As of writing this, the UK General Election is in 49 days, 23 hours, 7 minutes and 22 seconds. What better time than to celebrate the numerous flaws with our humble system, a cheeky dose of good ol’ British critical thinking to get you feeling patriotic and hyped for the potential futility of the vote you may or may not cast on May 7th?
First Past the Post. Plain and simple, it’s broken. Briefly for the unaware, the vote you may or may not cast in will go towards the constituency you live in to elect an MP (Member of Parliament). There are 650 seats for MPs to hold altogether and the party that holds the majority of these seats is invited by the monarch to form a government. At the last election, there was no one party that held a majority and so the options were a hung parliament (weak government) or coalition. The problem here is smaller parties and smaller voices often have little to no representation in parliament.
Theoretically, if one party had 49% of the vote in every constituency but in every case another one of two took 51% of the vote, even though the popular vote across the country reflected that this 49% party was the most voted for party in Britain, it wouldn’t win a single seat in government and those voices would go unheard. In the 2010 election, UKIP gained 919,471 votes and no seats because their vote was spread out all across the country, not significant enough in one particular place to get a single MP, whereas that amount of votes in a proportional election would have won around 60 seats. That’s massive. Now I don’t support UKIP, but I do support those people’s right to be represented. First Past the Post actually supports a two party system, thus helping The Conservatives and Labour. Now I actually volunteer for Labour and support Labour, but I do that because I support Democracy more. Which we currently don’t have. At least not fair Democracy.
Now this is less of an issue to the one I just confronted, but still an issue. Personality Politics. In a country where every person is educated to the fullest extent about every issue, a government would be formed that would reflect the all round knowledge of the electorate and we’d most likely have a direct democracy, voting issue by issue with referendums every Friday. That’s the dream. But as it currently stands, people are busy and have a lot on their plate and need the issues summarised for them by a trusted person, party or media outlet so they know how to vote. That’s how political parties, politicians and the media are even a thing.
However many, many people are too busy even for this brief summary, but still want to vote. This, tragically more often than not comes to personality politics. Though the personality of a leader and not their actual policies inform many on some level all the time. Ed Miliband is hardly famed for his charisma and I’ve known people who took my Government and Politics A-Level with me for two years to comment that even if they liked his policies, they’d never vote for him because he’s not charismatic. People, this is the death of democracy. I’m not saying VOTE LABOUR. As long as you cast an informed vote, this issue is beaten and I love you.
Chances are however, at least for now, these issues will not be fixed any time soon and ironically any major party pledging to do so would be unelectable as proved in 2011 when the Alternative Vote system was shunned by the British public in the referendum for breaking this whole “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” vibe this country has going for it. Okay, rant over.