Mandate

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One measure the Conservatives want to push through parliament is where, in a ballot for strike action, a union needs to persuade 50% of its membership before a strike can take place.  I don’t want to argue one way or the other for this however I want to point out the hypocrisy of this particular measure.  If a union has to persuade 50% of its electorate that a strike is to take place then surely the people who set our laws – our MPs – should be able to persuade 50% of their electorate that they should represent them in parliament.

Of course you can’t, currently, force everyone to vote.  We’d need a system such as Australia’s where voting is compulsory to ensure this happened.  However it is surprising to see how many MPs actually are elected with 50% of their own electorate.

As the table below shows, in 2010, no MP actually gained 50% of their electorate.  Tim Farron – then not leader of the Liberal Democrats – was the closest at 46%.

In 2015 only 2 MPs won 50% of their electorate – Steve Rotherham in Liverpool Walton and George Howarth in Bootle – both Labour MPs and both narrowly scraping the 50% barrier.

The picture is better in 2017 where, because of higher turnouts and the election appearing more like a 2-party election, 27 MPs were elected with more than 50% of the electorate – Peter Dowd in Bootle getting the biggest mandate.

At the other extreme, Austin Mitchell in Great Grimsby and different MPs in different elections in Belfast South had the smallest mandates – Alasdair McDonnell gaining the support of just under 15% of his electorate to enter the Commons in 2015.  Typically, with our current system, an MP usually gets the support of around a third of their electorate (often much lower) to win their seat in the Commons.  The reasons are varied but primarily smaller turn outs – particularly in inner-city and deprived Labour leaning seats – and the plain fact our electoral system is designed for a two party system.

Over the past three posts I believe I’ve evidenced three areas which point to our current electoral system being broken.

In my first post I evidenced how, since 1974, our electoral system punishes strong 3rd parties and cements an unfair advantage to the two main parties by showing how results in terms of seats are usually significantly different to results according to votes cast.

In my second post I evidenced that over 50% of votes are always wasted in our first past the post system and in some seats in excess of 90%.

In this post I’ve evidenced how few MPs garner majority support of their own electorate and sometimes only require 15 to 20% to be elected.

The time has come for electoral reform.  2017 I believe was an outlier in a continued trend for a loosening of the two-party structures.  People need to feel that their votes matter and currently, unless you live in one of the 100 or so ‘marginal’ seats, they don’t.

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Wayne Chadburn

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