Friday, 13 December 2019

The People Have Not Spoken

Looking like an injured smurf

We have heard plenty of lies before the election and now we're hearing that biggest of lies we hear after every election: that the 'people' have spoken. This is plainly bullshit of the highest order. As a Liberal/LibDem voter in a safe Conservative seat all my life I'm well aware that my voice has never been heard.

Instead, what has happened is that a few people in marginal seats have spoken. The Voter Power Index tells me that "In Horsham, one person does not really have one vote, they have the equivalent of 0.143 votes". Thanks a bunch. Meanwhile voters in Swansea West have 1.115 votes. That's nearly 8 times more voting power than me! Newspapers offer lists of key marginals, well aware that no-one cares what's happening on the hustings in Horsham or Bootle.

Capturing those few people has for many years been the task of the party campaign managers, and in 2019 the Tories were most successful at this, managing to capture many target seats and more, and Labour/LibDems least successful. But it wasn't completely down to Tory electioneering, or the Jeremy Corbyn effect. It was down to a unilateral pro-Tory-Brexit strategy from the Brexit Party (not standing in Tory held seats) and a refusal of the Labour Party and the LibDems to respond to that move. This was entirely predictable, of course.

One of the first seats to declare is a prime example. Blyth Valley has been Labour since it was created in 1950, but Labour lost by 700 votes, with a swing to the Tories of 10%. But that swing would not have lost them the seat by itself. The Brexit party took 8% of the vote, but the LibDems took another 5%, and the Greens 3%, both pointlessly. Any sensible anti-Brexit strategy would have seen Labour home.

Another example is Guildford:

Here the problem was that Labour took nearly 8% and anti-no-dealer ex-Tory Anne Milton took 7%. If just half of those voters had gone with the LibDem candidate then the Tory would have lost. Furthermore, if a Brexit Party candidate had stood that would have taken another thousand or two at least from the Tories.

I have been predicting since last summer that the UK would suffer a no deal Brexit, or a hard Brexit at least, and that still holds true after the first past the post electoral system delivered a mandate for a hard Brexit against the wishes of the majority of the electorate. 52% of the vote went to pro-EU/second referendum parties.

This will cause problems for years. Dissatisfaction with Brexit will rise, as the inherent difficulties of leaving the European Union are worked out, the promised benefits don't materialise, but the costs do. (This will at least be a slower process than if we had crashed out without a Withdrawal Agreement, so we can be thankful for small mercies.) Remember that no Brexit deal will command the support of the majority of the population - Johnson will face dissatisfaction from the majority Remain population and the many Brexiteers who don't like whatever arrangement he finally settles on. That will include the large rump of Brexit Party supporters left without a vote when they withdrew their candidates from Tory seats.

Then the fear is that this populist authoritarian new Tory Party carry out their threats to fix elections for ever in their favour, with boundary changes and a strengthening of their grip on the press and broadcast media that has helped them deliver this mandate. I honestly don't know what can stop them, if they can avoid being blamed for the inevitable problems of the next five years. And certainly the press, the BBC and ITV are showing no willingness to speak truth to power any longer.

So, no, democracy has not been delivered with this election result. Far from it.


Some statistics which highlight the lack of democracy in the UK 2019 General Election:

Conservatives, increase in popular vote: 329,881
Conservatives, increase in seats: 48

LibDems, increase in popular vote: 1,324,562
LibDems, increase in seats: -1

Greens, increase in popular vote: 340,032
Greens, increase in seats: 0

The Greens increased their popular vote by more than the Conservatives, but it resulted in no more seats.

Addendum 2:

Here is master psephologist John Curtice raising the issue of the illegitimacy of the election as a way of settling the Brexit question:
Addendum 3:

Martin Sandbu in the Financial Times writes:
Boris Johnson won last week’s election not by getting more people to vote Conservative — he only improved on Theresa May’s 2017 vote share by about a percentage point — but by getting the right people to vote Tory, and by getting a lot more people to stop voting Labour (with good help from Nigel Farage and the Brexit party). Given the UK’s first-past-the-post voting system, the Conservative vote was much more effectively distributed in this election, so by trading an almost equal number of urban Remain voters for northern small-town Leave voters, Johnson converted a near-stagnant vote share into a landslide of parliamentary seats.

Some recommended further reading:

Professor Chris Grey, The Brexit dystopia bequeathed by this election.

Philosopher Jonathan Pearce, Brexit, the Media, Scotland and FPTP, Political Ignorance, Deunionisation

Professor Simon Wren-Lewis, Who to blame for Johnson winning?

Prof. Dr. Eric Schliesser, On Johnson's Victory.

Philosopher Philip Goff, Corbyn not Corbynism was to Blame: My View on UK Election

Read more »