All votes are not equal – Why getting the vote out is more important than ever this election

I write to you from the US. Here the ‘Get the vote out’ campaign during elections is as you can imagine slick and effective.

What voters in the UK probably don’t realise is just how important it will be in the upcoming UK election to get the vote out – especially if you like these figures:

The FTSE is up – reaching a record high close last month. The day before the election the FTSE 100 closed at 5,341.90. On 24 February 2015 it closed at a record 6,949.63 – up 30 per cent (Yahoo finance)

The economy is 8.8 per cent bigger since the last election – based on the growth from the first quarter of 2010, to the last of 2014 (ONS, GDP, 26 February 2015)

Employment is up by 1.85 million since the election. (ONS, Labour Market Statistics,18 February 2015)

You see all votes are not equal in the British system.

First, Labour’s dispersion of voters is such that they can at merely 36% of the votes still win an election – as in 2005. Never before in the history of British elections has a party won with such a low percentage of votes.

To understand this – think of it this way; we have a system whereby if you win a seat by 10,000 votes, you win it just as much as if you won by 1 vote. Tory voters tend to give themselves thumping large majorities and so in a way to say the Conservatives have a poll lead is irrelevant because you are only counting a lot of people in constituencies you’ve already won not people in ones where you need to win from Labour. Labour tend to have lower majorities, but more of them – it’s just the way their vote is spread and so they tend to win more seats per voter.

So pronounced is Labour’s advantage that in 2005 more people actually voted Conservative than Labour in England– but the Conservatives won 92 fewer seats than Labour within England (285 to 193). Talk about the need to get the vote out!

Put another way Labour can get 55% of the seats with only 36% of the votes cast. Whereas everyone else combined with 64% of the votes can only manage 45% of the seats. That’s not fair. But it is the way the things are. So unless you are a Labour voter – you better get out and get the vote out to be heard. Basically you need to shout louder.

But it could be worse – you could be LibDem – with 2/3rds as many votes as Labour they only got 1/5 as many seats as Labour!

Alpesh Patel

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