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The impact of the UK's electoral systems

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Proportional representation would have left the Labour Party without an overall majority in the recent UK general election. And a new study from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Oxford University finds there is momentum towards broader multi-party politics.

Analysis of the UK electoral system and the 2005 general election results by Professor Patrick Dunleavy, LSE, and Helen Margetts, Oxford University, finds levels of distortion of voters' preferences by the electoral system that are very high by international standards.

Labour gained only 35 per cent of the vote in May 2005, but won 355 MPs under the current plurality voting system. A simulation of the last election under a system of proportional representation indicates that Labour would have at least 120 fewer MPs.

Current plurality voting structures have reduced the number of parties represented in the legislature in some regions by more than half and the alternative deviation from proportionality scores shows that many regional results are on their way to not being judged democratically at all.

The authors conclude that that proportional representation would make a significant difference to the patterns of political representation across Great Britain. And the stagnation of turnout in the last general election, the dislike of major party campaigning expressed in many quarters and the continuing post-election criticisms of the system, all suggest that the trend towards an eventual constitutional adjustment to a broader multi-party politics will continue.




Patrick Dunleavy is professor of political science and public policy, LSE Public Policy Group, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Helen Margetts is professor of society and the internet, Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University

Press cuttings

PR voting could have left Blair in coalition (23 June 05)
A new study showed that Tony Blair would have not won the elections if these had been held under a proportional system. The study conducted by Patrick Dunleavy, professor of politics at LSE and Helen Margett, a professor at Oxford University, revealed that the majority system currently in place leads to distortion of voters' preferences that makes a huge difference to the patterns of political representation across Great Britain.

23 June 2005