Friday, June 9, 2017

The U.K. Elections Numbers Racket, version 2017

British elections do not accurately represent the British people. 

Even when the side you like does well in an unfair election system,
you lose.

Even when an unfair electoral system gives your own side a boost,
it is unjust.

Today we wake up to a new Tory government in the UK as a coalition with the small regional Democratic Ulster Party propping up the Conservatives who lost their majority of seats.

Theresa May is on her way to talk to the Queen to ask to form a new government.

The popular vote shows the Conservatives gaining votes and losing seats. The Labor Party, with Corbyn as leader gained even more new votes and gained some seats. All of the other parties have fewer votes and a mix of more or less seats. The Liberal Democrats lost votes and came up with a big “win”. The Scottish Nationals lost votes and came up with a big loss.

For quick reference here is % popular vote / seats in Parliament

Election 2017: Conservatives win with a house minority of 317 seats
Conservatives 42% / 318, Labor 40% / 261, Scottish National 3% / 35, 
Liberal Democrats 7.4% /12 , Democratic Ulster Party 0.9% /10, Sinn Fein 0.8% / 7
Green 1.6% /1, UK Independence Party 1.8% / 0, Plaid Cymru 0.5% / 4 

Election 2015: Conservatives win with a house majority of 330 seats 
Conservatives 36.9% / 330, Labor 30.4% / 232, Scottish National Party 4.7% / 56
and Liberal Democrat 7.9% / 8 (smaller parties omitted) 

So, with 36% of the vote, how did the Tories have that majority in Parliament to lose in the first place? And how does a new coalition with only 43% of the vote now form the next government? 

Different news sources give uneven and usually insufficient coverage of the full popular vote, the difference with the election run just two years ago and the difference between what the people voted for and what they got for Members of Parliament based on a system that awards seats based on who got the MOST votes no matter how low their percentage is. What changed is that in many cases, the math of a 3 way or 4 way race led to a different “winner” in a system that is neither proportional nor allows the public a runoff.

May will probably form her new government with that right wing Ulster Party and life in the UK will go on. Do not expect a reform of this skewed electoral system any time soon. By definition, those who it works for end up in government. Most Brits have not seen a majority government with a majority of the people’s votes behind it in their lifetime.

Despite the distorted results this Parliament does not give the Tories an artificial majority, as it did the last time. Smaller parties are not represented in anything like the percentage of the vote, but the larger ones are. The representation of the Liberals and the Scottish Nationalists and others is exaggerated, yet they add to keeping the Parliament more plural than our own US Congress. 

There was a significant movement of the real votes this time. People cast ballots for the two major parties in an historic high. Some of that may be people who voted Tory or Labor because they didn’t feel that their own preferred movement stood a chance of winning. Much like a US election, Brits and Canadians are often voting for lesser evil. We should not read from these election results who the British People support by percentage. In proportional European elections the outcomes are very different. The far right does better and the vote is very far from their version of a two party system. In this election, the far right party most linked to the successful Brexit vote last year did not win a single seat. 

If anyone won this election, it is Jeremy Corbyn, the head of Labor. 

He is the Bernie Sanders of the U.K. and the Blair faction of Labor has been undermining him with open public criticism. They used their members of Parliament to force a second Labor party leadership vote. Corby won that too.

The Blair faction is called New Labor, and it is similar in its shift to the right to the Clinton-Gore Democratic Leadership Council. Clinton followed Reagan/Bush into Nicaragua, Iraq, Yugoslavia, etc. and Tony Blair followed our W into Iraq Two among other things. Both New Labor and DLC Democrats led us to a destruction of social services, war on drugs, and other actions that showed that they have been drinking the market fanatics’ Cool Aide. 

Corbyn would have none of that. He maintained an anti-interventionist, respect-for-the-sovereignty-of-other-nations foreign policy and advocated socialist reforms at home including the expansion of public services and the renationalization of the British Rail.

The media has been demonizing Corbyn from day one too, with endless referrals to him as impractical, un electable, out of date, unrealistic and all that drivel we hear about any progressive here in the US coupled with personal comments on him being unfit illustrated with bad photo shots. 

Labor under Corbyn has increased its popular vote by 10%, which is good at any time. Like Sanders and Melanchon in France, he has shown that a firm left voice resonates with the people.

The big loser is Theresa May. She thought she could call an early election because Tory numbers were up. They were up, but the system that rewarded the Conservatives in 2015 bit back in 2017.

The UK goes into negotiations for the Brexit from the European Union inside of two weeks as a government with less credibility than it had two days ago. May’s Conservatives have lost credibility at home and abroad and the UK’s political system has joined the US’ political system in its loss of reliability. First-past-the-post in a culture with more than two major parties is inherently unstable. 

What this means for Scotland and Scottish independence is up in the air. Much is being made of the Scottish National Party “loss” in this election while ignoring that the number of seats held was way over the number of votes to justify holding those seats. Brexit may well mean another referendum on independence, and depending on the May negotiations with Brussels, it might win.

The U.K. will be governed by a coalition that will not show much in the way of leadership for the whole of their divided country and they will have another election following Brexit with their flawed political system unreformed.

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