A Remain Alliance has formed the electoral pact that this site predicted world be brockered back in June. This follows a similar move in Northern Ireland.
But they should not be happening if voter choice matters. And that’s why they are happening.
In 2017, the Liberal Democrats received 7.9% of the popular vote, while the DUP received 0.6%. Both parties received eight MPs for their Efforts.
It is very hard to argue that a democracy is real and tangible when 2.4million votes can be matched by fewer than 300,000. And no one seems to be trying to anymore.
So today with a General Election set to decide the future of the UK in terms almost never before seen, we have a remain alliance between Lib Dems and other under-represented parties the Greens and Plaid Cymru. We have also seen Sinn Fein stand down to help the SDLP and even the Ulster Unionists in Northern Ireland.
Removing Voter Choice
The problem with such alliances is that they remove voter choice. If your preferred party stands down, you cannot vote for your preferred party. This defies all principle of democracy.
Yet supporters of the parties involved are not complaining. Why is this? Well, knowledgeable supporters know they don’t have a real choice anyway, so they feel they are losing nothing of value.
Voters feel their loss of choice is a loss of something worthless, and that is a frightening concept. Expressing our preferences is the core of democracy but UK general elections have made winning by other means the natural preference.
First Past The Post
This is the result of our electoral system, a system so out-dated now that almost no defence is offered for why it is retained.
The reality of its retention appears only to be that the parties who win under a bad system innevitably retain the bad system.
Indeed the only party that wins over-representation under FPTP that has an inclination to a more democratic process is the SNP, and they are only recent beneficiaries of FPTP. They also know from Scottish elections that they can also win in democratic electoral systems too.
What About The Benefits?
Conventionally, those who support a bad system rationalise their self interest. They argue that it is not as bad as people make out, or claim to believe there are other benefits to the system instead.
Over time one such rationalisation for FPTP stood above all others – that it provides clear results and thus allows for the country to set strategic direction that the public can judge at a General Election in full knowledge. This is aided by marginalising small (and extreme) parties.
No one argues that anymore with a straight face. 2019 is the fourth election of this decade. For only two years did the system provide a pre-set majority government in the UK, and that was under a deeply divided Tory Party that changed leader and UK strategic direction half way through.
Meanwhile, the influence of small parties on the fringes – the DUP and Brexit Party – has been huge.
The rise of the SNP needs to be noted in this too.
For the two “big parties” to win a majority is made harder by something close to a shut-out in Scotland. Scotland, unlike Ulster, has almost ten percent of all Westminster seats.
To win a majority in the Commons with almost no chance of winning a good number in Scotland is simply very very difficult.
It can be done though. In 1997 Labour’s England and Wales majority was so big it could have governed even if every Scottish seat went Tory. In 2015 the Tories squeaked just enough seats outside Scotland to do the same, but only just, and even then only thanks to the post-coalition collapse of the Lib Dems.
Ultimately such results will likely remain rare.
So Will FPTP Die Now?
Change is difficult and takes time. But the breakdown of two-party majority rule means that smaller parties will hold greater sway in future despite rare exceptions. This will be further exacerbated by increased tactical voting as simple binary choice breaks down.
The move by smaller parties to collaborate in pacts only serves to strengthen their hand. Remain may prove a fleeting catalyst but if parties win with pacts, the motivation to continue them in future becomes stronger.
We even see voters calling for wider pacts – some between the Tories and Brexit Party, others between the Remain Alliance and Labour.
With such moves comes growing pressure for the big parties to concede electoral reform, and at some stage that pressure will get results.
|Lib Dems 2017