Farcical Tory whinges about electoral unfairness

The Tories have been moaning about how they are electorally disadvantaged by the present constituency boundaries in England. In a post on the Conservative Home blog today, they quote the Sun as saying: “On a uniform swing across the country, the Tories would get 278 MPs if they scoop 37 per cent of the vote. But Labour would get 280 on just 32 per cent of the vote”.

As I point out in a comment to that post, 278 MPs still equate to 43% of seats in the House of Commons; so the Tories have got nothing to complain about other than the fact they resent Labour benefiting from the unfairness of the voting system even more than they do.

These anomalies arise only as a result of the unfair system used for UK-parliamentary elections. Admittedly, they are exacerbated by Labour’s gerrymandering of constituency boundaries, such that urban seats, where Labour’s support is concentrated, have smaller populations than rural ones, where the Tories are stronger. But it’s the ‘winner takes all’ principle of the First Past the Post system that translates this advantage into seats in Parliament. The Tories, who have consistently opposed electoral reform, have only themselves to blame. But, rest assured, if they get back in power, they’ll rig the system back the other way, in their favour.

In a properly proportional voting system, these anti-democratic absurdities would be a thing of the past. Using multi-member STV, for instance, the number of seats up for election in each constituency would be in proportion to the population size of the constituency; and the result would be in proportion to the way people actually voted. But you won’t find the Tories supporting that, because then they’d have even fewer than 43% of seats from 37% of the vote.

But – and this is the stupidity of their support for FPTP – they would be the largest party and would have the automatic right to try and form a government; whereas under FPTP, anomalies such as Labour being the largest party in parliament based on a smaller share of the vote can always arise: they’re structurally built in to the system, and arguably this would still work in Labour’s favour even if constituency sizes were all the same, as Labour tends to win their seats on smaller shares of the vote than the Tories.

Idiot, self-serving Tories.

And the other dimension they’re not factoring in to these calculations is that Labour’s overall UK plurality (i.e. largest share but not majority of seats) is entirely dependent on their electoral strength in Scotland and Wales. In an English parliament – based on the shares of the vote the Tories are using for their calculations – the Conservatives would be in the majority, or at least the party of government. And indeed, if they stood up for proper English votes on English laws, rather than their botched mitigation of the WLQ, which allows non-English MPs to continue voting on English legislation, they could prevent Labour from being the party of government for England.

Idiot Tories!


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