I woke up this morning to find that I now have a Tory MP. Lets just say it isn’t what I was hoping for. The results for Bristol North West look like this
Charlotte Leslie, Conservative 19,115 38.0%
Paul Harrod, Liberal Democrat 15,841 31.5%
Sam Townend, Labour 13,059 25.9%
Robert Upton, UK Independence Party 1,175 2.3%
Ray Carr, English Democrats 635 1.3%
Alex Dunn, Green Party 511 1.0%
What’s striking about these figures isn’t that the Tories won, but that 62% of the votes cast were for other parties… Which is similar to the national figures, where at the moment it’s thought that around 64% of the votes went to other parties. It just fills me with despondency that polling a third of the votes is all it takes for a party to ‘win’ the ‘democratic’ elections in the UK.
It should be noted that the campaign in this seat was almost unerringly negative from all three mainstream parties: Labour said it was a two horse race between them and the Tories pointing to the 2005 election result, The Lib Dems said it was a two horse race between them and the Tories pointing to the more recent local council and European elections, and the Tories campaign was based around the notion that only voting for them would get rid of Gordon Brown. None of them had anything positive to say about how their policies would improve life in Bristol and the rest of the country, it was a simply a case of vote for us or you’ll get someone even worse. The result of this would seem to be that progressive votes were split between Labour and the Lib Dems who between them accounted for 57.4% of all the votes cast, far more than the Conservatives.
If this were any other country in Europe we would be looking at a coalition between Lib Dems and Labour, who between them polled over 50% of the vote nationally. However because we have a ridiculous voting system which means that the Lib Dems 23% of the national vote equates to under 10% of the seats in the house of commons, it looks like a Lib/Lab coalition wouldn’t be able to command a parliamentary majority. What this means is that the Tories 36ish% of the votes gives them just under 50% of the seats in the commons and they look likely to try to form a minority government. With around a third of the vote. By contrast the 53.3% who voted round the country for Labour and the Lib Dems will be told that they ‘lost’ that despite parties campaigning for electoral reform receiving over 50% of the total votes cast, that essentially their voting choice and political opinions are considered less important than those of the 36% Tory voters.
A mention here has to go to Nick Clegg, who is arguing that the Tories should have the first go at forming a government, contradicting constitutional practice which states that that this is a privilege bestowed upon the incumbent government… A Labour/Lib Dem coalition (if they could find the support from the SDLP and a couple of other small parties to have a commons majority) would have over half the popular vote. This would give them a clear mandate to govern and bring forward the process of electoral reform they both campaigned on. Its why I voted Lib Dem, and its why thousands of other people voted for your party. Deciding to let a party with just over a third of the vote attempt to govern and prevent electoral reform which so many millions voted for yesterday would be a travesty, and one which the public are unlikely to forgive the Liberal Democrats for.
Lets hope that over the coming days and weeks the campaign to reform our electoral system goes from strength to strength, and that we can get rid of the undemocratic and unrepresentative first past the post system.