Home Views Brexit

The UK's electoral system has failed

Jeffrey D Sachs
Jeffrey D Sachs12/17/2019 12:02 PM GMT+08  • 6 min read
The UK's electoral system has failed
(Dec 17): On the most important issue in the United Kingdom’s modern history – whether to leave the European Union or remain – the UK’s electoral system produced an absurd result. A majority of the UK public wants to remain in the EU, and actually
Font Resizer
Share to WhatsappShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInMore Share
Scroll to top
Follow us on Facebook and join our Telegram channel for the latest updates.

(Dec 17): On the most important issue in the United Kingdom’s modern history – whether to leave the European Union or remain – the UK’s electoral system produced an absurd result. A majority of the UK public wants to remain in the EU, and actually voted accordingly in the parliamentary election on December 12. Yet the election produced a large majority for the Conservative Party, which backs a quick Brexit. The reason is as simple as it is troubling: the failure of the first-past-the-post electoral systems to translate public sentiment into reasonably representative outcomes.

In a first-past-the-post electoral system, each legislative seat goes to the candidate who wins the largest share of the vote, regardless of whether it is a majority. Thus, when majority opinion is divided among several parties, the minority view prevails with a minority of votes.

As a simple illustration, suppose that there are three parties: Remain-1, Remain-2, and Leave. Suppose that in every district, 66% of the public wants to remain and 34% wants to leave, with the remain voters divided evenly between the two remain parties. Remain-1 and Remain-2 each receive 33% of the vote in every district, while the Leave Party wins the district seat with 34%. If this result is replicated across all districts, the Leave Party wins 100% of the seats with 34% of the national vote. In a nationwide proportional-representation system, by contrast, the Remain parties would win 66% of the seats and would form the government.

×
Loading next article...
The Edge Singapore
Download The Edge Singapore App
Google playApple store play
Keep updated
Follow our social media
Subscribe to The Edge Singapore
Get credible investing ideas from our in-depth stock analysis, interviews with key executives, corporate movements coverage and their impact on the market.
© 2022 The Edge Publishing Pte Ltd. All rights reserved.