The political landscape in the U.K.


First of all, it is a relief to know that the British Labour Party will not be returned to power because David Cameron, and the Conservative Party succeeded although the British Press wanted the Tories to fail. The win means that the Conservative Party can rule in its own right and does not need a coalition partner. This is the best result since the John Major win last century.

However, this is not the reason that I am writing this piece. My reason for writing is that I find it somewhat confusing that people who should know better bring up that the UKIP got a national vote of more than 12% but only 1 seat, whereas the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) ends up with something like 56 seats with a smaller percentage vote.

There are some differences between the Australian system and that of the British system, but where they are similar is in constituencies. A big difference is that in the UK there is a first past the post system and in Australia we have both a compulsory system as well as one where all votes are counted until the preferences are exhausted. On the national level in Australia we have to number all the squares, in NSW we only have to number one square.

Of course the above does nothing to help understand why the SNP gets more seats in the Parliament than the UKIP. The reason for the difference is in fact parochial. Scotland is allocated 59 seats in the UK parliament with seats also going to Wales, Britain (the majority of seats) and Northern Ireland. All of the Northern Ireland seats go to a party that has some kind of alliance to the Socialists of one kind or another. Even Sinn Fein comes under this category, as does the Alliance Party. In Scotland you had the Scottish Labour Party as distinct from the British Labour Party, although they are united, as well as the Scottish Nationalist Party.

A good comparison would be that between Scotland and Tasmania or Scotland and South Australia. At the Senate level, Tasmania is over-represented and this means that Tasmania has a lot of influence in the Australian Senate (most of us think that they have too much influence!!). Scotland has a small population like that of both South Australia and Tasmania. The percentage of the vote going to the SNP is only representative of the vote for the SNP in Scotland. They got no vote in the rest of England. The UKIP on the other hand was vying for a place in the Parliament in Great Britain rather than in Scotland, they had to vie for seats in a lot of constituencies if they were to have any chance of winning through on a lot of seats. The 12% vote that they obtained was a vote in only the constituencies where they put up candidates, and where they came in second place.

Any other voting or electoral system is still no guarantee that the UKIP would have more members in the Parliament than the current 1 member. The UKIP have to work harder to get more people interested in following them to the point of voting for them when it really counts in elections.

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