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Posts Tagged ‘2015 General Election’

Last week I discussed in more detail the results of the 2015 General Election in the Disunited Kingdom. As I mentioned a few times in that post, the DUK general election uses the ‘first past the post’ (FPTP) system. For anyone not familiar with this system, is simply means that the DUK is divided up into 650 constituencies (with roughly the same population in each); then in each constituency there is a vote. The party who wins the most votes in that constituency returns a member to Parliament, a Member of Parliament (MP).

Back in the days when, at least in England, politics was dominated by two parties, the FPTP system worked reasonably well. But, if you think about it, even with two parties it is mathematically possible for party A to win more seats than party B, even though they get less of the popular vote. Nowadays the system is clearly flawed, as in addition to the Conservative and Labour party (who have dominated DUK politics for the last hundred years), the Liberal Democrats, the United Kingdom Independent Party, the Green Party and, in Scotland and Wales the Scottish Nationalist Party and Plaid Cymru respectively also stand.

What would the seats in the new Parliament have looked like if the DUK had a system of proportional representation (PR)? I am very far from being an expert on PR, but my understanding is that there are several different types, so I am just going to discuss the simplest. I will look at the number of seats each party would have won in each of the DUK’s countries following the percentage of the vote they won there.

PR in England

As we saw in my blog last week, in England there are 533 seats. Of these, the Conservative party won 319 of the seats (59.8%), Labour won 206 (38.6%), Lib Dems 6 (1.1%), UKIP 1 (0.025%) and the Green Pary 1 (0.025%). In terms of percentages of the vote, the Conservative party won 41% of the vote, Labour 31.6%, the Lib-Dems 8.2%, UKIP 14.1% (more than the Lib-Dems, even though they only got 1 seat) and the Green Party 4.2%.

If the election had been determined by a simple PR, then the Conservatives would have won 220 seats, Labour 169, the Lib Dems 45, UKIP 76 and the Greens 23 seats. Notice how different this is to the actual result, where UKIP and the Greens got only one seat!

PR in Scotland

As we saw last week, in Scotland the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) swept the board, winning 56 of the 59 seats there. The other three main parties shared 1 seat each, with UKIP and the Greens not getting any. But, if Scotland had PR the results would have been quite different. The SNP got 50% of the vote, and so would have ended up with 30 seats, Labour got 24.3% and so would have got 14 seats, the Conservatives got 14.9% so would have got 9 seats, the Lib Dems got 7.5% so would have got 4 seats, UKIP got 1.6% so would have got 1 seat, and similarly the Greens would have got 1 seat from their 1.3% of the vote.

PR in Wales

In Wales, the Labour party returned 25 of the 40 MPs, with the Conservatives winning 11 seats, Plaid Cymru 3, and the Lib Dems 1. Neither UKIP nor the Greens won any seats in Wales.

In terms of the vote, Labour got 36.9%, the Conservatives got 27.2%, the Lib Dems got 6.5%, Plaid Cymru 12.1%, UKIP 13.6% and the Greens 2.6%. If we translate these percentages into seats of the total of 40 we would get Labour with 15, Conservatives with 11, Lib Dems with 3, Plaid with 5, UKIP with 5 and the Greens with 1.

PR in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the DUP won 8 of the 18 seats, Sinn Fein won 4, the SDLP won 3, the UUP won 2 and “other” won 1. The percentage of the votes was DUP 25.7%, SF 24.5%, UUP 16%,SDLP 13.9%, APNI 8.6% and UKIP 2.6%. So, had NI been using proportional representation, the DUP would have won 5, SF 4, UUP 3, SDLP 3, APNI 2 and UKIP 1 seat.

Summary

Using the simple way I have calculated this, the number of seats in the House of Commons for each of the parties would have been

  • Conservatives 240
  • Labour 198
  • Lib Dems 52
  • UKIP 83
  • Greens 25
  • Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) 30
  • Plaid Cymru 4
  • Others (NI parties) 18



These numbers will be different depending on exactly how the proportional representation is done, but you get the idea. Below is a graph from the BBC, which went along with this story on PR. The clear parties to gain from a PR system would be UKIP and the Greens. UKIP only got one seat, but under PR this would go up to over 80! The Greens also only got one seat, but under PR they would have 25.



A comparison of the total seats won in the House of Commons under the "first past the post" system and using proportional representation. The big winner under such a PR system would have been UKIP

A comparison of the total seats won in the House of Commons under the “first past the post” system and using proportional representation. The big winner under such a PR system would have been UKIP



With PR, the Conservatives would still have the most seats in the Commons, but would not have an overall majority. This, of course, would mean they would have to work with other parties to pass legislation. For the figures I have worked out, with 240 seats and 325 requiring a majority (there are 650 seats in total), even working with UKIP’s 83 seats would not have been enough. But, it would have been fairly easy for them to also get some of the 18 members from Northern Ireland on board, as the politics of several of the parties in NI is reasonably close to Conservative ideas in terms of economic policy etc.

There was a referendum on reforming the voting system in 2011, and most people voted no. I wonder whether the same result would be returned if the same referendum were held now?

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On Tuesday I summarised the surprise results of the DUK’s general election, today I will look at the results in a little more detail. I will finish this series of blogs next week, when I discuss how the results would have looked if the DUK used a different form of voting to the current ‘first past the post’ system.

The results in England

Below is a summary of the results in England – of the 533 seats in England the Conservative won 319 (59.8%), Labour 206 (38.6%), Lib Dems 6 (1.1%), UKIP 1 (0.025%) and the Green Pary 1 (0.025%). In terms of percentages of the vote, the Conservative party won 41% of the vote, Labour 31.6%, the Lib-Dems 8.2%, UKIP 14.1% (more than the Lib-Dems, even though they only got 1 seat) and the Green Party 4.2%.



The electoral map for England. As can be seen, most of England is a sea of blue, with Labour confined mainly to the urban areas of London, greater Manchester, Merseyside and Tyneside in the north-east.

The electoral map for England. As can be seen, most of England is a sea of blue, with Labour confined mainly to the urban areas of London, greater Manchester, Merseyside and Tyneside in the north-east.



If we zoom in on London even more we can see how few Tory seats there are in the Greater London area. It is an island of red in a sea of Tory blue.



London is predominantly Labour, but is surrounded by a sea of blue Conservative seats

London is predominantly Labour, but is surrounded by a sea of blue Conservative seats



The biggest change since 2010 was the percentage of the vote which went to the Lib-Dems, their share of the vote dropped by 16%. Conversely, UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party, whose main policy is to withdraw the UK from the European Union) improved their share of the vote by 10.7% in England.



The percentage of the vote for each party in England.

The percentage of the vote for each party in England.



The results in Scotland

As I mentioned in my blog on Tuesday, the result in Scotland was, for me, the biggest surprise of the 2015 general election. Although, to be fair to the pollsters, many were predicting that the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) would win most of the seats in Scotland, I personally expected it to maybe around half of the 59 seats, not the 56 that they won. The three main UK parties have been reduced to just one seat each, with Labour being all but wiped out from Scotland. Their losses in Scotland are the main reason that Labour actually have fewer seats than they won in the 2010 election.



The electoral map for Scotland, where the SNP swept the board, all but wiping out three main UK parties who are left with one seat each

The electoral map for Scotland, where the SNP swept the board, all but wiping out the three main UK parties who are left with one seat each



With 50% of the vote, the SNP won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats (95%), Labour got 24.3% of the vote but won only 1 seat (1.7%), the Conservatives got 14.9% of the vote but also won only 1 seat (1.7%), and the Lib-Dems got 7.5% of the vote but got only 1 seat (1.7%). Although UKIP obtained 1.6% of the vote and the Greens 1.3% of the vote; neither won a seat in Scotland.



The percentage of the vote for each party in Scotland. The SNP got 50% of the vote, but because of the 'first past the post' system, won 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland.

The percentage of the vote for each party in Scotland. The SNP got 50% of the vote, but because of the ‘first past the post’ system, won 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland.



The surge in support for the SNP has been truly remarkable, up 30% from the 2010 general election. As I mentioned on Tuesday, this is particularly surprising given the ‘no’ vote in last September’s Scottish independence referendum. Rather than the SNP’s support going down since that ‘no’ vote, it has actually increased and they are now the dominant party in Scotland by some margin. It will be interesting to see how they get on in next May’s Scottish parliament elections, where they are already the majority party. Will they sweep the board there too? Well, in fact, they are highly unlikely to do so; because some of the seats in the Scottish Parliament are determined by proportional representation (in Wales, 30 of the 60 seats in the Welsh Assembly are determined by PR). Assuming half the seats in the Scottish Parliament are also determined by PR, the chances of their having 95% of the seats there are very small; but they may well increase their majority.

The results in Wales

In Wales, Labour remain the dominant party. They won 25 of the 40 seats, with the Conservatives winning 11 (3 more than in 2010). Plaid Cymru held on to their 3 seats, but the Lib Dems were reduced from 3 seats to now only 1.

The electoral map for Wales, which remains predominantly Labour. Plaid Cymru retained their three seats, but the Lib Dems lost two of their three seats to the Conservatives, who also won a seat from Labour in the north-east of Wales.

The electoral map for Wales, which remains predominantly Labour. Plaid Cymru retained their three seats, but the Lib Dems lost two of their three seats to the Conservatives, who also won a seat from Labour in the north-east of Wales to gain 3 seats overall.



Wales has been predominantly Labour ever since the Labour party was formed in the early 1900s. It has never voted for a large number of Conservative MPs, in fact the current 11 could be the highest it has held in Wales. Does anybody know? In contrast, after the 1997 General Election (when Tony Blair swept to power), the Tories had no seats at all in Wales.

A surprising result for me in Wales was that the Conservative percentage of the vote (27.2%) actually increased from the 2010 general election result, but clearly the big losers in Wales were the Lib-Dems, who lost two seats and are now left with only one seat in Wales. Their percentage of the vote dropped by -13.6%, and UKIP’s vote surged by 11.2%, although because of the first past the post system they did not win any seats. Plaid Cymru had targeted Ynys Môn (the island of Anglesey) as a seat they could win, but Labour held on to it, albeit with a small majority of only 229 (Plaid increased its vote and Labour’s share went down, but it was not quite enough for Plaid to take it).



The percentage of the votes in Wales. Despite UKIP winning 13.6% of the vote, they did not win any seats. This is the first time UKIP have obtained more votes than Plaid Cymru

The percentage of the votes in Wales. Despite UKIP winning 13.6% of the vote, they did not win any seats. This is the first time UKIP have obtained more votes than Plaid Cymru



Labour’s share of the vote in Wales was 36.9%, up slightly from the 2010 election, but they lost two of their seats to the Conservatives – including the seat of Gower in west Wales which is the first time this seat has not been Labour in over 100 years. The Lib-Dems lost two seats, including one in Cardiff, which they lost to Labour. The other two seats the Conservatives gained was a Lib-Dem seat in mid-Wales and a Labour seat in north-east Wales.

The results in Northern Ireland

Politics in Northern Ireland is very different to that in the rest of the Disunited Kingdom. Labour and the Lib-Dems do not stand for election in NI, and even the Conservative party are a tiny minority. Politics there is dominated by parties which are not found anywhere else, and are split between ‘unionist’ parties (parties which want NI to remain part of the United Kingdom), and ‘republican’ parties (parties which want to see NI leave the United Kingdom and re-unite with the rest of Irish). Sinn Fein, who won four seats (down one seat from 2010) do not take up their seats in Westminster as they refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.



The electoral map in Northern Ireland. The only 'British' party which stands in Northern Ireland is the Conservative Party, so most of the parties in NI are not found in other countries of the DUK

The electoral map in Northern Ireland. The only ‘British’ parties which stand in Northern Ireland are the Conservative Party, UKIP and the Greens, so most of the parties dominant in NI are not found in other countries of the DUK



The main gains in NI were made by the Ulster Unionist Party, who won two seats and went from having zero MPs in the 2010 to now having two. Sinn Fein (the Irish Nationalist Party) lost one seat to go down to four seats.



The percentage of the votes for each party in Northern Ireland

The percentage of the votes for each party in Northern Ireland



Concluding remarks

Next week, I will discuss how different the House of Commons would be if the Disunited Kingdom were to use proportional representation rather than the current ‘first past the post’ system. It is clear from the details of the general election results above that the make-up would be quite different. I think the results of this election are amongst the most surprising of any general election I can remember, and I feel that they have created more interest in politics than there has been for a couple of decades. After saying that, the percentage of people who did not vote (33.9%) is larger than the percentage won by the Conservatives (24.4%), and this is clearly a worry. The Scottish referendum had a voter turnout of over 80%, so this general election’s turnout of 66.1% is not great. Should voting be compulsory, like it is in Australia?

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Last Thursday (7th of May) the (Dis)United Kingdom had a general election, and much to everyone’s surprise the Conservative Party won an overall majority in the House of Commons. Leading up to election day all of the opinion polls were putting the two main parties, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, equal on 33-34% of the vote each; and so all the predictions were of their being a hung-parliament with no party having an overall majority. This had been the case since the last General Election in 2010, with the Conservatives governing in coalition with the Liberal Democrats; having failed then to secure an overall majority.

The first signs that the opinion polls had got it wrong was when the exit poll was released at 10pm, the moment that polls closed. The exit polls predicted an overall majority for the Conservatives, but many pundits refused to believe that the opinion polls could be so wrong. Former Lib-Dem leader Paddy Ashdown said he would “eat his hat” on TV if the exit polls proved to be correct.


The front page of the early edition of the Independent newspaper, reporting the exit poll's prediction of an unexpected majority for the Conservative Party

The front page of the early edition of the Independent newspaper, reporting the exit poll’s prediction of an unexpected majority for the Conservative Party


When all the results were finally in on the morning of Friday the 8th, the results were quite shocking. The fact that the Conservatives had won an overall majority was one of the shocks, but probably the biggest shock was the result from Scotland where the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) won 56 of the 59 seats. The new political map of the Disunited Kingdom is shown below.


The new political map of the (Dis)United Kingdom. Conservatives are blue, Labour red, SNP yellow, Liberal Democrats orange, Plaid Cymru green. I will discuss each country's results in more detail on Thursday.

The new political map of the (Dis)United Kingdom. Conservatives are blue, Labour red, SNP yellow, Liberal Democrats orange, Plaid Cymru green. I will discuss each country’s results in more detail on Thursday.


The number of seats held by each party is shown below.


The Conservatives won 331 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, Labour won 232 seats, the SNP won 56 seats, the Liberal Democrats 8 seats, the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland also won 8 seats, and the “others” are Plaid Cymru (3), UKIP (1), Green Party (1), Sinn Fein (4), Social Democratic and Labour Party (3), Ulster Unionist Party (2) and “Other” (1).


Because the United Kingdom general election uses the “first past the post” system (which I will explain more in a blog later this week), the percentages of the vote each party got is poorly related to how many seats each party won. Below is a graph of the percentage of the vote won by each party, and the change from the 2010 election.


The final results of the 2015 General Election; the Conservative party won 3xx seats, giving them a majority of xx seats in the 650-seat House of Commons

The percentage of the vote won by each party. Because of the “first past the post” system (which I will explain in more detail on Thursday), the percentages do not correlate well with the number of seats won in the House of Commons. Also, note that the percentage quoted here for the SNP is misleading, as they only stand in Scotland, where they actually obtained 50% of the vote.


The SNP sweeps the board in Scotland

For me, the biggest surprise of the election was the result in Scotland, of the 59 seats the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) won 56. Labour, who had been the dominant party there for most of the last hundred years, were all but wiped out; and this was the main reason that Labour’s number of seats in the House of Commons fell from the 2010 election. Each of the three main parties (Conservatives, Labour and Lib-Dems) now have only one seat each in Scotland.

Given that the referendum for Scottish independence last September returned a “no” vote (55% to 45%), the rise of the SNP since then is remarkable. I am sure most pundits would have expected the SNP’s fortunes to fall after they failed to win a “yes” vote on Scottish independence, but instead their popularity has soared. I am sure the post-referendum rise of the SNP will be the subject of many studies over the next several years.

Quite what this overwhelming SNP result in Scotland will mean for the cause of Scottish independence we shall have to wait and see. The SNP campaigned on a promise of stopping the ruling party in London from continuing with austerity, which both the Conservatives and Labour felt was necessary to reduce the deficit. But, with the Tories now having an overall majority, how much can the SNP actually do to influence David Cameron’s new government?

Is the majority really 12?

Various websites refer to the Conservatives as having a 12-seat majority. This is certainly the case if one simply takes their total number of seats (331) and subtracts the number of seats held by other parties (319). But, this simple calculation has always puzzled me for several reasons.

The first reason is that Sinn Fein, the Irish Nationalist Party, do not take their seats in the House of Commons as they do not recognise its right to rule Northern Ireland and they also refuse to swear allegiance to the Queen. In this election, Sinn Fein won 4 seats, but as they will never vote on anything in the House of Commons this reduces the number in the opposition ranks from 319 to 315. This would give the Conservatives an effective majority of 331-315=16.

The second reason is that the House of Commons has a speaker and three deputy speakers. By tradition, none of these four votes on any legislation, even though they are included in the total numbers mentioned above. The current speaker is John Bercow, who is a Conservative MP, and so is included in the 331 total number of seats the Conservatives have, but as he cannot vote this effectively reduces the Conservative seats to 330. I am not sure who the three deputies will be in the new Parliament, but they do not necessarily come from the majority party. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that one will come from each of the main parties. So, this would reduce the number of Tories to 329, and the number in opposition to 313, leaving a majority of 329-313=16, which is certainly a large enough majority for the Conservatives to be able to pass all the legislation they wish to do, unless of course they face back-bench revolts.

On Thursday I will discuss the results in each of the four countries in the DUK in more detail, and also how different the make-up of the Commons would have been if the DUK used proportional representation instead of the “first past the post” system.

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Later today (Tuesday the 5th of February) the House of Commons will vote on whether England & Wales should legalise gay marriage. The vote is threatening to tear the Conservative party apart. Currently it is anticipated that as many as 200 Tory back-benchers will rebel against the Government and either vote against the Bill or abstain. This means that to stand any chance of passing, the Prime Minister David Cameron will need support from the Labour Party and its coalition partner the Liberal Democrats.


Senior Conservatives are trying to persuade back-benchers to support the Gay Marriage bill.

Senior Conservatives are trying to persuade back-benchers to support the Gay Marriage bill.


Although it would seem that there is widespread support for Gay Marriage amongst the general population, there are some powerful groups opposing it including the Church of England, the Catholic Church and many Conservative Party activists at the grass roots level. Some Tories have said that the issue could lead to the Conservative Party losing the next General Election, which will be in 2015.

Homosexual acts were illegal in England & Wales until 1967, and “civil partnerships” became legal in 2005. It is certain that attitudes have changed, but many Tories fear that attitudes have not changed sufficiently amongst the Conservative Party rank and file for this legislation to not damage the party’s traditional image. It will be a very interesting day in Parliament.

++++UPDATE+++

The vote passed by 400 votes to 175 and so passes its first hurdle to becoming law. Many Tory MPs voted against the Bill, including 6 members of the Government and two Cabinet members.

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