Only constituency, not national vote numbers, matter

It is frustrating reading some of the assessments people are making about which parties have a mandate to form a government.  As depressing as it is, the Conservatives possessing the greatest number of seats in the House of Commons, have a greater – in no way absolute – mandate to try to form an administration.  Yes, it is possible that other parties could group together to vote down Conservative measures tabled before the House.  But that doesn’t change the mandate position.

Many people are setting aside the reality of the current standing of the political parties and allowing their preferences to rewrite the outcome of the election.  It seems one such blogger is the excellent Dr Richard North at EU Referendum.  Readers of that brilliant blog will be familiar with Dr North’s intense dislike of David Cameron and his desire for an ABC – Anyone But Cameron – outcome.  I understand and respect that.  But despite sharing that dislike of Cameron, my most intense dislike is for Gordon Brown, so the outcome I would prefer is ABB – Anyone But Brown.  Perhaps Dr North’s ABC wish goes some way to explaining this analysis on EUR:

On the other hand, while the Tories took 10.7 million votes, a Lib/Lab pact would command 15.4 million and 315 seats as opposed to the Tory 306. When it comes to a mandate, the Liblabs have greater claim than the Tories acting alone.

I don’t accept this assertion because national vote numbers are completely irrelevant.  They may matter to proponents of proportional representation who seek to secure a greater platform for their views, but they are meaningless in the electoral system.  Also, people did not vote for a Lib-Lab pact, they made a discrete between the two left of centre parties.  It is completely inappropriate to bundle their votes together because it doesn’t reflect the stated view of the voters.  The only vote outcomes that matter are the 650 individual contests in the Parliamentaty constituencies around the UK, and subsequently the number of seats won by members of political parties or independents.

In our system the mandate is conferred by seat numbers.  The number of votes cast nationally are a red herring.  Where voters in a constituency elect a particular representative by simple majority, it is wrong to dismiss their choice is irrelevant.  Every candidate has the same opportunity to win election.  If numbers of votes cast nationally are to be the measure of democratic mandates, then how can voters get rid of MPs they no longer wish to represent them?

If numbers of votes cast nationally mattered we would still be stuck with the likes of Jacqui Smith, Charles Clarke, Lembit Opik and Dr Evan Harris.  It would also have enabled candidates like the arrogant flouncer Joanne Cash to be running riot in the Palace of Westminster.  The fact is, the first past the post electoral sytem is not perfect, but like democracy itself it is better than the alternatives.  All that matters are the constituency results and long may they remain true.

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