Are we sure we have a democracy?

Are we sure we have a democracy?

In the General Election of 1992, in the constituency of Inverness, Nairn, and Lochaber, the winning candidate Sir Russell Johnston received 13,258 votes. The second-placed candidate received 12,800 votes. Third-placed - 12,562. Fourth-placed - 11,517, and fifth-placed - 766 votes.

Lined up against Sir Russell Johnston’s 13,258 votes were 37,645 electors where the “opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature” for this constituency was clearly not Sir Russell Johnston. Yet still he was “the candidate to whom the majority of votes has been given”

Thus, a perverse system also becomes a farcical system, and questions must surely reasonably be asked about the statute which supports such a system. In UK electoral procedure, “majority” is relative majority, often called “plurality”. It is not an arithmetic “simple” majority.

In the General Election of 2015, it required the votes of almost four million people to get a single MP elected for the United Kingdom Independence Party but only 26,000 to get an SNP MP elected. This has nothing to do with Scotland being a small country, as constituencies throughout the whole of the UK are designed to consist as far as possible of the same number of electors.

In 1980, the then Liberal party brought an action asserting that the UK electoral system discriminated against them as typically it required the votes of 250,000 people to get a Liberal MP elected but only around 38,000 for the Labour and Conservative parties.

They lost of course, as the European judges would not interfere in the internal electoral arrangements of member states. The good news is that the judgement was an erroneous and flawed rationale designed to support a policy decision and so unlikely to be an obstacle to future legal action.

Such a legal action has been prepared, which enables a superior court to make a Declaration of Incompatibility where in the opinion of the court a statute is not compatible with human rights. The matter is then passed back to Parliament, where it rightly belongs.

Proportional Representation(PR) will not affect safe constituences like Mole Valley, but the votes of the candidates who come second, third, and fourth etc. will not be discarded to the waste paper bin as they are now. They will count towards the composition of the legislature, and so mean something.

Further really interesting reading about whether the UK really is a democracy can be found at

By Thomas Connor

Published in the In Transition Section of the Dorking & Leatherhead Advertiser

28 Apr 2018