2016 Elections

With all the results in, students revising for Unit 1 and 2 might be looking at the recent election results and wondering how they can use them in their exams. Below are some thoughts!

Scotland 2016

  • Was the 2011 result in Scotland of a single party majority government a blip? AMS is more proportional as a system and therefore unlikely to deliver a single party government and in 2016 SNP have again failed to win a majority (like 2007). Perhaps 2011 was simply a one-off.
  • While the SNP have ruled out a coalition, they are still going to need to rely on other parties to prop up their minority government. Therefore this is still an example of AMS/proportional systems giving power, perhaps too much power, to smaller parties.
  • Conservatives do well in Scotland under AMS – it benefits them. Their support is thinly and widely spread so FPTP actually disadvantages them in Scotland. They gained only 7 constituency seats (although this is more than usual!) but 24 regional seats (the proportional bit).
  • The Conservatives have become the second party in Scotland, the official opposition! A first under AMS.
  • Some pundits suggested that the Conservatives did well by maximising the pro-Union voters in the wake of the 2014 referendum – a potentially useful example for impacts of referenda.
  • AMS in Scotland continues to be a disappointment for Labour. It should have ensured that they would remain represented in Scotland despite any advances of the SNP. 2016 is really important as Labour are no longer the leading opposition party.
  • AMS has delivered for the minor parties such as the Greens, who gained 4 seats in 2016 compared to 2011, to get a total of six seats.
  • Six seats for the Greens could be used an example of the problem with proportional systems in that it gives lots of power to minor parties. In this case, the SNP have no majority so are likely to rely on the Greens to prop up their government
  • The Liberal Democrats continue to decline although this is likely less to do with AMS and more to do with the hang-over from Coalition of 2010-2015, and a general decline across the UK
  • UKIP are largely a non-entity in Scotland, and they did not make huge gains in either constituency seats or regional seats. Therefore the success of minor parties does not just depend on the system; there has be some reasonable support for them too!
  • Turnout was lower than the General Election suggesting perhaps an apathy towards this election (especially when compared to the Independence Referendum turnout 2014), but was notably higher than Wales. Could be used in democracy/’democratic deficit’ question.

Wales 2016

  • Again, AMS failed to deliver a clear majority – example of a disadvantage of proportional systems.
  • Labour’s failure to gain a majority (29 seats) is much the same as 2011 (30 seats) so not much change.
  • Labour lost the Rhondda, traditionally safe Labour, to Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru (a 24% swing from Labour to PC!) – a useful example of the rise of national parties
  • Nigel Farage predicted UKIP would get 5 seats but they got 7. Useful example of the benefits of proportional systems for small parties as with 13% of the vote he gained 12% of the seats (compare to FPTP 2015), or the danger of proportional systems allowing in more extreme parties, depending on your view.
  • The Conservatives lost 3 seats compared to 2011; perhaps this could be due to the challenge posed by UKIP and is therefore a possible example for importance of third/minor parties in proportional systems.
  • Liberal Democrats lost further seats but again likely because of the recent past rather than AMS.

Ireland 2016

  • No real surprises here – DUP (unionist) and Sinn Fein (republican) came top again with the UUP (unionist) being third. DUP and Sinn Fein should form a coalition government with First Minister from DUP and Deputy First Minister from Sinn Fein (Good Friday Agreement 1998 – to keep the peace!).
  • The major UK parties do not do well (and largely actually don’t run) – Labour (NI Labour Representation Committee) and Conservative gained only 4,000 between them across the whole of Ireland.
  • STV and multi-member constituencies do allow voters choice – every constituency had at least three different parties represented between the six members. All but 5 constituencies have both a DUP and Sinn Fein representative. Belfast West = Sinn Fein, no DUP. Belfast East, North Down, Strangford and Lagan Valley = DUP, no Sinn Fein.
  • Overall 9 different parties got seats, therefore a good example of a much more proportional system allowing third/minor parties to succeed. This is especially true as all 5 of the main parties lost vote share compared to 2011, with these votes going to the four very minor parties who achieved just one or two seats each.

London 2016

  • Unlike 2012, the winning candidate had both more first and second choice votes than his rival, which lends legitimacy to the winner and the system
  • Including second choice preferences, Khan did achieve an actual majority of all votes cast
  • However, with turnout at 45.3%, Khan actually achieved the vote of only around one-quarter of eligible Londoners.
  • As ever, because SV is a two party system, it favours a two-party system, and Labour and Conservatives went through to the second round.
  • Despite second preferences, nearly 300,000 votes were still wasted (292,204) by presumably people who only exercised their first choice preference, or who voted their first and second choice for candidates both eliminated in the second round. Additionally, therefore, as SV is a majoritarian system, third parties are disadvantaged.

Police and Crime Commissioners 2016

  • The number of independents elected this time was significantly less than in 2012 – 12/40 in 2012, 3/40 in 2016
  • 88% of those elected were either Labour or Conservative. Given that the system used for PCC elections is SV (same as London Mayor), this supports the notion that majoritarian systems favour two parties and tend to produce two party systems.
  • In England, the highest turnout in any area was 33% (West Yorkshire) and the lowest was 17% (Durham) – either way, pretty appalling! The turnout in Wales ranged from 39%-49%, but the higher turnout can be explained as the Welsh were also turning out to elect the Welsh Assembly.
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