jump to navigation

The UK General Election and a Tory majority June 3, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.

Got to admit, I think Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer at the weekend really got to the heart of the reason why there’s a Tory majority in the UK, albeit a fairly slender one. He writes:

Some have attributed their shock majority to the dark arts of Lynton Crosby. Others to the lack of appeal of Ed Miliband. Some opine that the Tory win demonstrates that the English are an essentially conservative people. Others think Labour’s failure is a symptom of a worldwide crisis in social democracy. On they go, the theories. I have barely touched on the many interesting explanations for what happened. And they are all wrong. For sure, they may be among the factors that contributed to what happened on 7 May, but they are all insignificant compared with the main explanation for why David Cameron is at Number 10 enthroned atop a Conservative parliamentary majority.

And his conclusion?

There is a big, basic and brute reason why we have just heard a Tory Queen’s speech, will soon be listening to a Tory budget and have five years or so of Tory law-making ahead of us. It is so bloody obvious that no one is talking about it – it is the electoral system.

And he points to first past the post as the mechanism which, with the Tories on 36.9% of the vote which he suggests ‘by no normal definition of the word popular were the Conservatives popular at the election’ they managed to gain a majority of seats. Everything else – Labour (and Lib Dem) effective annihilation in Scotland, something of a rout in the south of England, etc, is a sideshow.

It’s not that those things are unimportant, for clearly they are – particularly to the future composition of the UK and the nature of governments from here on out, but they aren’t the reason. The distorting effect of FPTP means that hugely unrepresentative governments reside at 10 Downing Street. So what’s different about this this time – surely that was the status quo ante, and indeed it was. But in a system with two parties vying for power and all others well behind them the disproportionate aspects were more masked. When there are three or more parties, and when one – UKIP, as it happens – is so massively underrepresented in parliament given its voteshare – then that makes the inequities ever more apparent. And add to the disproportion that sees the Tories in the majority the nature of what happened in Scotland where despite winning reasonable levels of support the Tories (ironically), Labour and Lib Dems are down to an MP apiece whereas the SNP on 50% has an almost clean sweep.

But this isn’t going to change, or at least no in the near future. As Rawnsley notes:

Unfortunately for reformers, that is the one address in the UK least likely to be interested in changing the way we elect governments. David Cameron is the last person who is going to be interested in reforming a voting system that has just converted a minority of the vote into all the spoils of power. When he looks at first past the post, far from seeing a broken system, he sees one that has just worked perfectly for him.

And the same will be true if and when the British Labour Party crawl back to power. Even if, as Rawnsley also notes:

They now have to contemplate another five years in opposition, half a decade in which to reflect on their failure to do anything about first past the post when they were in government or to help the Lib Dems pursue reform in the last parliament. Labour is going to pay for it – literally so. The Tories intend to use the majority gifted to them by the electoral system to further entrench their advantage when it comes to money by making it harder for the trade unions to raise funds for Labour.

Because if they do arrive back in power the negative aspects of FPTP will likely be forgotten, and if they don’t? Well, they won’t be in any position to change the situation.


1. EWI - June 3, 2015

It’s worth noting that the British introduced PR here in Ireland as an attempt to prevent another 1918 General Election-style Sinn Féin landslide by FPTP. They most certainly did not extend it to Britain at that point…


Gewerkschaftler - June 3, 2015

That’s a good point. And doubtless if a party undesired by the ruling caste in Britain was persistently successful against all the odds, then PR would become thinkable, if not a moral imperative.


EWI - June 3, 2015

Like in Scotland. The GOP in the US have been engaged in recent years in trying to implement a variety of PR in Democratic states like California (but not in their own states) – it wouldn’t surprise me to see a Tory/Lab/Lib-Dem effort along the same lines north of Hadrian’s Wall. The Lib-Dems must be kicking themselves that they let go of their PR demand so easily.


2. dublinstreams - June 3, 2015

heres the report he was basing his article on http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/system-crisis AV would have been worse


sonofstan - June 3, 2015

STV would have produced a Tory/ UKIP govt. 😦


WorldbyStorm - June 3, 2015

Now that would be interesting to see – at a distance.


WorldbyStorm - June 3, 2015

Still, isn’t the underlying point that the damage would be less to others and therefore the prospects of a return to power eventually greater?


sonofstan - June 3, 2015

I think I would have retreated from that alright. Can you claim refugee status at home?


WorldbyStorm - June 3, 2015



6to5against - June 3, 2015

But that presumes that people would vote the same way even if the system changed. I don’t know how things would have changed, but the more likely a vote is to count, the more seriously we all take it.


WorldbyStorm - June 3, 2015

That’s very true.


dublinstreams - June 3, 2015

they commissioned a preference poll, although it might change more with more time https://twitter.com/electoralreform/status/605381495658819584


3. roddy - June 3, 2015

A tory / UKIP government would have ensured an independent Scotland in the near future.

Liked by 1 person

4. Colm B - June 3, 2015

Could be that a Tory government will ensure an independent Scotland in the near future!

Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: