Monday, 11 May 2015

Election analysis 2015: my thoughts part 4

Overall, this election was rather a shock-particularly due to the small Conservative majority. There are 10 important things that need to be concluded from this election:

1. First past the post has got to go!

This election more than ever has shown the dire need for electoral reform. The Conservatives achieved 51% of the seats on only 36.8% of the vote, Labour received 36% of the seats on 30.5% of the vote, the Liberal Democrats received only 1.2% of the seats despite still receiving 7.8% of the vote, and more importantly, UKIP and the Green Party achieved 12.6% and 3.8% of the vote each but with only one MP each elected because of FPTP. The SNP achieved 95% of Scottish seats with just 50% of the Scottish vote, as well.
On electoral reform, I believe Single Transferable Vote is far more suitable for Britain than party-list PR, especially given how important locality will be to many British people. STV also works much better for punishing bad governance, as Ireland has demonstrated.

2. Political parties must stop taking votes for granted, particularly in marginal seats.

Just because a seat looks so easy to gain on paper does not mean it is a certain gain in practice-as North Warwickshire and Thurrock's results showed; the Conservative majority in each increased over Labour. Many of the seats the Conservatives lost to Labour were quite prosperous as well, and they did not believe UKIP would be able to make enough of an impact-how wrong they were. On the other hand, my fellow Greens knew how hard we would need to work in Brighton Pavilion, and it paid dividends.

3. UKIP did make an impact in this election-for all the wrong reasons.

There had been warnings in the election that UKIP would impact the Labour vote just as it would impact the Conservative vote, and they were right. In the seats of England Labour lost to the Conservatives, or failed to gain when they could have done, UKIP did rather well, particularly in Wales. Labour's failure to offer working-class voters a properly alternative narrative to the Coalition's austerity was a major factor in it leaking votes to UKIP (although UKIP failed to take any Labour seats, not even Great Grimsby). In some safe seats which were not that prosperous, UKIP served as well as a protest vote when the Liberal Democrats' vote collapsed.

4. Newer MPs will have a greater influence than ever before.

Many of the MPs who retired either in 2010 or 2015 (238 in total) had served in Parliament often for at least 25 years or more, and the 2015 election also saw the defeat of Tom Clarke, Simon Hughes, Charles Kennedy, William McCrea, and Mike Hancock, who had been first elected in 1982, February 1983, June 1983, June 1983, and 1984 respectively, as well as the retirement of prominent long-standing figures like Sir George Young, Richard Shepherd, Jack Straw, Frank Dobson, Malcolm Rifkind, Francis Maude, Alan Beith, Malcolm Bruce, and many others. Of the current intake of MPs, 408 out of 650 (63%) are either newly elected or have only served one term so far.

Only a handful of MPs first elected in the 1970s are left; they are Ken Clarke (who will retire after this Parliament), Michael Meacher, Dennis Skinner, Gerald Kaufman, Alan Haslehurst, Peter Bottomley, Frank Field, and Barry Sheerman, with David Winnick being the last remaining MP first elected in the 1960s (he served Croydon South from 1966 to 1970 and has been MP for Walsall North since 1979). The longest serving MP in Greater London is now Jeremy Corbyn (with Simon Hughes defeated and Frank Dobson having retired).

Most of the Labour MPs unseated in 2010 who tried to get their seats back failed to return; only Rob Marris, Joan Ryan and Dawn Butler are back, and many who tried to win their seats back found that their vote share decreased rather than increased.

5. This general election set some interesting new records.

Alasdair McDonnell, narrowly re-elected MP for Belfast South, has now taken the dubious honour of lowest winning vote share ever recorded by an MP-he took just 24.5% of the vote. The DUP only won 22.2%, the Alliance Party received 17.5%, and former Lord Mayor of Belfast Martin O Muilleoir managed 13.9% on Sinn Fein's behalf.

Simon Wright became the first properly reselected incumbent MP in from a major party to fall from first place to fourth in a British constituency, in Norwich South. Stephen Williams suffered the worst vote share loss of a sitting MP in the UK, falling from 48.3% to just 19.1% in Bristol West. The Lib Dems also set the record for lowest ever vote share by a major party, with just 0.7% (318 votes) in Glasgow East.

Newly elected SNP MP Anne McLaughlin managed the largest swing ever recorded in Britain, by obtaining a 39.8% swing in her favour from Labour in Glasgow North East, which was hitherto Labour's safest constituency in Scotland.

Uxbridge & South Ruislip became the first constituency not held by a sitting Prime Minister to have 13 candidates. More constituencies than ever had 11 candidates or more. Bridgend and North Down became the first constituencies in Wales and Northern Ireland to have at least 10 candiates each.

And more importantly, this Parliament has its highest ever proportion of female MPs, with 29% being women, and its highest proportion of MPs from an ethnic minority background.

In this election, the highest number of votes came from re-elected Labour MP Stephen Timms, who polled 40,563 votes in East Ham (77.6%). The lowest was from independent candidate Nathan Handley in Witney, with just 12 votes (0.02%). And worryingly, some Conservative MPs, notably Theresa May in Maidenhead and Ranil Jayawendra in Hampshire North East, obtained majorities of greater than 50%, the first time since 1979 any Conservative MP has had such a high majority in any seat. On the other hand, the Conservatives lost their deposit in Liverpool Walton with only 4.7% there, the first lost Conservative deposit in an English constituency since 1979. Labour meanwhile obtained a majority of 72.3% in that same constituency over UKIP (Labour got 81.3%, UKIP just 9%).

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