About You, or Not

Nick Robinson has started work again after a tumour was removed from his lung. So first, I want to wish him good luck for his continuing recovery and treatment.

His post is about the upcoming UK election. He starts:

It’s all about you. Not them. You. …

About you because a general election is one of those rare times when your voice counts as much as anyone else’s.

I think that is total bullshit. I vote. I always vote. I registered for a postal vote because for the last several years of my career I worked outside the UK most of the time. For the last 8 years I have lived in Beckenham. In the 2010 General Election, Beckenham ranked 611 out of 650 for seats with the largest percentage majority—which translates to a majority of 17784 (for the Tories, in case you’re wondering). My vote, whichever way I cast it, is a piss in the ocean.

A 2010 article in The Guardian quotes the Electoral Reform Society:

The Electoral Reform Society contests that, under the current first-past-the-post voting system, over half of the 650 Westminster seats available at the election are considered “safe”. That is, a specific party is likely to be elected, regardless of policies, in 382 constituencies. link

This suggests 268 constituencies were up for grabs. The 268th ranked seat in 2010 was Hexham. The majority was 13.31% of the vote. So roughly 7% of actual voters would need to change their vote to the party coming second—bit if a long shot when you look at figures for seats changing hands. There were big seat swaps in 1997 (184) and 2010 (110), but in the 15 other elections back to 1950, no other election had more than 89 changes, and there were only another four over 50.

fivethirtyeight.com has this to say about marginal seats:

The battleground of a political election are the so-called marginal seats. These are the places where only a few percentage points stand between the front-runners and their competition, so the seat could easily “fall” or change hands. Voters in these seats are known as “floating” or “swing” voters. In 2010, there were 194 seats where the swing (i.e., the fraction of votes needed for the outcome to have been different) was 5 percentage points or less. Based on current polling, it looks like this election will also be a close fight in many parts of the U.K. (to be more precise, in 102 constituencies, there are 5 percentage points or less between the two leading parties).

So it looks likely that the election will be decided by voters in between 50 and 100 constituencies. Nick writes:

If you live in a seat where the outcome’s in doubt, you could make the difference between who wins and loses.

Yes, yes. Tell us something we didn’t know. It’s his next sentence that really pisses me off:

Even if you live somewhere where the same party always wins, your vote could send a signal about the national mood.

It might send a signal, but I’m pretty sure that no bugger will be listening.

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