Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Against England's Wishes

A quick thing about the election: there are 650 MPs elected in the UK. Of these, 533 are elected by England, 18 by Northern Ireland, 59 by Scotland, and 40 by Wales. What that means is that in a General Election, it is generally England that decides what government we have: in fact, if the people of England give 325 seats to a single party, that party will have a majority regardless of the vote in NI, S, or W.

In the upcoming election, it looks very much like the people of England won't do this - that the seats in England will be divided such that neither big party (nor indeed a combination of either Tories or Labour plus the Lib Dems) will get to that 'magic' number. Indeed, it looks like the Tories will get slightly more than Labour, but will be short of the needed 325. At which point, so the theory goes, the 50 SNP MPs that Scotland might elect (emphasis on the 'might') could then push the Labour 'block' over the line.

This is, of course, being widely reported in the media as being a matter of Scotland's votes imposing a Labour government "against the wishes of the English electorate".

This is abject nonsense, of course, for two reasons. Firstly, it's worth noting that if those 50 MPs were instead from the Labour party, the issue would magically not exist - somehow, it's acceptable for Scotland to affect the result if we happen to vote for one of the approved options, but not if we instead choose 'wrong'.

But, secondly, the entire premise is flawed. As I noted above, the English electorate have the power to determine the government for the UK as a whole by themselves, by voting for 325 members from a single party. If they don't do so, or, more specifically, if they don't give the Tories those 325 members, then it is not "against their wishes" to see the Tories defeated - after all, they've just shown that they didn't wish to give them enough votes to win!

And all of that is simply a feature of living in the Union - five years ago, Scotland (and Wales) voted strongly for a Labour government and got a Tory-led one instead because of English votes; this time, it looks like England will be split pretty evenly and so Scotland will cast the deciding vote. Both times, that's the way the system works.

Unless, of course, we want the system to be changed. But we had a chance to do that in September, and that same media that is now up in arms then fought tooth-and-nail to keep things as-is.

(For the rest of it: yeah, I'm still pretty bored by this election. My vote was determined ages ago, so there's little interest there; the media coverage of it remains incredibly awful, as the UK media seem to have no ability to understand what's going on in Scotland; and it's really hard to see how things will fall out, and limited value in speculation. I still find it hard to believe that the SNP might really win 50+ seats, despite the polls suggesting that, and yet with the Lib Dem vote collapsing, with Scottish Labour being a disaster area, and with "the 45" still being a thing, it might yet happen. Or not. Guess we'll see in 17 days.)


Captain Ric said...

My own reading of the situation (much as it's worth) is that I suspect the SNP are currently experiencing the same sort of bounce that the Lib Dems did following Clegg-mania last time.
I reckon that their vote will be increased and that they will get more seats, but I don't think we'll see the landslide in Scotland that the polls are predicting.
But you never know...

Steph/ven said...

Maybe. A couple of weeks ago, Prof Curtice was on the BBC news and pointed out that the SNP share of the vote in 2011 was about 43%, that the Yes vote was, of course 45%, and that the projected vote share for the SNP now is somewhere around 47% (subject to poll variations). He pointed out that that isn't actually that much of a difference, it's just that the different systems in place gives a different result in each case: in a Scottish election that gives you a wafer-thin majority; in a Yes/No referendum it loses; in a FPTP Westminster election it results in a landslide.

So we'll need to see. The polls have been pretty consistent for months, and indeed with any movement only being towards the SNP, so the question is really whether they're right or not. My suspicion, though, is that we may well see something similar to the referendum, where the Yes side was very much the visible force and on the streets looked to have it in the bag... and then on the day a silent majority then came out and voted the other way.

I guess we'll see.