One of the interesting aspects of the 2015 UK election is the disparity between votes cast and seats gained. The table below shows (for the parties that actually gained seats) the number of votes cast, the seats gained, and the votes per seat. It then goes on to show how, if those seats had been distributed amongst those parties* proportionate to their vote, how many seats they would have got, and what change that would produce.
Two things are immediately apparent.
First, some parties had to work much harder (i.e. gain more votes) for each seat than others. UKIP needed 3.8 million votes for each seat, the Greens 1.2 million, and the Liberal Democrats 302,000. Looking at the two parties that did really well, the Conservatives needed 34,000 votes for each seat, and the SNP a paltry 26,000.
Secondly, the make up of a parliament elected proportionately would be very different. The Conservatives would still comfortably be the largest party, but not have a majority. Labour would have done still worse. UKIP would have a third as many seats as the Conservatives. The Lib Dems would not be wiped out. The SNP would have around half as many seats as they do today.
It’s hard to understand the democratic legitimacy in a party polling 1.4 million votes (the SNP) getting 56 seats, whereas a party polling 3.8 million (UKIP) gets 1. Or of the Lib Dems and the DUP gaining the same number of seats (8) when the Lib Dems polled 2.4 million votes and the DUP 184,000.
The main beneficiaries of a move to proportional representation would be UKIP. Whilst they would be last on my ballot paper, it’s difficult to maintain that the current voting system is fair.
* I redistributed the seats amongst those parties that won at least one seat under the current rules; in a true proportionate system, the results might be slightly different.