Sunday, 10 May 2015

General Election 2015 - What went wrong?

Like a good proportion of the country, I find myself looking back on Thursday/ Friday's events and thinking, what on Earth happened? How were the polls so wrong? Apart from the rich elite, musicians who've made good and forgot their working class roots (Gary Barlow, I'm looking at you) and a few hopeful social climbers, I'm not entirely sure who was casting votes for the Conservatives. Okay, so I hang out in fairly Socialist circles, my view of the world may be a little biased, or maybe I'm just a human being with concern for my fellow human beings. 

On the surface it's fairly straightforward. Tories won a majority, they rule, your 5 year boat ride to Hades starts here, right? Actually though, the more you think about it, was it a position of default or an actual win? 

For a start off, only 66.1% of the electorate actually turned out to vote. That means the voices of almost 34% of the population were mute! That's a huge proportion of people which could have made a massive difference, we will never know. I don't even want to start on my 'people died so you could vote' soapbox, but it's true, how do you expect to effect change if you don't bother to vote?

The other deciding factors though were, in my opinion, a combination of two elements:

1. The archaic first past the post system in UK politics,
2. The fractured nature of left wing politics in the UK.

Let's look at it closer. You're very well off, you earn a lot of money each year, who are you going to vote for? Well, it's not going to be Labour because they are going to tax you for that massive country pile in Oxfordshire you bought with last year's bonus. It's not going to be UKIP because, despite their city banker kudos (nice guy Nigel was a city Stockbroker, don't you know?) they are, essentially, a fascist party who shouldn't really be given airtime, it only really leaves you with those friends of the rich, the Conservatives.

Now, let's look at the left side. You're a normal working class or possibly unemployed sort, you're concerned with human rights, a fair economy, climate and the things that effect the world outside of your bubble. You vote Labour, right? Well, no, not necessarily, you see there's Green, who are that bit more lefty, if you're North of the border there's SNP, or maybe you're thinking of going with the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition. In fact, UKIP played a blinder in the 'for the working classes' rhetoric, protecting jobs from any of those perceived threats (real and imagined) and I would wager that they bagged a fair few votes on the back of that. As you see, the left offer is far more fragmented. My rudimentary calculations based on the figures published by the BBC reveal that whilst the Conservatives achieved a total of 11, 334, 920 votes, a combination of the fractured left parties (Labour, SNP, Sinn Feinn, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green, Alliance, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) achieved a combined 12, 514, 973 votes, but alas no one single party achieved enough to win power over the Tories. I hate to be cliched, but this really does demonstrate how 'together we are stronger'. Imagine if all of those votes had gone to one single party.
image from 

Since we are a democracy though, people have a right to vote for whoever they wish to vote for, which is why the left vote is so split, but it also demonstrates why our first past the post system does not work. I'm not going to pretend that I understand how that system works, it's bizarre, but I do have an idea how proportional representation works, and if that had been the UK's methodology, then we could be looking at a very different and far more representative political landscape today. It's highly unlikely that our current Government will introduce a new system that will make it harder for them to remain in power, but we can dream.

Of course, what's happened has happened, and it's no good mourning what's gone, but what is important over the coming years is to be aware, to understand politics, the economy and your own roles and responsibilities within it so that when the opportunity to effect change comes around again, you are ready and waiting.  

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