The most significant outcome of this election campaign is - undoubtedly - the Conservatives' inability to win an outright majority in the House of Commons. This in spite of the first-past-the post electoral system, which consistently boosts the proportion of seats of the largest party on the basis of votes won (with some 36 % of the votes, the Conservatives stand to get about 46% of the seats). If this was the most significant outcome, it is then one of the least surprising, given the dynamics of the 2010 campaign.
Some of the more surprising outcomes of election night have been:
• the failure of the SNP and Plaid Cymru to make significant gains
• the large local variations around a general swing
• the Greens winning their first MP
• Peter Robinson’s defeat in Belfast East.
• And last, but not least, the failure of the BNP to gain any seats (in spite of them getting more than twice as many votes as the Greens)
Perhaps the most surprising – and worrying – discovery has been how badly organized the electoral process has been in some parts of the country. The queues of people waiting – and some times failing – to vote tell their own story.
The rise in turnout compared to 2005 was modest: what would have
happened if it had reached even 1990s levels of more than 70%? Bearing in mind problems with an outdated registration system in much of the country and well-established postal vote fraud, Britain’s elections must now rank as
amongst the worst run of the world’s developed democracies.
Professor Cees van der Eijk