Posted by Helen on Fri 7 May 2010 at 15:58
Well, the results are almost in, and the outcome is a Hung Parliament. Everything is hanging in the balance as we wait to see how the parties will negotiate - seeing promising indications that they might be willing to compromise and work together. But whatever the final outcome of this precarious situation, one thing is clear: the results are shockingly unfair and disproportionate. Yet again we have seen a massive disparity between the votes cast and seats won.
The Liberal Democrats have increased their share of the national vote by 1%, and yet they have suffered a net loss of 5 seats.
The Conservatives have increased their share of the vote by 3.8%, but they have gained a staggering 97 seats.
The numbers break down as follows:
Tories: 36% of vote, 49% of the seats.
Labour: 29% of vote, 42% of the seats.
Lib Dem: 23% of vote, 9% of the seats.
Whichever way you voted, it's obvious that this is not just.
Small parties have suffered, with both incumbent Independents (Dai Davis and Richard Taylor) losing their seats - there were was only one Independent gain (in North Down, Northern Ireland), leaving only one Independent MP in the Commons. Respect lost their seat and so did the DUP. The only exceptions to this swing towards the big parties are Caroline Lucas' well-deserved win in Brighton Pavilion, and a gain by Plaid Cymru. In effect, despite many regional increases which didn't result in wins, the "other" column has shrunk. So much for the Year of the Independent.
Those who voted Lib Dem to support electoral reform in this election will be feeling disappointment. In ten seats across the country the LDs lost by margins of less than 600 votes each - they would have needed less than a 1% swing to win in all but one of these seats; the other needed 2%.
Under PR, these results would have looked very different. We need fair votes, and we need them now.
Not only were the results visibly unrepresentative, the only consequence of an antiquated and corrupt system, but the electoral process has failed in other ways. Worst of all were the stories last night of voters being turned away from polling stations in their hundreds, some of them having arrived at 6.30pm and waited for hours in the rain. Other polling stations stayed open to process the queues of people who had arrived before 10pm, creating regional inconsistencies which added to the fury of the disenfranchised. The law seems to say that anyone who has not been handed a ballot paper by 10pm cannot vote. Can a law which results in denying citizens their democratic right to vote be just or reasonable?
There are stories of queues being left waiting with no word until after 10pm; of voters being brought inside the polling station and then being turned away, of ballot papers running out. In Hallam, Sheffield - Nick Clegg's home constituency - voters staged a sit in and refused to let the ballot box out of the polling station until their votes were added to it. Police arrived with riot gear and a helicopter to disperse the angry crowds and remove the ballot box by force. Similar scenes took place in Hackney South and Shoreditch, where turnout was only 59% - can the polling stations really have been so unprepared and disorganised that they were incapable of processing a mere 59% of the electorate before the polls closed?
In Sheffield students were segregated into separate queues to residents, regardless of whether or not they had their polling card, and hundreds of students were turned away because the queues were being processed more slowly. This is appalling. Not only is the young vote more likely to be progressive, but students have just as much right to vote as any other resident.
The chaos and confusion of last night, and the disfranchisement of hundreds of voters through no fault of their own, make it clear that the system is broken and needs to be radically overhauled.
One good thing has come out of this election: no party has an overall majority, and the authoritarian big government of the last 13 years has been disrupted. What we need to do now is make sure a new strong government does not form that will continue to suppress our liberties. At this stage the best civil liberties campaigners can hope for is a weak government that needs to negotiate and cannot bludgeon controversial legislation past the opposition. With no party a clear winner, a crack has been opened in the two-party system, and we need to act now to open it wider.
The Tories have made an offer to the Liberal Democrats which is likely to be too much for their back benchers, but not enough for the Lib Dems. This includes an alliance to protect civil liberties, and wholesale abandonment of New Labour's ID cards scheme. The Liberal Democrats, with their Freedom Bill and commitment to human rights, need to retain a strong hand if we have a hope of improving the situation in the UK.
Cameron has also offered an "all-party enquiry" on electoral reform - meaningless when Labour undertook one of these 13 years ago which resulted in nothing. This offer from the Tories is simply a honey trap to ensure nothing happens. The Liberal Democrats should demand STV, or form a progressive alliance in opposition to a minority Tory government, giving them the power to slow down politics and keep the Tories in check. If the Lib Dems can push for proportional representation, we have a chance on following through with a much broader, balanced Parliament after the next election - which may happen in the next 12-24 months.
The media tried to scare us out of voting against the two party system, saying a hung parliament would result in instant catastrophe. That has already been proved untrue. The parties are willing to negotiate, compromise and work together.
We need to seize this opportunity. We need to speak out and demand fair votes and electoral reform.
Join us tomorrow at 2pm in Trafalgar Square for a demonstration to demand fair votes - with parallel demos organised around the country in Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow, Oxford, Middlesbrough.
Wear purple, the colour of suffrage, public voice and political equality. Join us tomorrow to demand a fairer, more representative voting system. Join us on behalf of everyone who was denied a vote yesterday, on behalf of everyone who had to tactically vote for a party they dislike, and of everyone in a safe seat whose vote was a wasted one. Join us on behalf of the tireless independent and small party candidates who campaigned on reform platforms, and were excluded by our unfair system.
Sign the petition here.
Join us on Facebook here.
There must never again be an election under this broken system. This Parliament does not represent us and we demand fair votes now.
Take Back Parliament, 2pm at Trafalgar Square this Saturday.
This article was updated Sat 8 May 2010. The article originally stated that there were no independent gains, but in fact there was one, in NI.
This article can be found online at the Police State UK website at the following bookmarkable URL:
This article is copyright 2010 Helen - please ask for permission to republish or translate.