection between representatives and communities, if people only vote by party, although there are ways to maintain the link. Our current system is known as First Past The Post. It is a Majoritarian System type of voting system; these are simple but highly disproportionate.
We’re stuck with FPTP and the Conservatives for now, but with luck the mix of parties in Opposition might be able to make progress on the electoral system. If they can stop arguing with each other long enough.
Mourning for our democracy, and the NHS, brings today’s anniversary into focus. Seventy years ago today, victory was declared in the war against Nazi Germany. After almost six years of war, and twelve years of Nazi rule in Germany, the fight against fascism was over. There was jubilation and mourning then, on a huge scale, one seen only once before, when WW1 ended. A year later the foundations of the welfare state were laid. A new, socialist, future reached out to help those in need, providing an all encompassing safety net for the hard times. It took a war, and seeing where the right-wing road leads, to convince people to back the reforms.
And all those reforms, which people fought and died to achieve are blowing away like dust on the wind before the right-wing Conservative Party. They are stripping away the safety netting and letting us all fall.