Representational democracy is at the heart of the UK’s political constitution, and the electoral system is central to achieving it. But is the first-past-the-post system used to elect the UK parliament truly representative? To answer that question requires an understanding of several factors: debates over the nature of representation; the evolution of the current electoral system; how first-past-the-post distorts electoral politics; and how else elections might be conducted. Running through all these debates are issues over the representation not only of people but also of places. The book examines all of these issues and focuses on the effect of geography on the operation of the electoral system.
of the country. There are valid debates to be had as to the degree of
proportionality which might be desirable, and we do not see it as
our role to point in any one direction. It is our hope, however, that
by documenting the evolution of our electoral system and explaining how it translates votestoseats, the reader will be better placed to
judge exactly where that balance should lie.
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would become electorally
weaker and condemned to perpetual opposition. Conservative electoral advances
in 2010 and 2015 were impressive but insufficient to carry it to overwhelming victory. In 2015 the eventual majority was heavily dependent on the implosion of the
Liberal Democrats and the Labour rout in Scotland. The electoral system, which in
many ways was biased against the Conservatives, served to block the UKIP advance
In the immediate aftermath of the 2015 election the Conservative Party position looked promising. Labour’s election of the
At times there is an incredible degree of frustration about this from the smaller parties, who believe that the working arrangements of the Commons only really represent a government and an opposition.
The Liberal Democrats felt a renewed sense of anger about this following the 2017 General Election when their poor conversion of votestoseats led to their eviction from the third-party benches by the SNP. For the first time since 1997 they had lost parliamentary rights
reflects the rank order of
the parties’ votes in the country as a whole. The party with the largest
vote share usually comes out of the election with the largest number
of MPs and the second most popular party usually has the second
largest number of MPs (though this does not always happen– in
both the 1951 and February 1974 UK general elections, for instance,
the two most popular parties came very close to each other on vote
share, but the less popular of the two gained more MPs than the more
But the exact match of votestoseats under FPTP rules can be very