UK voting system

nw1

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It's a shame that, when a PM resigns, they don't open up the leadership contest to the entire public and have real democracy, rather than have a PM forced on us by the Party and the Party only.

While, in this case, it would have to be a Tory, at least it would give everyone the opportunity to vote for the candidate they personally felt was least bad. After all, the winner will be our prime minister for two years at least.

I'll probably echo many comments and say, while I certainly don't actually like him, Hunt is one of the least-worst options from the prominent Tories.
 
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Smokey Joe

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It's a shame that, when a PM resigns, they don't open up the leadership contest to the entire public and have real democracy, rather than have a PM forced on us by the Party and the Party only.
There really ought to be a publicly elected leader.
But the whole system is forced upon us, we typically get to choose only between pre-selected candidates in constituencies as-well. Parties and not the public have absolute power.
 

nw1

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There really ought to be a publicly elected leader.
But the whole system is forced upon us, we typically get to choose only between pre-selected candidates in constituencies as-well. Parties and not the public have absolute power.

It's interesting that some countries such as Greece do have a rather more democratic system when it comes to choosing MPs. Your constituency is your county, and each county has about 5 MPs.

From my understanding of the system, you have one vote, but you can choose from one of 5 or so candidates from your preferred party. Also, the constituency has about 5 MPs which are allocated in proportion from the most popular parties, and the most popular candidates of a given party take preference. So you typically end up with MPs from the two leading parties, at least, and the more popular candidates from each party end up becoming MPs.

If we had a similar system here in the UK, I suspect the result would be less MPs of the winning party. For example Hampshire has all-but-two of its MPs as Tory, but under a system like that of Greece, it would end up with perhaps just 50% of its MPs as Tory (assuming the Tories get about half the vote in Hampshire) and furthermore, the MPs would be those which enjoy the widest support across the whole county.
 

Smokey Joe

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If we had a similar system here in the UK, I suspect the result would be less MPs of the winning party. For example Hampshire has all-but-two of its MPs as Tory, but under a system like that of Greece, it would end up with perhaps just 50% of its MPs as Tory (assuming the Tories get about half the vote in Hampshire).
That sounds about right, in most elections, typicall 30-45% vote for either Tory or Labour nationally, but they get the vast majority of seats, which is why so many don't bother voting.
 

nw1

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Even someone who has been parachuted in will, over time, normally gain a thorough knowledge of their new constituency. And there is something to be said for each local area having an MP in the Commons who specifically knows about and represents that area and can raise any concerns that stuff the Government is doing might impact that local area.

However, I don't see any case for there being only a single MP who represents that area. It's arguably better if more than one MP represents an area since then if one MP turns out to be lazy (or becomes the Speaker or becomes temporarily incapacitated and is therefore less able to campaign for that area) then you have other MPs who can step in - so to my mind that's a good argument for multi-member constituencies, which would be consistent with a more proportionate system.

(Sorry, a very late reply, but pertinent to the most recent post I made which has been moved here.)

Indeed, and it also means that if your MP is from a party which you disagree with on most policies, with a multi-member system you are likely to have at least one MP from a 'sympathetic' party. Sub-county seats of say 5 MPs, for example 'Portsmouth-Havant-Fareham', with the MPs divided proportionally according to the vote (obviously some parties below a certain % would receive zero MPs), would lead to better representation both on a local level and on a national level, and in this example would ensure that everyone in Portsmouth, Havant and Fareham would have both a choice of Tory MP (likely three) or probably two Labour MPs, to voice their concerns to.

In our current system, what, for example does a left-leaning pro-immigration person do in Witham? Or, for balance, how about a believer in free markets in Islington North? Or a 'stay in UK' supporter in any SNP seat? Essentially, they lack representation in parliament just because they live in the 'wrong' place and we have single-member constituencies.
 
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Mcr Warrior

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In our current system, what, for example does a left-leaning pro-immigration person do in Witham? Or, for balance, how about a believer in free markets in Islington North? Or a 'stay in UK' supporter in any SNP seat? Essentially, they lack representation in parliament just because they live in the 'wrong' place and we have single-member constituencies.
Indeed. Where I live, the constituency is a fairly safe Labour seat with a 10,000+ majority. Whichever way I might choose to vote in a General Election, it's not going to make all that much difference.

The constituencies that make a difference in determining the overall General Election result, and thus who the governing party will be, tend to just be the marginal ones.
 

najaB

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It's a shame that, when a PM resigns, they don't open up the leadership contest to the entire public and have real democracy, rather than have a PM forced on us by the Party and the Party only.
To be pedantic, the PM is the MP who can "command the confidence of the House of Commons" so it is possible to have a PM who isn't chosen by a single party. However, the nature of UK politics makes that highly unlikely to happen as we just don't do coalitions/power-sharing.
 

JamesT

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To be pedantic, the PM is the MP who can "command the confidence of the House of Commons" so it is possible to have a PM who isn't chosen by a single party. However, the nature of UK politics makes that highly unlikely to happen as we just don't do coalitions/power-sharing.
As that person is usually the leader of the largest party, then it's reasonably likely that they'll be able to get legislation through. We can see in presidential systems like the US where the directly elected leader isn't of the same party that controls the legislature that they're often hamstrung trying to get anything done.

I'm not sure how the suggestions of opening up the choice of party leader to wider than the membership would work. If the general public pick someone who isn't in tune with their party, won't that just trigger another leadership contest immediately?
 

bangor-toad

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Indeed, and it also means that if your MP is from a party which you disagree with on most policies, with a multi-member system you are likely to have at least one MP from a 'sympathetic' party. Sub-county seats of say 5 MPs, for example 'Portsmouth-Havant-Fareham', with the MPs divided proportionally according to the vote (obviously some parties below a certain % would receive zero MPs), would lead to better representation both on a local level and on a national level, and in this example would ensure that everyone in Portsmouth, Havant and Fareham would have both a choice of Tory MP (likely three) or probably two Labour MPs, to voice their concerns to.

This is kind of how the voting system for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections. I think the process is called the D'Hondt method. Wikipedia link

The way it works here is that there are typically about 10 candidates on the list which covers about a county. We end up with 5 MLAs from that list. The result of the first result is usually quite quick but the subsequent ones can take ages as the votes are allocated.
The process seems to give a reasonable out. Here we have 2x DUP, 1 Independant Unionst, 1 Alliance and 1 Green Party MP. I would suspect that a "first past the post" process for this area would return all DUP. There would be no voice for the locally smaller views.

Overall it seems to work and it's good.
Why it's not used more widely is, I'm sure, a contentious and challenging question...

Cheers,
Mr Toad
 

ainsworth74

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I'm not sure how the suggestions of opening up the choice of party leader to wider than the membership would work. If the general public pick someone who isn't in tune with their party, won't that just trigger another leadership contest immediately?
I don't think it would. If your talking about this sort of thing then in reality your talking about a fairly fundamental constitutional change and having a directly elected leader of the executive (basically a President) as in a parliamentary system it doesn't really work for the public to be directly choosing the new leader of the largest party. If you want something like that then you are looking at adopting something more akin to the French or US model where the public elect the President who is completely separate from the legislature and has to either hope that their party win the most seats or that deals can be done.
 

ainsworth74

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Why it's not used more widely is, I'm sure, a contentious and challenging question...
Until recently Labour benefited from it as much as the Tories so neither big party had any interest in changing a system in which they would only ever lose out even if it would ensure our democracy was actually representative. Labour probably have more interest in it now but the Tories certainly don't. And indeed are taking steps to get rid of any proportional systems they can. I believe the elections bill passed the other night not only introduced voter ID (subject of existing thread elsewhere in this sub-forum if anyone wants to talk about that!) and also did away with the transferable vote system used in Mayoral elections.
 

nw1

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I don't think it would. If your talking about this sort of thing then in reality your talking about a fairly fundamental constitutional change and having a directly elected leader of the executive (basically a President) as in a parliamentary system it doesn't really work for the public to be directly choosing the new leader of the largest party. If you want something like that then you are looking at adopting something more akin to the French or US model where the public elect the President who is completely separate from the legislature and has to either hope that their party win the most seats or that deals can be done.

And one could argue that the US or French system is more democratic, as it's often the case that the President is from one party and the House/Senate another. This may for example have prevented Trump doing all he could have done otherwise.

Until recently Labour benefited from it as much as the Tories so neither big party had any interest in changing a system in which they would only ever lose out even if it would ensure our democracy was actually representative. Labour probably have more interest in it now but the Tories certainly don't. And indeed are taking steps to get rid of any proportional systems they can. I believe the elections bill passed the other night not only introduced voter ID (subject of existing thread elsewhere in this sub-forum if anyone wants to talk about that!) and also did away with the transferable vote system used in Mayoral elections.
Which really is not good, and indeed rather dangerous. Removing the transferable vote system in those places it still exists sounds, to me, a blatant violation of democracy, bordering on corruption, by a party which benefits disproportionately from first-past-the-post.

I don't know what we can do about it other than tell people how the Tories disproportionately benefit from the current system; the most important thing is to get a non-Tory party in as, particularly in the current climate of majorities by non-Tory parties being unlikely, I suspect Labour would be open to it.

It's not right that a party that has received a max 43% of the vote has held absolute power for so much of the period since 1979. Britain is not a nation of Tories; it's just our system that makes it appear that way to the outside world. People complain about America being right-wing but the Republicans haven't been as dominant in the USA as the Tories have been here in the period since 1979, thanks to their differing system (the fact that the anti-Republican vote isn't split in the presidential election helps, too...)
 
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GusB

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This is kind of how the voting system for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections. I think the process is called the D'Hondt method. Wikipedia link

The way it works here is that there are typically about 10 candidates on the list which covers about a county. We end up with 5 MLAs from that list. The result of the first result is usually quite quick but the subsequent ones can take ages as the votes are allocated.
The process seems to give a reasonable out. Here we have 2x DUP, 1 Independant Unionst, 1 Alliance and 1 Green Party MP. I would suspect that a "first past the post" process for this area would return all DUP. There would be no voice for the locally smaller views.

Overall it seems to work and it's good.
Why it's not used more widely is, I'm sure, a contentious and challenging question...

Cheers,
Mr Toad
The d'Hondt system is also used in Scottish Parliament elections to allocate the list seats (that Wikipedia article suggests that it's also used in London and Wales).

Until recently Labour benefited from it as much as the Tories so neither big party had any interest in changing a system in which they would only ever lose out even if it would ensure our democracy was actually representative. Labour probably have more interest in it now but the Tories certainly don't. And indeed are taking steps to get rid of any proportional systems they can. I believe the elections bill passed the other night not only introduced voter ID (subject of existing thread elsewhere in this sub-forum if anyone wants to talk about that!) and also did away with the transferable vote system used in Mayoral elections.
I really can't see why the Tories want to get rid of proportional systems when they've clearly benefitted from it, certainly in Scotland (I can't speak for the rest of the devolved governments). While the constituency boundaries aren't exactly the same, if the Scottish Parliament was elected purely on first-past-the-post, they'd be looking at a similar number of seats (currently 6) as their Scottish MPs hold in Westminster.

Labour currently has one seat at Westminster, so they also benefit.
 

edwin_m

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And one could argue that the US or French system is more democratic, as it's often the case that the President is from one party and the House/Senate another. This may for example have prevented Trump doing all he could have done otherwise.
The American system is less democratic than in the UK, for reasons such as the inbuilt bias towards smaller rural (and typically Republican) states in the Senate and the electoral college, and political control over the districting and electoral appointments that allow the ruling party in a state to bias future results in their favour.
 

ainsworth74

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The American system is less democratic than in the UK, for reasons such as the inbuilt bias towards smaller rural (and typically Republican) states in the Senate and the electoral college, and political control over the districting and electoral appointments that allow the ruling party in a state to bias future results in their favour.
Well quite. I wouldn't suggest touching it with a barge pole as it's as in dire need of reform as ours is. But just to illustrate the point that if you're going to have the public pick the leader of the executive then it will only work if you adopt system similar to that found in the US. But not theirs. As it's terrible. Makes ours look good in my opinion and that's saying something considering ours is also terrible.
 

Flying Snail

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The d'Hondt system is also used in Scottish Parliament elections to allocate the list seats (that Wikipedia article suggests that it's also used in London and Wales).


I really can't see why the Tories want to get rid of proportional systems when they've clearly benefitted from it, certainly in Scotland (I can't speak for the rest of the devolved governments). While the constituency boundaries aren't exactly the same, if the Scottish Parliament was elected purely on first-past-the-post, they'd be looking at a similar number of seats (currently 6) as their Scottish MPs hold in Westminster.

Labour currently has one seat at Westminster, so they also benefit.

The Tories and Labour benefit in Scotland because they are minority parties there, that benefit pales in comparison to the loss they would face if a proper PR system was used for UK general elections.

The benefit they get is also for the most part only token; they gain some seats in Scotland but still have little actual power while holding onto FPTP in UK elections gives them, tories in particular, a massive advantage in gaining actual power far in excess of their actual popularity.

Until the media and electorate care far more about their democracy being corrupted and stolen than the comparatively trivial events that dominate the narrative then nothing will ever change for the better.

Well quite. I wouldn't suggest touching it with a barge pole as it's as in dire need of reform as ours is. But just to illustrate the point that if you're going to have the public pick the leader of the executive then it will only work if you adopt system similar to that found in the US. But not theirs. As it's terrible. Makes ours look good in my opinion and that's saying something considering ours is also terrible.

The US Presidential electoral college actually manages the amazing feat of being less democratic even than parliamentary FPTP.

The presidential system is epically stupid and dangerous even before the biased voting system and along with the ridiculously biased Senate, systematically gerrymandered house districts and the ever more pernicious methods used to disenfranchise poor and minority voters, democracy in the US is closer to an African banana dictatorship than anything resembling real democracy.
 
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nw1

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I would agree that the Electoral College in the USA is rather silly, it should be based on the actual votes rather than the score based on states won. (See Trump, 2016).

My main comments 'in favour' of the US is that their system permits a) a President and Congress to be from different parties and b) we don't get the non-Republican vote split in presidential elections in the same way the non-Tory vote is split here. Trump actually got a considerably higher percentage of the US electorate voting for him in 2020 than Johnson did here in 2019, yet as the anti-Trump vote was unified, he did not win.

I don't think the US system is the best either, but was just pointing out that in some ways, it's better than the UK - and perhaps preferable to the UK. (But that is more a comment on how terrible first-past-the-post is, rather than praise of the US system).

My favoured system is proportional representation and multi-member constituencies, as discussed above - and certainly the end of majority governments who receive less than half the vote.
 

edwin_m

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My main comments 'in favour' of the US is that ... we don't get the non-Republican vote split in presidential elections in the same way the non-Tory vote is split here.
Not necessarily so. Ralph Nader took 2.74% of the votes in 2000, probably mostly people who would otherwise have voted Democrat. This probably cost Al Gore the presidency (although he might have won anyway if the Supreme Court hadn't stopped the Florida recount).
 
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najaB

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I would agree that the Electoral College in the USA is rather silly, it should be based on the actual votes rather than the score based on states won. (See Trump, 2016).
Or Bush 2000.
 

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‘FPTP’ is only used now for English local elections and the British parliament. I think a lot of the issues plaguing English politics would be ameliorated if PR was introduced as in the other three nations. People could vote for who they want, and never have to worry about voting for a second choice to keep the party they despise out!
 

edwin_m

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‘FPTP’ is only used now for English local elections and the British parliament. I think a lot of the issues plaguing English politics would be ameliorated if PR was introduced as in the other three nations. People could vote for who they want, and never have to worry about voting for a second choice to keep the party they despise out!
However the Government is introducing FPTP for regional mayors, presumably because most of the ones elected have been Labour.
 

nw1

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However the Government is introducing FPTP for regional mayors, presumably because most of the ones elected have been Labour.

Yes indeed - time people realise just how corruptly the Conservative Party are behaving with things like this, and time people have the sense to realise that FPTP is not true democracy. (An 80-seat majority from 43% of the vote? A Tory majority government for a likely 25 years out of the 45 between 1979 and 2024, despite never getting more than 43% of the vote? That is not democracy).

As I said before, first thing is to get the Tories out. They are the ones most in love with FPTP. Get them out and we might have a chance of a fairer and more democratic system.

If we get a Tory majority government again in 2024, and they stay for a full 5 years, we'll have had 30 years out of 50, i.e. 60%, under a Tory majority government! Hardly representative. Britain is not a Tory country despite the right's claim that it is.

‘FPTP’ is only used now for English local elections and the British parliament. I think a lot of the issues plaguing English politics would be ameliorated if PR was introduced as in the other three nations. People could vote for who they want, and never have to worry about voting for a second choice to keep the party they despise out!

That is true, outside of England the system is fairer.

The way the council elections work is particularly galling. We get three representatives on the council, but rather than allocating the three based on proportion of the vote, they have a separate FPTP election for each post each year, as I'm sure most people here know.

Result: my ward has, and has always had, three useless Tories, despite the fact that the combined Lab/Lib Dem vote is slightly more than the Tories. Under a proportional system, we'd likely get one of each of the three parties. Democracy? ;)
 
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Inversnecky

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Yes indeed - time people realise just how corruptly the Conservative Party are behaving with things like this, and time people have the sense to realise that FPTP is not true democracy. (An 80-seat majority from 43% of the vote? A Tory majority government for a likely 25 years out of the 45 between 1979 and 2024, despite never getting more than 43% of the vote? That is not democracy).

As I said before, first thing is to get the Tories out. They are the ones most in love with FPTP. Get them out and we might have a chance of a fairer and more democratic system.

If we get a Tory majority government again in 2024, and they stay for a full 5 years, we'll have had 30 years out of 50, i.e. 60%, under a Tory majority government! Hardly representative. Britain is not a Tory country despite the right's claim that it is.

Sadly, unless Labour are prepared to recognise that their interests - and the country's - are better served with PR, nothing will change: they seem prepared to allow decades of Tory rule in the hope they'll get a majority maybe once every 15-20 years, rather than the possibility of being a minority or coalition government.
 

nw1

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Sadly, unless Labour are prepared to recognise that their interests - and the country's - are better served with PR, nothing will change: they seem prepared to allow decades of Tory rule in the hope they'll get a majority maybe once every 15-20 years, rather than the possibility of being a minority or coalition government.

Though I do think that, given a Labour majority is unlikely in the near future but a Labour minority government in coalition is, that Labour might realise (especially if they go into coalition with the Lib Dems and others in 2024) that PR will give them more chance of some power than FPTP.
 

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Sadly, unless Labour are prepared to recognise that their interests - and the country's - are better served with PR, nothing will change: they seem prepared to allow decades of Tory rule in the hope they'll get a majority maybe once every 15-20 years, rather than the possibility of being a minority or coalition government.
There is some evidence that they're moving that direction. Keir Starmer was on record early last year as saying:
“I also think on electoral reform, we’ve got to address the fact that millions of people vote in safe seats and they feel their voice doesn’t count. That’s got to be addressed. We will never get full participation in our electoral system until we do that at every level.”
While not explicitly naming proportional representation that definitely indicates an openness to change at the top. The issue is, if I'm recalling correctly, that the Unions didn't support adding PR to the Labour platform at the last conference.
 

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Yes indeed - time people realise just how corruptly the Conservative Party are behaving with things like this, and time people have the sense to realise that FPTP is not true democracy. (An 80-seat majority from 43% of the vote? A Tory majority government for a likely 25 years out of the 45 between 1979 and 2024, despite never getting more than 43% of the vote? That is not democracy).

And of course, the 'democratic deficit' is even worse in Scotland, where the Tories have not won an election since 1955!
 

nw1

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There is some evidence that they're moving that direction. Keir Starmer was on record early last year as saying:

While not explicitly naming proportional representation that definitely indicates an openness to change at the top. The issue is, if I'm recalling correctly, that the Unions didn't support adding PR to the Labour platform at the last conference.

Incredible. Unions are supposed to stand up for people who get a raw deal from their employer, yet they want the perpetuation of a system that keeps their biggest political opponents and the party least sympathetic to employee rights, the Tories, in.

This blinkered thinking of some on the so-called left has to end if we wish to have governments representing a wider range of people than we have done for the past 43 years.
 

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Thing is, when you have PR, you can't imagine how on earth people still put up with FPTP. Labour in Scotland formed our first two governments, with the Lib Dems, before they were both eviserated.

The British Labour party seems to want to keep that hope alive of being able to rule as a majority on its own, despite the Tories having an inbuilt advantage of generally being the largest minority, and winning most elections.

I would be utterly depressed having to vote in England - in two thirds of seats, your vote would make little difference, and it may well be a case of voting for C to keep B out, though you support A. With PR, you can vote for a party and if it gets 5-6% of the vote, it'll get about the same in seats. FPTP really deadens the English political landscape, and prevents the development of parties like the Greens, etc.
 

nw1

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Thing is, when you have PR, you can't imagine how on earth people still put up with FPTP. Labour in Scotland formed our first two governments, with the Lib Dems, before they were both eviserated.

The British Labour party seems to want to keep that hope alive of being able to rule as a majority on its own, despite the Tories having an inbuilt advantage of generally being the largest minority, and winning most elections.

I would be utterly depressed having to vote in England - in two thirds of seats, your vote would make little difference, and it may well be a case of voting for C to keep B out, though you support A. With PR, you can vote for a party and if it gets 5-6% of the vote, it'll get about the same in seats. FPTP really deadens the English political landscape, and prevents the development of parties like the Greens, etc.

Tactical voting is the only way to deal with FPTP. I have done it in every election I have voted in, specifically to keep the Tories out (and in the case of 1992 and 1997, to let Labour in; though in the elections after that, more to keep the Tories out as my enthusiasm for Labour did wane though I still prefer them over the Tories).

If more people in England performed tactical voting, then there might be more chance of hung parliaments and coalitions, and consequently less domination by the Tories. Tactical voting is the mean weapon to use against FPTP so it's unfortunate that more don't see the immense power that it can wield. We could for instance have seen the end of Dominic Raab in 2019 had it been used in that constituency, and more than that, if used across the country, we would have seen no Tory majority in 2019 and likely, no hard Brexit either.

Instead we often get pathetic 'Judean People's Front' style battles between the opposition parties, in seats such as Canterbury or Kensington for example, which just leads to a majority for the Roman Party the Tories.

I've had frustrating conversations with union reps about tactical voting as well, with the response 'if you want a Labour government, vote Labour' when in a seat where the Lib Dems are a clear second, well ahead of Labour. Really, really bad advice that. If you want a Labour government, or more generally, a government which will be more sympathetic to employee rights, vote tactically to keep the Tory out!
 
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tspaul26

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The US Presidential electoral college actually manages the amazing feat of being less democratic even than parliamentary FPTP.

I would agree that the Electoral College in the USA is rather silly, it should be based on the actual votes rather than the score based on states won. (See Trump, 2016).
The electoral college was created to serve a specific purpose reflective of the status of the system of government of the United States as a federal representative republic, not a ‘democracy’.

It ensures to a large degree that a president has broad support across the states and is cognisant of the differing interests of different communities across the country.

You may wish to argue that such objectives are undesirable, but it does not mean that the electoral college is in itself problematical.

There is also nothing to stop a state from awarding its electors to the winner of the national popular vote or dividing them proportionally or allocating them to reflect the makeup of the state legislature or to split them up by congressional district as Nebraska and Maine do (and formerly in other states as well).

It should also be noted that, if each state’s electors had been allocated proportionally based on the popular vote in that state in 2016, neither Trump nor Clinton would have secured an absolute majority in the electoral college, although Trump would have been ahead. In those circumstances, Trump would still almost certainly have won the presidency with 32 votes out of 50.
although he might have won anyway if the Supreme Court hadn't stopped the Florida recount
The recount was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment because it was not being conducted on a consistent, fair basis across the state.
 

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