So this general election is well underway, one which will in all probability result in a resounding victory for the notion that our current electoral system is quite profoundly undemocratic. And before we get too excited about how this election will be all different and will do something, let us pause and consider the words of Emma Goldman, who said ‘If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal ’
As evidence of this, I make the observation that no party that has gone on to form a government has won more than 50% of votes in that election, meaning that more votes were cast against them than for them. In fact the last time a party got more than 50% of the vote in a general election was in 1931!
However, as I wrote in 2017 ”the situation could have been changed in 2011, when a Liberal Democrat manifesto promise became a reality upon entering into a coalition government with the Conservatives, namely a referendum on proportional representation – whereby the overall total of votes is translated into seats in parliament; essentially every vote counts. However, the Conservatives, sensing a sudden reversal in their electoral chances, chose a complicated method of proportional representation to put to the public vote. Their friends in the press did the rest. A vote for change to the electoral system was a vote for chaos, it was suggested. They also decided for added apathy to have it on the same day as European elections, notorious for their low turn out and those that did turn out to vote, voted against any change.”
So will anything be markedly different after this election, I mean will the new parliament be any more effective than the one it will replace? That by the power of Castle Greyskull, democracy will work for us all? Sure, it’ll give voters the illusion of choice, but if it’s only a choice between who is going to lie to us and about what, in what universe is that democratic? How is it that the party who loses by the least, ends up the winner? Will the gamble spectacularly backfire, as it did in 2017 for Teresa May? Or will prove to be a defining moment in our democratic history, a positive one, I mean? One that we look back on fondly as the election that started to heal the anger, our sense of betrayal by the political class, the sense that somehow others know best? Or will it further re-enforce those beliefs? I hope for the former, but I won’t be surprised if the latter happens.