The general election is now less than a day away, and with so much media coverage from all sides it can be difficult to understand what each party is offering, let alone how the voting system actually works. This post from Mr Lender aims to explain most of this to make it seem a little clearer, and to help you decide how to vote in this general election.
How does the UK voting system work?
There are many different voting systems used around the world by democracies. In the UK, we use the ‘First Past the Post‘ system. The First Past the Post system (FPTP) is favoured by more than 60 countries around the world, including Canada, Ghana, Mexico and the United States to name a few. But what is it?
With the FPTP system, voters choose the candidate they want to win by ticking their name on a ballot paper. In the case of the UK, each constituency will have a number of MPs fighting for a seat in parliament. There are 650 constituencies in total in the UK, so a party would need to win more than half of these seats to win an overall majority – 325 to be exact. If a single party gains more than 325 seats, they will win the election and their leader will become Prime Minister. However, if no party wins the majority vote, the party who has the most votes will then need to decide which other parties they want to work with, and form a coalition. This is what happened in 2010 when the Conservatives gained just 306 seats.
Advantages of FPTP
Supporters of the FPTP system say it is a fast and simple voting system, meaning the winner can be declared soon after voting has ended. There are alternative voting systems available, but these tend to take far longer to work out, and are a lot trickier to understand. In 2011, there was a referendum held to change the voting system, which almost 68% of people voted against.
Disadvantages of FPTP
While there are some advantages of the FPTP system, there are a number of disadvantages too. One of the main criticisms of the FPTP system is that a party can come into power with a small percentage of the votes, despite gaining the most seats. The Telegraph noted one such instance in February 1974, where the Conservative party gained over 200,000 votes more than the Labour party, but Labour managed to win four more seats in parliament. This ultimately comes down to the size of the constituency.
To give an example of how this may work, a large constituency may cast 3,000 votes in total – winning Party A a seat in parliament. A smaller constituency may then cast 500 votes, winning Party B a seat. A third constituency may also win Party B a seat, with 600 votes cast. In this example, 3,000 votes were cast for Party A, and they won a single seat. But only 1,100 seats were cast for Party B, and they managed to win two seats.
One further disadvantage of the FPTP system is that it often results in a two horse race. This means votes cast for smaller parties become irrelevant in terms of who will become the next Prime Minister.
The Alternative Voting system
As mentioned before, there are other ways of voting which are used around the world. One of which is the Alternative Voting system. In this case, the voter will mark on their ballot who they would like to win by ranking them in order of preference – ‘1’ being their first choice, ‘2’ their second and so on.
If one party gains more than half of the 1st choice preferences, they will win outright and the leader of that party will become prime minister. However, if they don’t gain more than half, the 2nd choice candidates are taken into consideration. If the 2nd choice candidate then has more than half the votes, they will win – if not, the process repeats until a single party has more than half the votes.
Advantages of the Alternative Voting (AV) system
One notable benefit of the AV system is that it gives other parties a chance to be considered. With the FPTP system, a coalition is formed if a single party fails to gain more than 325 seats. With the AV system, the counting process continues until someone has the majority votes. Using the AV system should then eliminate the two horse race aspect which the FPTP system brings.
Disadvantages of the AV system
Of course, while there are benefits of the AV system, there are also disadvantages too. One such criticism is that it is far more difficult to understand, and the counting process takes much longer – meaning the results will take far longer to be announced. It also means voters will need to have a much better understanding of each political party in order to make an informed decision.
So who should you vote for?
In the run up to the general election, the media coverage of the Labour and Conservative parties is pretty intense. Each media outlet gives a whole host of reasons why one party is better than the other, why Corbyn is better or worse than May, why you should vote for the party they’re supporting. It can be difficult to know who you should vote for. Reading each of the party manifestos is a good place to start, as this means you can then see just what it is each party is promising to deliver. Here are a few key points from the Labour and Conservative manifestos:
|Giving powers to HMRC to clamp down on those who avoid paying tax
|A £4billion increase in school budgets by 2022
|Retain the benefits of the Single Market in Brexit talks
|VAT will not increase
|Re-nationalise the railways
|Tougher punishments for those found to be mismanaging pensions (to avoid a repeat of the BHS scandal)
|Introducing a fare cap for the railways
|A ban on cold callers encouraging people to make false personal injury claims
|Capping household dual fuel bills at £1,000 per year
|Increasing funding for the NHS
|Reintroducing maintenance grants for students
|Plans to eradicate the deficit by the middle of the next decade
|Providing extra funding for the NHS
|1million homes to have been built between 2015 and 2020
|Creating a National Care Service
|Plans to halve the number of rough sleepers, and completely eliminate homelessness by 2027
|Carer’s allowance to be increased to bring it in line with Job Seekers Allowance
|Companies who employ more than 250 people will need to publish data on the gender pay gap
|Outlawing zero hour contracts
|Smart meters to be rolled out to every home and business by the end of 2020
|Implementing a ban on unpaid internships
|Implementing a fixed cap on energy tariffs.
|Doubling paternity leave, and increasing paternity pay
|A reduction in corporation tax
|A 20:1 pay limit between the highest and lowest paid workers in companies given government contracts
|Introduction of ‘T-Levels’ for technical subjects
|Introducing a cap on rent prices
|Apprentices will have access to ‘significantly discounted’ bus and train fares
|4,000 new homes for people who have a history of rough sleeping
|New teachers will not have to repay their student loan while they remain in the profession
|Scrapping the bedroom tax
|Heathrow airport to be expanded and gain a third runway
|10,000 more police officers on the streets
|1million more disabled people ‘will get into work’ over the next 10 years.
Still unsure who to vote for in the general election?
If you’re still unsure of who you should vote for, there is a quiz you can take which asks you questions based on certain political issues. The quiz then shows you a chart of which political parties your personal values, beliefs and opinions most align with. You can also follow the general election on YouGov, where they’ve been posting their predictions daily for the general election.