Electoral Reform Society publish definitive report on June general election

By agency reporter
August 21, 2017

The instability of Westminster's supposedly 'strong and stable' voting system has been laid bare, according to extensive new research by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS).

The Society's landmark General Election report, The 2017 General Election: Volatile Voting, Random Results, reveals:

  • Volatile voting: This election saw the second highest electoral volatility (the movement of votes between parties) since 1931. People are switching sides and shopping around at 'astonishing' levels
  • Wasted votes: 68 per cent of votes had no impact on the result – 22 million votes were wasted this election
  • Tiny margins: 0.0016 per cent of voters choosing differently would have given the Conservatives a majority, while the election saw rise in very marginal seats: eleven seats were won by fewer than 100 votes
  • The 'hold your nose' election: ERS estimate 6.5 million people voted tactically, alongside surge in smaller parties standing aside
  • A divisive system: First Past the Post is exaggerating divisions in the UK – Labour secured 29 per cent of South East vote but got just 10 per cent of seats, while Conservatives won 34 per cent of the North East vote but got just nine per cent of seats. Meanwhile, the SNP continue to be over-represented in Scotland, as is Labour in Wales, while Northern Ireland voters are forced into two camps
  • Seats not matching votes: The Conservatives largely benefited from the discrepancy between votes and seats, winning 56 per cent of English seats on 46 per cent of the vote – while losing out significantly in Wales. The voting system is struggling to keep up with huge changes in partisan alignment
  • The results under PR: Labour would have emerged as largest party under Scotland and Northern Ireland's Single Transferable Vote system, according to huge YouGov survey of voters' party preferences 

Darren Hughes, newly-appointed Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: "For the third time in a row, Westminster's voting system has failed to do what it says on the tin – produce a 'strong and stable' government.

"June's election has shown First Past the Post is unable to cope with people's changing voting habits – forcing citizens and parties to try and game the system. With an estimated 6.5 million people 'holding their nose' at the ballot box, voters have been denied real choice and representation.

"This surge in tactical voting – double the rate of 2015 – meant voters shifted their party allegiances at unprecedented rates, with the second highest level of voter volatility since the inter-war years. A system designed for two parties cannot accommodate these complex electoral swings.

"In the nations and regions of the UK, elections now feel more like lottery than a real choice. As we've shown, tiny shifts in the vote result in drastically different outcomes. Having results hinge on a few hundred voters is no way to run a modern democracy.

"The vast majority of votes are going to waste, with millions still stuck in the electoral black hole of winner-takes-all. A diverse and shifting public having to work around a broken two-party system. The result is volatile voting, and random results in the different parts of the UK.

"There are a wide range of systems where votes are not thrown on the electoral scrapheap. We need to move towards a means of electing our MPs where all voices are heard and where people don't feel forced to hold their nose at the ballot box.

"2017 was the third strike for First Past the Post. It's out."

* Read The 2017 General Election: Volatile Voting, Random Results here

* Electoral Reform Society https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/


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