The UK general election held on 6 May elected a Commons with no single party holding a majority. The election was held under the old first past the post voting system, which favours the two largest political parties at the expense of the smaller ones. While some newspapers have drawn attention to the disparity between the percentage of votes cast for each party and the percentage of seats that each gained, it’s also interesting to examine the number of votes cast for each MP gained.
Naturally there is a caveat. Strictly speaking the election isn’t over yet – due to the death of a candidate, one electorate contest has been postponed until the end of May. So the figures below will alter slightly once those votes are included.
Here’s the numbers as they stand now, in order of votes received. Parties receiving under 100,000 votes, aside from the Alliance, which returned one MP, have been omitted.
UK General Election 2010: Votes cast per elected MP
The existing system has disadvantaged far-right political parties like the BNP and UKIP, and many will not see that as a great shame, me included. But they were the most disadvantaged by the current system, receiving 1.47 million votes without winning a single seat. Not far behind and on the opposite end of the political spectrum are the Greens, whose widely spread but thin support base meant that all the 285,000 Green votes only elected one MP, the party’s leader Caroline Lucas.
The Conservative and Labour parties received similar levels of return on their voting turnout, electing one MP for every 33 to 34,000 votes. (Sinn Fein achieved the same result, and the SDLP wasn’t far off). Of the prominent minor parties, it is the SNP and the Lib Dems who have the most to be disgruntled about. The 6.8 million Lib Dem votes were 3.4 times less effective than those cast for the Conservatives and 3.6 times less effective than those cast for Labour. SNP votes were approximately a third as strong as those cast for the two major parties.
Obviously, under a system of proportional representation such electoral disparities would be eliminated.