Elections in the United Kingdom
|Parties||Additional member system||Total seats|
|Scottish Senior Citizens||1,618||0.08||±0.00||0||±0||33,253||1.67||−0.23||0||±0||0||±0||0.00|
|Ban Bankers Bonuses||—||—||—||—||—||2,968||0.15||+0.15||0||±0||0||±0||0.00|
|Scotland Homeland Party||—||—||—||—||—||620||0.03||+0.03||0||±0||0||±0||0.00|
|Angus Independents Representatives||1,321||0.07||+0.07||0||±0||471||0.02||+0.02||0||±0||0||±0||0.00|
Welsh Assembly elections
Welsh Assembly elections normally occur every four years. They elect the Members of the National Assembly for Wales (AMs). They began in 1999, when the unicameral Welsh Assembly, created by the Government of Wales Act 1998, began its first session. However AMs have voted to hold the next election in 2016 to avoid a clash with the UK parliamentary general election in 2015. For elections to the Welsh Assembly the Additional Member System is used, which is a hybrid of single member plurality and proportional representation.
2011 Election results
- Overall turnout: 42.2%
|Parties||Additional member system||Total seats|
|Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts||N/A||N/A||N/A||0||0||1,639||0.2||N/A||0||0||0||0||0.0|
|Monster Raving Loony||N/A||N/A||N/A||0||0||1,237||0.1||N/A||0||0||0||0||0.0|
|Putting Llanelli First||2,004||0.2||N/A||0||0||N/A||N/A||N/A||0||0||0||0||0.0|
- Welsh Assembly Election 1999
- Welsh Assembly Election 2003
- Welsh Assembly Election 2007
- Welsh Assembly Election 2011
Northern Ireland Assembly elections
Northern Ireland Assembly elections occur every four years on the first Thursday in May. They began in 1998, when the assembly created by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 began its first session. For elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Single Transferable Vote system, is used. The system uses preferences, and was chosen to attempt to give adequate representation to the different sectarian groups in Northern Ireland. Elections continued even when the assembly was suspended between 2002 and 2007.
2011 Election results
| Seats on
|DUP||Peter Robinson||44||38 (37)||+2||198,436||29.3%||–0.1%||27.2%||4 (5)||—|
|Sinn Féin||Gerry Adams||40||29||+1||178,224||26.3%||+0.7%||24.8%||3 (4)||—|
|SDLP||Margaret Ritchie||28||14||–2||94,286||13.9%||–1.0%||15.0%||1 (1)||—|
|UUP||Tom Elliott||29||16||–2||87,531||12.9%||–1.7%||15.2%||1 (1)||–1|
|Alliance||David Ford||22||8||+1||50,875||7.7%||+2.5%||7.4%||1 (2)||+1|
|Green (NI)||Steven Agnew||6||1||—||6,031||0.9%||–0.8%||1.0%||-||—|
|People Before Profit||N/A||4||-||5,438||0.8%||+0.7%||0.3%|
|Workers' Party||Mick Finnegan||4||-||1,155||0.2%||+0.1%||0.1%|
- Northern Ireland Assembly Election 1998
- Northern Ireland Assembly Election 2003
- Northern Ireland Assembly Election 2007
- Northern Ireland Assembly Election 2011
European Parliament elections
Since the 1999 election, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) representing England, Scotland and Wales have been elected in regional constituencies using the party list, a closed list (i.e. candidates are chosen by parties). In Northern Ireland the Single Transferable Vote system has been used since 1979.
The use of proportional representation greatly increased the representation of minor parties. Until the 1999 election, the First Past the Post system was used, which had prevented parties with moderately large, but geographically spread out vote shares from receiving any seats. For example, in the 1989 election the Green Party received 2,292,718 votes, constituting a 15% vote share, but no seats. The European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999 changed the system in time for the 1999 election.
From 1979 to 1989, the United Kingdom had 81 MEPs (78 in England, Wales and Scotland, 3 in Northern Ireland). The European Parliamentary Elections Act 1993 increased the number to 87, adding five more seats in England and one more in Wales). The number was reduced to 78 for the 2004 election, and to 72 for the 2009 election, but increased to 73 during the term of the 2009-2014 parliament. The UK's representation in Europe remained at this level in 2014.
|European Parliament election, 1979||7 June 1979||81||79|
|European Parliament election, 1984||14 June 1984||81||79|
|European Parliament election, 1989||15 June 1989||81||79|
|European Parliament election, 1994||9 June 1994||87||85|
|European Parliament election, 1999||10 June 1999||87||12|
|European Parliament election, 2004||10 June 2004||78||12|
|European Parliament election, 2009||4 June 2009||72||12|
|European Parliament election, 2014||22 May 2014||73||12|
Regional and local elections
In local elections, councillors are elected forming the local administrations of the United Kingdom. A number of tiers of local council exist, at region, county, district/borough and town/parish levels. A variety of voting systems are used for local elections. In Northern Ireland and Scotland, the single transferable vote system is used, whilst in most of England and Wales the single member plurality system is used. The remainder of England (including all of the London Boroughs) and Wales use the plurality at-large system, except for the elections of the Mayor and Assembly of the Greater London Authority (GLA).
Local elections are held in different parts of the country each year. In years with a general election it is usual practice to hold both general and local elections on the same day. In 2004, for the first time, local elections were held on the same day as European elections, and London Mayoral and Assembly elections. The date was referred to as 'Super Thursday'.
The only Region of England which has a directly elected administration is London. London Assembly elections began in 2000, when it was created. The Additional Member System is used for elections to the Assembly. The Mayor is elected via the Supplementary Vote system.
Police and Crime Commissioners
Expansion of the franchise
The system of universal suffrage did not exist in the United Kingdom until 1928. From 1265 to 1832, less than 10% of the adult male population had the right to vote. The Bill of Rights 1689 established the principles of regular parliaments and free elections.
The first Act to increase the size of the electorate was the Reform Act 1832 (sometimes known as the Great Reform Act). It abolished 56 rotten boroughs (which had elected 112 MPs) and decreased the property qualification in boroughs. It gave some parliamentary representation to the industrial towns (142 MPs) by redistributing some MPs from boroughs who had disproportional representation. The electoral register was created. The overall result of the Act was that the electorate was increased to 14% of the adult male population. Although this was not a large increase, the Act was the first big step towards equal representation.
Between 1838 and 1848 a popular movement, Chartism, organised around 6 demands including universal male franchise and the secret ballot.
The Reform Act 1867 redistributed more MPs from boroughs which had disproportional representation (42) to London and industrial towns. It decreased the property qualification in boroughs, so that all men (with an address) in boroughs could vote. For the first time some of the working class could vote, and MPs had to take these new constituents into account. Some parties decided to become national parties. Overall, the Act increased the size of the electorate to 32% of the adult male population.
The Ballot Act 1872 replaced open elections with a secret ballot system. The Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act 1883 criminalised attempts to bribe voters and standardised the amount that could be spent on election expenses. The Representation of the People Act 1884 and the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 (the Third Reform Act) together increased the electorate to 56% of the adult male population.
The Representation of the People Act 1918 expanded the electorate to include all men over the age of 21 and most women over the age of 30. Later that year, the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 gave women over 21 the right to stand for election as MPs. The first woman to become an MP was Constance Markievicz in 1918. However she declined to take up her seat, being a member of Sinn Féin. Nancy Astor, elected in 1919, was the second woman to become an MP, and the first to sit in the Commons. The Equal Franchise Act 1928 lowered the minimum age for women to vote from 30 to 21, making men and women equal in terms of suffrage for the first time. The Representation of the People Act 1949 abolished additional votes for graduates (university constituencies) and the owners of business premises.
The Representation of the People Act 1969 lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. The Representation of the People Act 1985 gave British citizens abroad the right to vote for a five-year period after they had left the United Kingdom. The Representation of the People Act 1989 extended the period to 20 years; and citizens who were too young to vote when they left the country also became eligible.
The following table summarises historic developments in extending the franchise in England and later the UK (after 1707). At each stage, it shows the percentage of the adult population entitled to vote and the voting age, separately for males and females.
|Year||Adult male entitlement percent||Male voting age||Adult female entitlement percent||Female voting age||Parliamentary Act||Notes|
|1265 to 1689||<10||periodic elected parliaments|
|1689 to 1832||<10||Bill of Rights 1689||established the principles of regular parliaments and free elections|
|1832||14||21||0||-||Reform Act 1832||standardised form of franchise for all boroughs introduced for the first time|
|1867||32||21||0||-||Reform Act 1867||householders now franchised- working classes gained the vote|
|1885||56||21||0||-||Third Reform Act and Redistribution of Seats Act 1885||act extended the 1867 concessions from boroughs to the countryside|
|1918||100||21||40||30||Representation of the People Act 1918||abolished most property qualifications for men; enfranchised some women|
|1928||>100||21||100||21||Equal Franchise Act 1928||removed anomalies regarding graduates and business premises|
|1949||100||21||100||21||Representation of the People Act 1949||removed double vote entitlements regarding business premises|
|1969||100||18||100||18||Representation of the People Act 1969||extended suffrage to include 18-20 year olds|
Labour (post-1997) reforms
Prior to 1997, and the Labour Party government of Tony Blair, there were only three types of elections: general elections, local government elections, and elections to the European Parliament. Most elections were conducted under the First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system. In Northern Ireland, both local government and European elections were conducted under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. Labour's constitutional reforms introduced elected assemblies for London, Scotland and Wales, and elected mayors in certain cities. Proportional Representation (PR) was introduced outside Northern Ireland for the first time.
The hybrid (part PR, part FPTP) Additional Member System was introduced in 1999 for the newly created devolved assemblies: the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and London Assembly and STV was used for the newly created Northern Ireland Assembly. The regional party list (Closed list) system was introduced for European elections in Great Britain (which had previously used single member constituency FPTP) though Northern Ireland continues to use STV.
Labour passed the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which created the Electoral Commission, which since 2000 has been responsible for the running of elections and referendums and to a limited extent regulating party funding. It also reduced the period during which British expatriates can vote, from 20 years after they emigrate to 15.
In 2008 the Ministry of Justice delivered a report that failed to conclusively recommend any particular voting system as "best" and instead simply compared working practices used in the different elections. The Minister of State for Justice, Ministry of Justice (Michael Wills) issued a statement following its publication stating that no action would be taken on the various reports that, since 1997, have suggested a move towards proportional representation for the UK general election until reform of the House of Lords is completed.
New Labour also made many changes to the election administration underpinning the way that elections are run. Changes included postal voting on demand, rolling registration and some innovative pilots such as internet voting
|This article contains weasel words: vague phrasing that often accompanies biased or unverifiable information. (March 2009)|
Some British parties, mainly the Liberal Democrats, have long proposed that the current First Past the Post system used for general elections be replaced with another system. The introduction of proportional representation has been advocated for some time by the Liberal Democrats, and some pressure groups such as Charter 88, Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society. In 1998 and 2003 Independent Commissions were formed to look into electoral reform. Following the 2005 election, in which Labour was elected with the lowest share of the national vote for any single party majority government in British history, more public attention was brought to the issue. The national compact newspaper The Independent started a petition, to campaign for the introduction of a more proportional system immediately after the election, under the title "Campaign For Democracy". The broad-based Make Votes Count Coalition currently brings together those groups advocating reform.
After the UK 2010 general election, the new coalition government agreed to stage a referendum on voting reform, which took place on 5 May 2011, with voters given the choice of switching to the Alternative Vote system or retaining the current one. The country overwhelmingly voted 'No', with 32% in favour and 68% against.
Parliamentary and party positions
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Electoral Reform is a cross party group consisting of 150 MPs that support electoral reform, chaired by Richard Burden.
Labour pledged in its manifesto for the 1997 general election to set up a commission on alternatives to the first-past-the-post system for general elections and hold a referendum in the future on whether to change the system. The Independent Commission on the Voting System, headed by Lord Jenkins of Hillhead and known as the Jenkins Commission, was established in December 1997. It reported in October 1998 and suggested the Alternative vote top-up or AV+ system.
The government had expected a recommendation which could have been implemented within the Parliament and decided that it would be impractical to have a general election using First Past the Post after a referendum decision to adopt a different system, and therefore delayed the referendum until after the next general election. Those elements within the Labour Party opposed to any change persuaded the party not to repeat the pledge for a referendum in the 2001 manifesto, and therefore none was held once the party was re-elected.
After the 2005 election, Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said there was "no groundswell" for change, although a Cabinet committee was given the task of investigating reform. John Prescott was made Chair; given his known opposition to change, proponents were critical and dismissive of the move. Several prominent Labour MPs have expressed a desire for investigating electoral reform, including Peter Hain (who made a speech in the House of Commons in March 2004 arguing for the Alternative Vote), Patricia Hewitt, Tessa Jowell and Baroness Amos.
As mentioned above, in January 2008 the government produced a "desk-bound" review of the experience to date of new voting systems in the United Kingdom since Labour came to power in 1997. This review was non-committal as to the need for further reform, especially as regards reform of the voting system used in General Elections.
The Conservative party in the 2005–2010 parliament were predominantly against PR.[clarification needed] Despite the fact that the Conservative party would have won significantly more seats in the 2005 election if PR had been used, some in the party[who?] felt it might find itself politically isolated on the right, and face Labour/Lib Dem coalition governments. Electoral reform, towards a proportional model, was desired by the Liberal Democrat party, the Green party, and several other small parties.
Arguments for proportional representation
|This section possibly contains original research. (April 2015)|
- It would be more representative of the electorate, as seats allotted would be roughly proportional to votes cast. Thus it would widen voter choice, as smaller parties would have a more realistic chance of winning seats.
- Fewer votes would be wasted, and there would be less need for tactical voting in which people vote for a different party from the one they support in order to avoid candidates they dislike.
- It would reduce the chance of one party obtaining a majority; thus it would produce weaker governments than with First-Past-the-Post. It would be more likely to produce coalition governments. Advocates argue this would lead to much more emphasis on consensus, and better represent the combined will of the electorate.
- PR is already used for the regional, European and mayoral elections; general elections should follow suit.
- PR constituencies may range in size, and would generally be larger than single-member constituencies, avoiding the need for frequent boundary changes and for splitting natural regions arbitrarily between different constituencies.
Arguments for first past the post
|This section possibly contains original research. (April 2015)|
- The direct link that the FPTP system provides between voters and their local Member of Parliament would be lost if certain Proportional Representation systems were adopted. Some alternative systems such as the Additional Member System (used for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly) or alternative vote top-up (suggested by the Jenkins Commission do retain the constituency link, however.
- FPTP tends to produce strong governments, which supporters see as an advantage (coalition governments would be a rarity): and the only coalitions (prior to 2010) in the 20th or 21st centuries were formed in times of emergency.
- Coalition governments cannot deliver a single party's electoral mandate, because there has to be consensus on policy with other parties. Coalitions could give small parties disproportionate power.
- Similarly, smaller parties may remain constantly in government by changing their allegiances between larger parties, despite having no real mandate themselves.
- Coalitions are not formed until after elections, thus unexpected and arguably undesirable combinations of parties and policies may emerge in negotiations after an election to form a coalition government.
- Parties seen as extreme by the establishment parties, such as the British National Party, would be more likely to be able to win seats and gain some political power. Some think it would be irresponsible to give "extremists" the opportunity of any political power. PR systems can have a threshold below which parties' receive no MPs for this reason.
As in many Western democracies, voter apathy is a current concern, after a dramatic decline in election turnout around the end of the 20th century. Turnout in UK General Elections fell from 77% in 1992, and 71% in 1997, to a historic low of 59% in 2001. It increased to 61% in 2005, and 65% in 2010. In other elections turnout trends have been more varied. At the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, turnout exceeded 84.5% - the highest in a large-scale poll since the introduction of universal suffrage - and some local authorities recorded turnouts of over 90%. Conversely, the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in November 2012 saw a record low turnout of just 15% and the Parliamentary by-election in Manchester Central also had a record low peacetime by-election turnout of 18%. Parliamentary by-election turnout is usually around 30-50%, while Local Government elections typically see turnouts of around 30% when they are not held alongside higher profile contests such as General or European elections.
Some reasons suggested for low turnout are:
- Lack of variation between the ideologies of the main parties.
- Decline in partisanship as many voters are no longer permanently loyal to one party.
- Reduction in the popularity of various party leaderships.
- Dissatisfaction with parties' records on public services, education, transport etc.
- Lack of interest in the election campaign.
- Voters believing their vote will have no effect on the overall outcome. There is an inverse relationship between turnout in a constituency and the winning candidate's majority in that seat.
- Unpopularity of First Past The Post amongst the many smaller political parties such as Liberal Democrats, Green Party, SNP etc. as well as amongst some political commentators and academics.
Possible measures suggested to increase turnout include:
- Compulsory voting
- Introduction of proportional representation
- New voting methods such as post, telephone, and internet. There were several criminal proceedings after the last general election which highlighted weaknesses in the postal voting system and resulted in a cooling of enthusiasm for IT and proxy arrangements.
- Lowering the voting age, which has recently seen support, most notably the 'Votes for 16' campaign which was launched in 2003. Furthermore lowering the voting age to 16 is endorsed by independent commissions such as the Commission on Local Governance in England and the Human Rights Commission in Northern Ireland. This was tried in Scotland for the 2014 referendum, as per the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013, on which occasion the turnout was the highest recorded in the United Kingdom since the introduction of universal suffrage.
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- As the Representation of the People Act 1983 was enacted after the British Nationality Act 1981, any reference to 'Commonwealth citizen' is defined as nationals of countries listed in Schedule 3 of the latter piece of legislation (which includes Fiji and Zimbabwe despite the two countries' current suspension from the Commonwealth).
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