You Deserve Better

Did Your Vote Matter?

I gave a speech this week on Proportional Representation for Make Votes Matter, and it got me thinking about whether your vote mattered in the last election.  I suspect that the chances are that it didn’t no matter where you are, who you voted for and who won purely because of how the odds work. So, here are just a few of the ways that your vote was wasted.   Your Candidate Didn’t Win Under the current system, if you make the cardinal sin of voting for a candidate that doesn’t win, that vote is wasted by design.  Your candidate doesn’t get any political power as a result of coming second or third in the ballot, so a vote for a candidate that doesn’t win is essentially thrown in the bin. This discourages you from voting for a candidate that you don’t think can outright win, thereby shoring up the de facto two-party system that we have been dealing with for centuries. Your Candidate Won Comfortably Congratulations! But did your vote matter? Arguably this is the case that most people probably assume makes their vote matter, but I would argue that it’s not quite  that straightforward.  Imagine a two-candidate race where the winner gets 80% of the votes and the loser gets 20%.  In this case, it is obvious that the  20% of votes for the loser were all wasted, but what about the 80%?  In this case, the winner actually only needed one more vote than 20%, which for all intents and purposes is the same as 20% for a large enough ballot.  once that total is achieved, all further votes for the winner are also wasted – a candidate doesn’t become more of a winner if they win by 80% or 0.8% of the electorate.  This means that in this example, three-quarters of the votes for the winner are also wasted, meaning that if you cast a vote for the eventual winner, you only had a one in four chance of it actually mattering. Your Candidate Narrowly Won In this case,  your vote likely had the most impact.  If the example above actually had the winner with 40% of the  vote and the  runner up with fewer votes but still rounding to 40%, that means that every vote for the eventual winner was important.  Conversely, all other votes were essentially ignored by the system, so even in this example of a very narrow margin of victory 60% of the electorate’s votes would be ignored by design. A Real Example Looking at the 2023 by election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the results were as follows: At first glance, this might look like it was only worth voting for Steve Tuckwell, but this is essentially what the system is deigned to do – to make it feel like only voting for the winner matters.  But it is important to remember that this seat came very close indeed to flipping to Labour, which would have meant that votes for Steve Tuckwell were wasted and a proportion of votes for Danny Beales were the only ones that mattered, at least from the perspective of deciding an MP. Even more importantly, this vote was almost as close as it is possible to get, and it still meant that only 44% of votes cast actually mattered. By design, at least 50% of the electorate is disenfranchised using the First Past The Post system, which is horrible for democracy. What About Short Money? Short Money is the consolidation prize for voting for a party where the candidate didn’t win in your area.  Assuming the party returns at least one MP nationally, Short Money is awarded to them in proportion to the number of votes they received in all elections across the country, and it is designed to help the MPs to pay for things like research that the government has access to as a matter of course.  In essence, it is designed to allow parties that don’t form a government to at least have a fighting chance at representing their constituents, even if the government shuts them out of all major decisions. This means that  even a wasted vote for electing an MP is useful to the party that candidate stood for, as long as the party managed to win at least one seat in all 650 constituencies. It’s not perfect, but it means that you can still vote for the party that you prefer even if they have no chance in your area.

Labour Party Problems

Our current system is broken, in that it is essentially designed to make votes a choice between two major parties in charge of the country. In fact, this goes so far as to name the leader of the Labour party “the leader of the Opposition” – the assumption is that the Government and the Opposition are basically going to swap control of the country periodically, with no real prospect of third parties ever getting into power. In my mind, this system needs a major reform, but in the interim many people might say that the Labour party is better than the Conservatives. In one sense I agree, in another I wholly disagree. In this article I will talk about some of the problems with the Labour Party (ignoring the claims of antisemitism and focusing solely on their policies). Brexit It is pretty clear at this point that Brexit was a mistake. We have not gained any economic benefit, nor are we expected to for decades, if at all. We have not gained any sovereignty that we didn’t already have. We have not freed up £350m a week for the NHS. In short, all the benefits of Brexit were lies touted by the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Our missing EU Star It is vital to improve our relationship with the EU to secure our economic future and allow us to have influence over one of the largest political blocs in the world. In likelihood, this means undoing the disaster that was the 2016 referendum, whether that needs another referendum or not. I believe it is also necessary to hold the originator of these lies to account, as a lie to influence a referendum is tantamount to election-tampering. I strongly argue that the insistence on making Brexit work is one of the major Labour Party problems, as it is a wholly unachievable goal based largely on the wishful thinking of the rabid fringes of the Tory party and backed up by lies. Electoral Reform A ballot box As I have previously written, a vote for Labour while they do not support a change to Proportional Representation is a deferred vote for the Conservatives. Changing the way that votes are run to a more proportional system will almost guarantee that no party ever gets to form a majority government again, and unfortunately Labour’s leadership have shown themselves unwilling to take this step. For this reason, I do not believe that they are working in the interests of the country, but instead are focusing on short-term gains for individuals at the top of the party. In short, a major change to the way that elections are run is vital if we want to ensure that the Conservatives never get to do what they have done to the country again. Voter ID Coupled with the refusal to get behind electoral reform, Labour has aided the Tories in restricting the access to votes that we mostly take for granted by abstaining in the Lords on the fatal motion introduced by the Liberal Democrats to forestall the introduction of ID requirements that will likely restrict minority groups disproportionately. Ultimately it was extremely disappointing to see Labour peers refusing to do the right thing here. A UK Driving Licence, which will be accepted as ID if the current Bill goes into law. Elected Second House The Houses of Parliament I believe Kier Starmer is right to state that abolishing the House of Lords as it currently stands is a good idea, but replacing it with an elected second chamber seems pointless, as we already have one elected chamber which should represent the whole of the UK. Instead, I believe it is vital to change the mandate of the second house to one of an advisory role filled with genuine experts in their field and tasked with reviewing the actions of the main House and publishing their findings. Having two Houses with separate roles makes sense. Having two that are essentially elected in the same way seems pointless. If you are interested in my views on the aristocracy as a whole, I have written a piece on that. Strikes Sadly strikes have become a necessity for many workers to negotiate even reasonable terms. Nurses, for example. Labour have said many of the right things, but their insistence that their politicians do not join the picket lines is appalling. The Labour party should be completely on the side of workers, and while this may be a political game to win more votes from the Tories, it is purely a consequence of our broken electoral system, which the Labour leadership also oppose reforming. Summary I think the most powerful point I can make here is that a vote for the Labour Party and all their problems is merely deferring the time until the Conservatives get into power again. I see a lot of #GTTO hashtags these days, but if the goal is to get them out for good, a vote for Labour now won’t do it. Instead I would argue that the Liberal Democrats make the most persuasive case, in that we are open to the same fairness that Labour espouse, but we accept that the system needs to be changed to make the UK a better, fairer and more welcoming place.