'Unfair' results within a first-past-the-post system: debunking some myths

The unfettered crocodile tears emanating out of the eyes of PR leaders post-election regarding a stolen election when the majority voted for them leaves me perplexed. Did they not know what system we practice? First-past-the-post does requires not just unity in the selection of candidates but also a huge election machinery to succeed everywhere. Just look at the UK elections (let's just use Wikipedia and the election outcomes of the 3 main parties (Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats)under this system from 1979 to 2005 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_elections_overview). Brackets denote seats won, and percentages the share of the popular vote.

Two points:

First, the highest % take of the popular vote in any of this time going to the govt is in 1979 (43.9%). In 2005 Labour formed govt with just over a third of the popular vote (35.24%). Yet history notes Thatcher's 1983 and Blair's 1997 wins as humongous victories!

Second, the average vote per party is a misleading indicator of seats that can be won. The LibDems pretty much get roughly the same percentage of votes per seat, but 20-odd% of votes per seats usually result in very few seats won. Look at the 1983 results. Labour got 2.2% more votes relative to the LibDems but 186 more seats!

If you want to form government, best to concentrate on winning seats, not votes. These are the rules of the game of this electoral system. It is an unfair system, and it ought to be changed, but this is the system we have at the moment.

In the UK, this leads to calls for reform. Unsurprisingly it is the LibDems who are most strident for this. Guess which two are the most resistant to wholesale change? For a look at proportional and preferential system see my piece here (http://pkler.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/electoral-reform-increasing-public.html).

PR's moral victory is a pyrrhic one for at the end of the day they knew the rules of the game and failed to do what was necessary, strategy-wise to win enough seats. It is not enough to bark about the great majorities won in urban seats and to call for reforms now. I agree reforms, both in terms of gerrymandering and election systems are required, but don't cry foul now when you were well aware of the shortcomings pre-election.

Face your weakness up-front and don't make stories post-election that suggests you were cheated because of the gerrymandering (my next piece will be on that specific issue). You knew it beforehand but did not even raise a squeak in protest. I cannot understand why when it was such a pertinent issue behind the 2008 results as well. Equally, note that even in the UK where the election is free and fair, parties form government with less than half of the popular vote. It is not a stolen victory in that sense. Not just the UK but Australia, NZ, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands and so forth. And some of these countries get these outcomes even with the fairer proportional and preferential systems.

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