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The dilemma that faces you in Witham

by Jo Hayes on 3 May, 2015

People are asking how it can be that our election system can deliver such unfair results in votes cast compared with MPs actually elected, as is predicted to happen in a few days’ time.

We are still in the world of First Past the Post, where the candidate with the largest number of votes wins. This needn’t be a majority of the votes. Usually it is a minority of the votes, because the more candidates there are in the contest, the more the opposition votes are split and the lower the winning number of votes can be. This is unfair and frustrating to a majority of the electorate, who feel unrepresented. It also resulted, until 2010, in the crude two-party seesaw between Conservative and Labour governments.

In the Lib Dem manifesto (see page 132) we propose a proportional system (the Single Transferable Vote) for local government elections in England and for electing MPs. That system was not on offer in the 2011 referendum – the Conservatives made sure of that.

Meanwhile, in this election, the system forces voters to vote tactically to defeat the candidate they dislike the most. They have to unite behind the candidate most likely to do that.

In the constituency of Witham, a lot of people don’t like the Conservative candidate’s right-wing views, her relentless concentration on business or her silence on green issues, including climate change – the biggest issue of our time – and I’ve yet to meet anyone who likes the Conservative Party’s plans to make deep cuts in spending while refusing to say where the cuts will be.

A lot of people would be prepared to lend their vote to the candidate best placed to defeat the Conservative. That depends on second guessing how everyone else in Witham constituency will vote. But it can work.

An example of this working is Colchester, where people who don’t see themselves as Lib Dem have again and again united behind the Lib Dems as the candidates clearly best placed to defeat the Conservatives.

As a strident faction of Conservatism has become less One Nation and more extreme, dragging the rest of that party with it, more and more is at stake in this. The drift to the extreme calls for a coalition of the moderate and progressive majority, which I know exists among the people of this kind and tolerant country, to halt this drift by denying elected power to the candidates of the Right.

That is why I’m campaigning so hard in Witham constituency, seeking to reach every household and communicate with every resident, as a good constituency MP should.  I’m seeking to unite those who do not want the Right in charge.

If you vote for any other candidate than me on May 7th, or if you fail to vote, you will inevitably ensure that the Right wins in Witham. Look at the figures in 2010. In Witham, in 2015, by not voting for me you will help perpetuate in power the Conservative Party – the very one that has always abused power by blocking electoral reforms. This is is the dilemma with which the unfair electoral system confronts you.

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