Labour have taken their election defeat manfully and have launched a soul-searching examination of reasons for their drubbing at the polls. The collective whinge by the minor parties however, is in stark contrast. They prefer to blame our electoral system, which, they claim, is ‘broken’.
It isn’t. On the contrary, it appears to be working properly again having malfunctioned in 2010.
The Anglo-Saxon voting system, now copied and used in the majority of the world’s democracies, has a beautiful and well understood simplicity: the candidate who gets the most votes wins.
The purpose of the system is to identify, and to reward the winner. It isn’t its purpose to try and be fair to losers; on the contrary, it disproportionately rewards winners. For example, last month the Conservatives came first with 38% of the votes cast, but were rewarded with over 50% of the parliamentary seats. The advantage of this disproportionate winner’s reward is that the successful party gets a clear majority with which it can deliver legislation and govern decisively. This is in contrast to continental electoral systems which deliver indecisive results and leave the winner scrabbling to find coalition partners and to put together a compromise programme that nobody actually voted for. They have a tendency to put parties which command broad support, at the mercy of demands for concessions from small parties with comparatively little support.
Nothing of human design is ever perfect, and our own electoral system failed to deliver decisive results in 1973 and 2010. It is a matter of some satisfaction that last month it appears to have started delivering properly once again.
There is nothing new about the disproportionate winner’s reward delivered by our voting system. This feature is at the heart of why so many of us approve of it, and some disapprove of it. What the critics appear to have forgotten is that we rehearsed all these arguments and came to a decisive conclusion to stick with our Anglo-Saxon system in a referendum only 4 years ago in 2011. The winning margin was a whopping 70% to 30%, enough to settle the question for a generation.
UK politics is not a promising place for parties who want to occupy a niche. It may be tough on the minor parties, but the only way to do better, is to try and win.