Voting system ‘favours Labour’

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Published: Monday 9th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Labour could win a majority at the general election on a lower share of the vote than the Conservatives would need to do the same, a new report has revealed.

The Electoral Reform Society commissioned research – entitled The Lottery Election by Professor John Curtice – which concludes six parties are likely to command a decent share of the vote in May, making the result highly unpredictable.

His analysis of polling data shows relatively small changes in the electoral map could have a significant impact on the outcome due to the first past the post system, prompting fears it will bear little relation to voters’ actual choices.

Professor Curtice, from the University of Strathclyde, found that even with Labour’s difficulties in Scotland, the party is likely to need a five-point lead to win a majority, whereas the Conservatives will require a seven-point one.

And a seven-point improvement in the Liberal Democrat vote to 15% would have little effect on Labour’s chances of a majority, but mean the Tories would need as much as a 10-point lead.

Professor Curtice said: ” First past the post may not be meant to be proportional, but it is meant to give Labour and the Conservatives an equal chance of winning.

“However, it looks as though Labour could win on a lower share of the vote than the Conservatives would need – though at the moment neither party looks likely to win the majority that it was once presumed first past the post would always deliver.”

The report also finds Ukip could come sixth in seats but third in votes, and the SNP sixth in votes but third in seats.

Professor Curtice continued: “Meanwhile, although the system looks set to be tough on some smaller parties, such as Ukip and the Greens, it could prove quite generous to others, most notably the SNP.

“As a result, we should not be surprised if there is a renewed debate about electoral reform after May. First past the post may be found to have produced an outcome at Westminster that even advocates of the system begin to question.”

The Electoral Reform Society’s deputy chief executive, Darren Hughes, said the election would expose the current voting system as a “relic from another age”.

He went on: “It was always unfair, but with six parties commanding a decent share of the vote, it’s starting to look ridiculous.

“The final outcome of the election will bear little relation to voters’ actual choices, and people simply won’t put up with that.

“There’s going to be a huge discrepancy between votes cast and seats won. And in some places we’re going to see MPs elected with the support of just one in six people.

“The make-up of the government should be based on people’s wishes, not the random effects of a broken voting system. It’s starting to look less like an election, and more like a lottery.”

The report takes the January 2015 poll of polls as baseline and assumes all other parties achieve a vote equivalent to their current polling.

It assumes the Conservatives in Scotland poll at 14% and the Liberal Democrats at 5%, as per last month’s polling situation.

Published: Monday 9th February 2015 by The News Editor

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