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Friday, April 09, 2010

And some are more equal than others

Anybody who thinks that their vote is as good as the next person's may well be disabused of that notion by an article in today's Guardian, which reports on the New Economics Foundation's voter power index. This index ranks every constituency in Britain according to the amount of power each voter has in the election.

The New Economics Foundation points out that in the 2005 election, the majority of voters did not vote for the MP that represents them (over 52%), meaning that over 14 million votes were effectively discarded:

Under the current system, voters in very safe seats have the equivalent of one hundredth of a vote, while voters in the most variable swing seats get the power of up to 1.31 votes each. In other words voters living in the most influential postcodes have over 500 times as much power as those living in the least influential … The average UK voter has 0.25 of a vote.

Their website ranks each of the UK's 650 constituencies according to their power. It also allows users to see how many votes are effectively lost in the first-past-the-post system.

Thus in Aberavon for example each vote is worth 0.009 whilst in Arfon voters cast 1.308 votes and Ceredigion 1.220. In my home constituency of Swansea East my vote has the value of 0.023 whereas in neighbouring Swansea West, somebody going to the ballot box to elect Peter May as the first Liberal Democrat MP for that constituency will be wielding voter power equivalent to 0.293 of a vote.

It is all very bizarre but nevertheless it underlines the unfair and arbitrary nature of our electoral system.
It's strange that the NEF think a vote in Aberafan is worth even less than one in Buckingham. I'd've thought that the Speaker's constituency was the ultimate in votes not counting.
"somebody going to the ballot box to elect Peter May as the first Liberal Democrat MP "

Certainly not out of the question, but may I respectfully suggest it sounds a little complacent given that Parliament was only prorogued yesterday?

I agree with your point - the problem is I have had to come to the conclusion over years of looking at this question that PR actually magnifies such problems rather then removes them. Classic example - Greens under Schröder in Germany a few years back - 8% of the votes, 95% of the policies.

That meant, in effect, that their voters had individually five times as much influence as those of the SPD. How do you square the circle?
If the Greens had been in government on their own then maybe but they werent and the coalition they formed part of had a majority of votes.
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