Over a week ago, the general election results came in and showed that the Conservative party would be in power for the next 5 years. It has taken me some time to get over initial rage/despair and be able to articulate my feelings about this and what it means for Britain. There are a lot of people who seem confused at the anger being shown. A common saying has been ‘the people who are upset should have voted.’ Well, we did vote and that is exactly why we are angry.
Britain is supposed to be a democracy. We have the right to vote and that is wonderful however, our votes are not used in a fair system:
This essentially shows that the proportions of voters do not match up to the representation of parties in parliament. So conservatives get 37% of the votes but 51% of the seats in parliament. This diagram shows exactly what is wrong with the voting system we have.
It is known as ‘First Past the Post’. Yet another political term which very few people understand, it’s almost as though they don’t want us to understand. Anyway, FPTP means that whichever party get the most votes wins the election. This leads to elections being a competition between two parties, Labour and Conservative in the UK.
The current system often results in tactical voting which a lot of people will own up to. This is voting for a party to make sure another party does not get into power i.e. voting Labour to avoid a Conservative government. So there is something wrong here, isn’t there? People are not voting for the policies they agree with, they are simply voting against parties that they do not agree with because the system calls for this.
This is where the talk about ‘wasted’ votes comes in, not wanting to vote for a smaller party because it will not make a difference. You’re probably right. In the current system, it will not make a difference so that is why people are calling for a complete change of the system. In the 2015 general election, it appears that more people voted for smaller parties and this took away votes from Labour leading to a Conservative victory.
It all just sounds a bit unjust, doesn’t it? Why should we continue with a system which benefits bigger parties but ignores smaller parties successes?
“This is how it works here, just deal with it.” I have heard this so many times in response to complaints about the UK voting system. And no, I will not just deal with it. I imagine that when women were fighting for the right to vote, they had similar responses. Do not let anyone make you think that change is not possible, that we will always be in an unfair system. This is what politicians and the media want you to think. It is much easier and nicer for everyone if we all sit back and accept the bullshit that they are forcing down our throats. Well, I would like to think that I would rather have a long and difficult process of making things better than sitting back and letting the country continue to decline.
So what are our options?
Proportional representation is one that many people are asking for. This would mean that a party which received 37% of the votes would then get 37% of the seats in parliament. Proportional representation seems like a good answer. It means that we would have a fairer system whereby parliament would more closely reflect the wishes of the voters. This system would be a lot more fair for smaller parties. Whatever your opinion on UKIP, for example, they received a lot of votes in this election and it is only right that they should therefore be represented in this proportion. The current system is only beneficial for the bigger parties. That is not okay!
The UK had an Alternative Vote referendum back in 2010. The voters rejected this way of voting which sees voters ranking candidates by preference. Again, people are pointing to this and saying “you had a chance to change it and nobody wanted it.” There was a chance to change it, yes. However, that was 5 years ago. There are now people eligible to vote who were not back then. There have been huge changes in the country and people’s lives. There are other options; it does not have to be AV. Having a complete overhaul of a political system takes a long time, a lot of work and one referendum 5 years ago cannot tell us that people do not want change now.
Why are people so fiercely anti-conservative?
A vote for the conservatives can be seen as a vote against women, the LGBTQ community, people of colour, anyone with a disability, the poor and the vulnerable. If you are rich, heterosexual, white British and have no disabilities then the conservative government probably will not damage your life much.
However, we live in a very diverse country. Here are some conservative policies which would have horrible consequences for so many members of the public:
- Repeal of the Human Rights Act – this is to be replaced with a British bill of rights. There are several ways this could be done and we are waiting to see what the Tories go for. The impact will vary but overall, is set to be negative for Britain.
- Welfare cuts – specifically £12bn worth of cuts. We are yet to find out where these will come from. You might not rely on welfare; you might think that those who do are just lazy. But, the majority of those on benefits need them to survive. The conservative government is fine for working people. Those who cannot due to mental illness, disabilities or any other reason are set to suffer a great deal in the next 5 years. This could lead to starving families, an increase in rates of depression/suicide and a whole lot of other problems. If you are wealthy then please think for a second. Is a reduction in your tax at the end of the 5 years really worth the suffering of millions who rely on our welfare system? (N.B. this is the austerity stuff you keep hearing about. Essentially, the government will be trying to better the economy by taking money from the poor and vulnerable.)
This all sounds awful, what can we do to change it?
Do not give up. Do not let anyone make you think that protests and petitions and campaigns are pointless and will never work. Yes, it will take time but change is inevitable. Stay passionate about changing things. Remember all the potential repercussions of conservative policies and a continuation of FPTP. Be as active in politics as you can. Show the politicians that they should be scared. They cannot stop the people from getting what they want/need/deserve – a fair and just system that represents the whole of society and not just the rich.
Check out facebook,twitter, tumblr, local groups and find ways to be active in politics.
(To those complaining about the protests based on one person spraying graffiti onto a war memorial – I understand that it is incredibly disrespectful. But, paint can be removed. The damage that this government and subsequent ones under FPTP cause could be irreparable.)