How much of this is down to “electoral bias”?

How much of this is down to “electoral bias”?

General Election May 6th 2010 CON LAB
Average electorate of seats won 72,435 68,612
Average turnout in seats won 68.4% 61.1%
Average total votes in seat won 49,436 41,842
Seats won with small majorities 60 81
Votes in seats where party was third 28.4% 16.6%

Will equalising seats sizes make much difference?

This is the first of several posts I will be doing following the general election post mortem that took place at the University of Nottingham on Friday. I came away from the day with a very clear idea about what happened on May 6th and the prospects for next time.

The above table is based on a slide from Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University and covers the much discussed issue of the pro-Labour bias in the electoral system.

We’ve rehearsed this here many times before – Labour can secure an overall majority with a much smaller proportion of the national vote share than other parties.

But how many elements can be described as “bias” at all because as the table shows all but the average constituency size are down to the much more efficient way in which Labour votes are converted into seats won?

It’s not “bias” in the system that causes turnout in Labour seats to be smaller or for the party to do disproportionately badly when its in third place. It’s also not “bias” because on May 6th Labour won more seats with small majorities than the Tories.

The one area where “bias” can be said to exist is with average constituency sizes. This is partly caused by the over-representation of Wales and partly by demographic drift. Doing something about this, as the coalition is planning, will make some difference but it is not the panacea that some make it out to be.

Mike Smithson

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