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Monday, 9 February 2015

Who wants to play the Lottery Election?

Six-party politics will cause our voting system to produce an unpredictable and contentious result, according to new ERS-commissioned report by Prof John Curtice. With six parties likely to command a decent chunk of the vote, the result of the 2015 general election is highly unpredictable, according to a new analysis of polling data by Professor John Curtice, published today by the Electoral Reform Society.

The new report, entitled The Lottery Election, shows that relatively small changes in the electoral map could have a significant impact on the outcome, thanks to the use of First Past the Post. By taking the current polling situation and constructing scenarios of how those polls might change between now and May, Prof Curtice finds that:
  • It will probably be easier for Labour to win a majority than it will be for the Conservatives. Even with its difficulties in Scotland, Labour is likely to need a 5 point lead to win a majority, whereas the Conservatives will require a 7 point one.
  • A 7 point improvement in the Lib Dem vote to 15% would have little effect on Labour’s chances of a majority, but means the Conservatives would need as much as a 10 point lead 
  • UKIP could come 6th in seats but 3rd in votes, and SNP could come 6th in votes but 3rd in seats
  • The SNP could get a game-changing 50-odd seats or a paltry few depending on relatively small shifts in the vote 

Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “"In 2015, our voting system is going to be revealed for what it is – a relic from another age. It was always unfair, but with six parties commanding a decent share of the vote, it’s starting to look ridiculous. “The final outcome of the election will bear little relation to voters’ actual choices, and people simply won’t put up with that. There’s going to be a huge discrepancy between votes cast and seats won. And in some places we’re going to see MPs elected with the support of just one in six people.“The make-up of the government should be based on people’s wishes, not the random effects of a broken voting system. It’s starting to look less like an election, and more like a lottery.”"

Professor John Curtice said: "“First Past the Post may not be meant to be proportional, but it is meant to give Labour and the Conservatives an equal chance of winning. However, it looks as though Labour could win on a lower share of the vote than the Conservatives would need – though at the moment neither party looks likely to win the majority that it was once presumed First Past the Post would always deliver. “Meanwhile, although the system looks set to be tough on some smaller parties, such as UKIP and the Greens, it could prove quite generous to others, most notably the SNP. As a result, we should not be surprised if there is a renewed debate about electoral reform after May. First Past the Post may be found to have produced an outcome at Westminster that even advocates of the system begin to question.”"