With the UK 2010 General Election now finished (with 649 of the 650 seats declared – “Thirsk and Malton” is delayed until the 27th of May due to a candidate’s death), we official have a “Hung Parliament” which means no single party has an overall majority (326 is the number needed). The two major parties, Conservatives (306 MPs) who are trying to take Government control from Labour (258 MPs), are now “courting” the Liberal Democrats (57 MPs) to try and form a coalition so jointly they can make a majority government. However, one of the key policies/principles for the Liberal Democrat party is that of Electoral Reform – more specifically changing the UK’s voting system from “First Past The Post” to “Proportional Representation”. This means, in a very simplified manner, than instead of each constituency “returning” an MP who has managed to get the largest number of votes in that area, the votes are then pooled on a regional/country basis and then split proportionally – i.e. if 50% of the votes were for party X, then party X would get 50% of the MPs. At the moment, it’s possible (as indeed happened), for a party to get 23% of the vote but only 8.78% of the seats.
So, what would the General Election look like under PR? Would we still have a Hung Parliament? Well, I’ve taken the data from the BBC’s General Election website and calculated how many seats each party would get under a very very simplified Proportional Representation system. It’s very simplified as I’ve just pooled the votes nationwide and then worked out the percentage: under “real world” situations each constituency would join others to make a large one and then pool on that level.
Well, the table is in the “Read More” section of the post – but what conclusions can I draw?
- We would still have a Hung Parliament
- The Conservatives would actually lose 71 MPs compared to now (from 306 to 235), and Labour would lose 69 (257 to 189)
- The Liberal Democrats would actually gain 93 seats to go from 57 to 150 (so it’s understandable why they like PR)
- The Green party would increase their single seat to 6 seats (a gain of 5)
- Unfortunately, “right wing” parties such as the BNP would go from no seats to 12 and the UK Independence Party would also go from no seats to 20
- The Conservatives could only form a majority government with the help from the Liberal Democrats with 150 MPs: all the remaining parties only have 76 seats spare – Conservatives would need 91 seats
- Labour could only form a majority government with the help from the Liberal Democrats with 150 MPs: Labour need 137 seats to go over the 326 majority threshold
So, in realistic terms, not much would be different to the current situation – EXCEPT (and this is the most important part in my eyes), the mixture of MPs will more accurately represent the voting intentions (and wishes) of the electorate. I might not agree with them, but if that’s what 5% of the voting public want then perhaps we should have some.
Proportional representation may actually lead to more coalition governments in the future – after all Germany “the powerhouse of Europe” has a coalition government, but Greece and Iceland (both who have had major major financial difficulties recently) have majority governments…
Anyway, here’s the data:
» Read more: General Election – What would it be under PR?