Political boffin, keen fisherman looking forward to retirement.

Monday, May 14, 2007

How the Assembly Electoral System Favours Labour

Labour political dominance over Wales has largely been maintained by the First Past the Post electoral system. As a result of the 2005 General Election, Labour won 72.5% of Wales’ Parliamentary seats based on just 42.7% of the vote.

Now that the figures are in for the 2007 National Assembly elections (and I’m bored out of my head) I have taken the liberty of analysing the Assembly voting system to see how far it goes to secure fair votes.

The vast majority of seats for the Assembly continue to be elected via First Past the Post, based on Wales’ 40 Parliamentary constituencies. The results are as follows


Party
Votes (to the nearest thousand)
% of Vote
Seats
% of vote required per seat
No of votes required per seat
Con
219,000
22.4
7
3.2
31,285
Plaid
219,000
22.4
8
2.8
27,375
Lib
144,000
14.8
3
4.9
48,000
Lab
315,000
32.2
24
1.3
13,125


The figures are quite clear, Labour do particularly well out of the First Past the Post System. They only need 13,125 votes per seat as compared to the massive 48,000 votes needed by the Libs. Plaid and the Tories have to gain twice as many votes as Labour per constituency seat.

Matters are somewhat addressed by the use of a regional top up system (d’Hondt). The following table provides an analysis based on combining both constituency and regional ballots.

Party
Votes (to the nearest thousand)
% of Votes
Seats
% of vote required per seat
No ov votes required per seat
Con
428,000
21.9
12
1.8
35,700
Plaid
424,000
21.7
15
1.4
28,300
Lib
259,000
13.3
6
2.21
43,200
Lab
604,000
30.9
26
1.2
23,200

Yet again we see how even with an element of PR introduced the result continues to be skewed substantially in Labour’s favour.

Before anyone accuses me of being a hypocrite I do acknowledge that Plaid did well out of the system this time. But we still have to get over 5,000 more votes per seat when compared to Labour. The poor Lib Dems have to get 20,000 extra votes per seat!

If we had a totally proportional system, Labour would be reduced to 19. Plaid and the Tories would be on 13 and the Libs on 8. UKIP, the BNP, Independents and the Greens would all probably get at least one seat.

Labour hegemony over life in Wales has always been supported by an unfair voting system that gives them a disproportionate political representation. This political clout has been used by Labour to dominate every aspect of Welsh life, as careerists pay homage in the name of their own personal progress. A one party state has been built around a voting system that does not reflect the political wishes of the people of Wales. In anyone’s book this isn’t a healthy democracy, and partly explains why our country has stagnated over the years.

In the unlikely event of electoral reform at Westminster level, I hope that whatever agreement is reached in order to form the next Government of Wales, contains provision for fair votes for local government and any election to a proper Welsh Parliament. The current d’Hondt system is only a step in the right direction.

Undoubtedly Labour hacks will point to the current instability in Wales as why PR is an idealistic pipe dream. I used to agree but have now changed my mind. I’m also quite easy minded about coalitions. Furthermore, it is precisely because of the likely result of the election many of us were exacerbated by Labour’s sectarian and tribalist strategy.

Surely it’s a sign of strength in our democracy that our political leaders following an election have to sit down and work a way forward based on the common good.

2 comments:

Geraint said...

In 2003 Labour had no list seats, despite polling move votes then the Tories who got more seats the the Labour on the Mid and West Wales list, however I didnt hear much complaining about that. This time in Mid and West Wales, Labour got a lot less votes then the Tories, and got 2 seats, which seems fair enough to me.

Labour has never had a majority in the Assembly, in 2000 Labour had to get into coalition with the Lib Dems, in 2003 Labour had a majority thanks to Dafydd Elis Thomas becoming the Presiding Officers, and in 2007 Labour may not even form the next government.

Ted Jones said...

Geraint I like your spirit, but what exactly is your point? The fact is that Labour only need 23,000 votes per seat, and everyone else needs far more.