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Examine the strengths and weaknesses of the British Electoral System as used inThe General Election

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Introduction

Examine the strengths and weaknesses of the British Electoral System as used in The General Election For many, many years, the first past the post electoral system has been used in Britain. Since it has been used for so long, it should surely mean that it is a success? This is not necessarily true, as over the past few years criticism of the system has been growing and a search for an alternative been started. The main concern about the system is that it is not fair. It is possible for a party, who gain few votes, to get a huge majority of seats. For example, in the 2001 elections, in Colchester the liberal democrats won 2 more seats than the conservatives, despite the fact that the conservatives got 39.5% of the vote and the Liberal democrats got just 34.5% Also in Croydon, for the third election in a row, the wrong party has won. In this area Labour won 5 more seats than the conservatives, yet the conservatives got 7% more of the vote. For this reason, it has been said that first past the post is not at all fair, and does not reflect the true feelings or opinions of the voters. Another fact that shows that the feelings and opinions of the voters are not taken into account, is that thousands of votes throughout the country are put to waste as if their candidate does not win his constituency then their votes will be disregarded. ...read more.

Middle

Or it can create problems. This majority gained means that the government can do anything they want to. They have complete control in parliament and so it is really irrelevant if the other parties vote on matters, as their opinions will not count. The government could bring in new laws, or change existing laws with no opposition whatsoever. A response to this could be that the system works. It has been tried and tested over many years and everyone in the country can understand it. The process of ticking a box next to the candidate name of the person you want to win and then the person with the most votes wins, is not a hard process to understand. Why change the system and confuse all voters? Another aspect that must be regarded is that there have often been low turnouts at general elections in Britain. One main reason for this is that in a voter's constituency there is always one party with a large majority, so much that it would take a miracle for any other party to win. Therefore this doesn't give the opposition voters any eagerness to vote, as they know that their vote will not be able to sway the result. This also leads to tactical voting, a method that can only be used because the first past the post system is non-proportional. ...read more.

Conclusion

Whereas the conservatives got 30.7% of votes and won 165 seats, Labour also got 43.2% of votes cast and they won 419 seats. If this was done proportionally based upon the number of seats Labour won, the Liberal Democrats should have got around 106 seats in the house of commons. Plus, in the 2001 election the Liberal Democrats got 52 seats from 19% of the vote, whereas if the electoral system in Britain today were proportional then this would have given them approximately 120 seats in parliament. The first past the post system can therefore be said to be limiting the power in Britain to just two parties. Which isn't fair in true democracy. So as can be seen in the essay above there are many different advantages and disadvantages to the British electoral system / First past the post. So the arguments for and against should be weighed up. Although there are various reasons as to why the system works I feel that alternative systems should definitely be considered as there are simply to many unfair results using the present system, there are to many wasted votes; there needs to be more order to the system, where tactical voting will be eliminated and the true opinion of the British voters shown through the result of the general election. The fact that first past the post has been around for so long is not a reason to keep it and overall I think that it is not a success in the world today. ...read more.

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