Or more clear…
- SNP + LibDems 4.3 million votes = 64 Seats
- UKIP 3.8 million votes = 1 Seat
Natalie Bennett, leader of the Greens, has condemned the first-past-the-post voting system after her party won just one seat in Westminster despite gaining more than a million votes.
Speaking after the general election won by the Conservative party, Bennett said Britain needed to scrap first-past-the-post voting and introduce a preferential system.
Under the first-past-the-post system, the candidate with the most votes wins, meaning that MPs can be selected according to the preferences of less than 50% of the electorate. Under preferential systems, such as that used in Australia, voters rank candidates on the ballot, so that if their first choice fails to poll enough to win, then votes for their second choice are still counted.
Bennett called the UK’s electoral system “deeply unfair”.
“What we need, and what I suspect we’ll see, is a huge public campaign. The Green Party, if we did have a proportional system, would have 25 seats,” she told the BBC. She acknowledged it would be tough to convince the major parties to support reform that diminished their own power and was like “getting the turkeys to vote for Christmas”.
A referendum on introducing a form of preferential voting to Britain was defeated in 2011. But Bennett said change was needed because the first-past-the-post system resulted in a third of British voters not voting in 2015 because they felt they could not make a difference.
After the leaders of three parties quit in response to the shock win by the Tories, which defied opinion poll predictions, Bennett insisted she was still the right person to lead the “second stage of the green surge”, despite finishing third in her central London constituency Holborn and St Pancras. Bennett said her party had firmly established itself on the national scene after more than tripling its vote and finishing second in four seats.
The Greens won 3.8% of the vote on Thursday compared with 1% in 2010. But even with 1.16m ballots the Greens still only retained former leader Caroline Lucas’s seat of Brighton Pavilion.
In the aftermath of her win, Lucas said the Greens could campaign with the UK Independence Party (Ukip) for electoral reform, even though the pro-market, eurosceptic party sits at the opposite end of the political spectrum.
Nigel Farage quit as leader of Ukip – at least temporarily – after failing to win a seat on Thursday but as he departed he labelled the current system an affront to democracy. Ukip secured 12.6% of the vote nationwide (3.88m) but, like the Greens, has just one seat in the new parliament. Analysts suggested under a proportional system Ukip would have won 83 seats in Thursday’s poll.
“We gained nearly as many votes as the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru added up together,” Farage wrote in the Independent newspaper. “But only one Ukip MP has been returned to the House of Commons – a situation which most reasonable people would realise highlights the flawed nature of Britain’s electoral system.”
Bennett, speaking on BBC Breakfast on Saturday morning, defended her decision to remain as Green party leader despite failing to win a seat in parliament. She said: “In terms of the seat I was standing in – Holborn and St Pancras – I was always very clear I had a huge mountain to climb. I stood in the seat where I live, where I stood in 2010 and where I’ve been a community campaigner. It was the right place for me to stand.”
Although Lucas was re-elected on an increased majority, the Green party also failed to take its key targets of Bristol West – where it came second with 17,224 votes – and Norwich South.
But Bennett said the party managed to save more than 100 deposits – more than ever before – and also made gains in council elections, increasing its presence in Bristol and Cambridge.
She admitted being surprised by the overall result of a Conservative majority and hit out at David Cameron’s party. “Where we are now is a real cause for concern for the face of the disabled, the disadvantaged in our society, the fate of our public services and indeed what we are going to be doing about climate change, but we will have Caroline Lucas there as a very strong Green MP,” she said.by