UK Election: Tory Victory A Disaster for the People of Britain and the Democratic Process


Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron at the Cenotaph on May 8 for a VE Day memorial, marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. To my mind, it actually looks like they're commemorating the death of the UK - apppropriately, given the Tories' plans for the next five years (Photo: AFP). Some of the worst nights of my life have taken place in early May — Margaret Thatcher’s first election victory on May 3, 1979 (when I was too young to even vote), and the 2010 election, on May 6, 2010, which brought a Tory-led coalition government, led by David Cameron, to power.

There were other dreadful nights, on or around May — the Tory victories on June 9, 1983, June 11, 1987 and April 9, 1992 — and after the anti-Tory euphoria of Tony Blair’s victory wore off, following New Labour’s landslide victory on May 1, 1997, the reality of a New Labour Britain was of course a huge disappointment, as the party embarked on its own neo-liberal trajectory, and the country became host to a housing price casino that was a poor substitute for an actual functioning economy — and, in 2003, also became the home of an illegal warmonger.

As a result, the rest of New Labour’s victories — on June 7, 2001 and May 5, 2005 — were also disappointing, as the party failed to remember what it was supposed to be, and continued, instead, as a general betrayer of its founding values. On those occasions, however, the disappointment in a Labour victory was, pragmatically, offset by slim gratitude that at least the Tories weren’t back in.

All that changed in 2010. With the Labour government discredited, in the eyes of a majority of the voting public, as a result of the global financial crash of 2008 (even though the Tories were also 100% in bed with the bankers, and most people seemed to have been delighted with New Labour’s housing bubble), the Tories emerged as the largest party, although David Cameron’s efforts to sell himself as a charismatic leader fell short of his expectations. An unholy alliance with the Liberal Democrats was then required for the Tories to embark on their horrible assault on the British state, and on everyone not fortunate enough to be rich, that they have imposed ever since, and that they will now be hoping to inflict on us for the next five years.

Tory crimes

That is a truly chilling thought, as Cameron and Osborne’s Tories have, over the last five years, proven that they have only three reasons for existing: to enable the rich to get richer, to privatise almost everything that has not yet been privatised, and, while undertaking this butchery — which involves a monstrous belief in the need to destroy almost all state provision of services, including the NHS, the single greatest institution in the UK — to make life as miserable as possible for all vulnerable members of society; in particular, the working poor, the unemployed, and the disabled. See my extensive archive of articles, under the heading, “Battle for Britain: Fighting the Coalition Government’s Vile Ideology.”

Among the Tories’ many disgraceful policies — notwithstanding the fact that some were inherited from Labour, but have been more aggressively pursued — are reviews for the disabled, designed to find people with severe mental and physical health problems fit for work when they are not (and there are no jobs anyway), and to subsequently cut their benefits, the enthusiastic promotion of zero hours contracts, and the implementation of a range of workfare schemes, designed to make the unemployed work for hourly rates that are way below the minimum wage.

Another horrible innovation has been the benefit cap, which has imposed restrictions on the amount of housing benefit that can be claimed by those without work, portraying them as scroungers when most of the money goes to private landlords and not, of course, the claimants themselves.

Also noteworthy is the bedroom tax, whereby a cabinet of millionaires forced unemployed people to move out of their homes if they dared to have what was regarded as a spare room, even though it is fundamentally offensive to decide that poorer people are not entitled to regard their homes as homes, or to have the luxury of any spare space whatsoever, and even though there are few smaller properties for them to move to, and it has ended up costing more than before — through making people formerly in social housing move into private accommodation, with the subsequent increase in the cost of housing benefit — while making life miserable for vast numbers of people.

The Tories also attacked students, tripling tuition fees, and undermined state schools, and they have presided over an even more bloated and ridiculous house price casino than existed under New Labour. London is now the global capital for super-rich dictators and criminals, who drive up house prices while contributing almost nothing to the wider economy, as they are protected from fair taxation through the vile and unjustifiable allowances for “non-doms” to be parasites in the UK, by pretending to live somewhere else. All the while, the gap between the rich and the poor has continued to grow to monstrous levels.

Winners and losers

The Lib Dems, it turned out, committed political suicide through their coalition with the Tories, losing 49 of their 57 seats on Thursday, but, depressingly — almost incomprehensibly — the Tories were not only unpunished at the ballot box; they actually secured enough seats to form a government on their own.

The other winners in the election were the Scottish National Party (SNP), who conquered Scotland, securing 56 of the 59 Scottish seats, up from just six in 2010. This was a disaster for Scottish Labour, of course, and while it was punishment for their disdainful approach to those seeking independence, I personally think that what drove the landslide even more was Scottish voters’ perceived need to set themselves up in the clearest manner possible, not just as a declaration of their own identity, as a continuation of the national conversation that arose through last year’s referendum on independence,  but also, explicitly, in opposition to the power base in Westminster — the Tories. This could only be achieved by taking over from Labour, because the Tories, of course, have been in the electoral wilderness in Scotland since the Thatcher days.

The losers in this election were not primarily the Labour Party, whose share of the vote, and number of seats gained, actually increased slightly from 2010 — although it would be foolish not to acknowledge that Labour’s pledges, including supporting the NHS, scrapping the bedroom tax, and ending “non-dom” status, failed to convince numerous voters who, by voting Tory, actually voted to make life much more difficult for themselves.

The biggest losers, primarily, were other parties — and, as I noted in an article just before the election, entitled, “Time for Proportional Representation: Whatever the Outcome of the General Election, Our Voting System is Unfair and Unrepresentative” — the electoral process itself.

The biggest single group in the election were the 15,733,706 people who didn’t vote, far more than the 11,334,920 people who voted for the Tories. Nevertheless, the Tories secured a majority of the seats (50.9%) even though they had just 36.8% of the vote, and the support of just 24.4% of those eligible to vote. On the other extreme, UKIP got just one seat even though they secured 3,881,129 votes, meaning that it was 113 times harder for them to get a seat than it was for the Tories.

A broken and unjust system

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of why the current system is so broken and unjust:

11,334,920 people voted for the Tories, which was 36.8% of the voter turnout (30,691,680), but just 24.4% of the total number of people eligible to vote (46,425,386).

In addition, the distribution of seats per vote was also unfair. With their 36.8% of the vote, the Tories nevertheless secured 50.9% of the seats. Each of their 331 seats, therefore, required 34,244 votes.

Another party that benefitted from the uneven distribution of votes under the “first past the post” system was Labour, who received 9,344,328 votes. That was 30.4% of the voter turnout, and enabled them to secure 232 seats (35.7% of the total). Each of their seats, therefore, required 40,277 votes.

Also benefitting was the Scottish National Party, whose 1,454,436 votes represented 4.7% of the voter turnout. In terms of seats, however, the SNP’s 56 seats constituted 8.6% of the total. Each of their seats required just 25,972 votes.

The losers in this unequal carve-up of the British people and their intentions were, primarily, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Green Party.

The Liberal Democrats, although electorally almost wiped out, still managed to secure 2,415,888 votes (7.9% of the total), which translated into 8 seats (just 1.2% of the total). Each of their seats, therefore, required 301,986 votes.

UKIP secured 3,881,129 votes (12.6% of the total), but this translated into just one seat (0.2% of the total), and the Green Party secured 1,154,562 votes (3.8% of the total), which also translated into just one seat (0.2% of the total).

Under proportional representation, the 30,691,680 votes cast, divided by 650 seats, would have translated into 47,218 votes per MP, with the following breakdown (which would be fair, even though I despise UKIP):

Con: 240 instead of 331
Lab: 198 instead of 232
Lib Dem: 51 instead of 8
SNP: 31 instead of 56
UKIP: 82 instead of 1
Green: 24 instead of 1

Call for electoral reform

If you find this situation unacceptable, please sign the Avaaz petition, “Democratic Deficit,” which calls on MPs to undertake an urgent review of the electoral system.

As they state:

The first past the post system is designed for two-party politics. But that’s just not on our landscape any more. Over 1 million voted for the Green Party and got just one seat and whether you agree with them or not, UKIP also suffered from this yawning democratic deficit.

With 1 in 3 people not bothering to vote, we need to reconnect politics back to the people. Let’s end the era of ‘wasted votes’ and create a system where every voice in Britain matters. Let’s call on all our MPs to fight for an electoral review as soon as parliament reconvenes.

Still unconvinced? How about this then for my parting shot?

Can it be fair that, with 11,334,920 votes, the Tories are running the country, with 331 seats, while the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and UKIP, with 7,451,479 votes, got just ten seats between them?

The answer has to be no.

POSTSCRIPT May 11: Please also sign the Electoral Reform Society’s petition, Make Seats Match Votes, which states, “We want a fairer, more proportional voting system which ensures that seats in Parliament match the way people vote.” At midnight on May 10, it had 112,494 signatures.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers). He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the co-director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

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41 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my analysis of the depressing results of the UK General Election, in which I express my despair at the prospect of five more years of the Tories, after their unprecedented assault, since 2010, on the most vulnerable people in our society and on the state provision of services, and I also look at how the results demonstrate the pressing need for electoral reform, as the Tories got 331 seats with 11.3m votes, and are now running the country, while the LIb Dems, Greens and UKIP got just ten seats between them with 7.5m votes.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Earlier I signed the Avaaz petition calling for electoral change, and posted the link to it. Please sign and share if electoral fairness concerns you. Nearly 55,000 people have signed to date:

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Patricia Sheerin-Richman wrote:

    You would have thought that LibDem voters would switch their votes to Labour or Green in protest at their party’s antics with the Conservatives but there appeared to be massive swings in some constituencies from LibDem to Cons. How can you explain this? If the problem was LibDems supporting Cons policies, why would they vote for them? Given the huge discrepancies between the opinion polls and the results…fishy. On that subject, was it a coincidence that the Cons somehow got 450,000 unexpected votes that one week before the election 250,000 blank postal ballot papers were stolen from a parked van…?

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    I did wonder about a fix myself too, Patricia, but I simply don’t think it’s possible to rig votes at hundreds of polling stations! The sad truth, I think, is that millions of people did indeed desert the Lib Dems, and many of them did indeed migrate to the Tories, which you would think made no sense at all. But then lots of things don’t make sense anymore.
    Here’s an article about the collapse of the LIb Dems in the West Country:

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Sylvia Martin wrote:

    I’m sorry to hear that the result is so skewed. I hope the UK finds a way to proportional representation.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your sympathy, Sylvia. We need a fairer system, that’s for sure, but this rot has been going on for centuries. When the Tories got back in in 2010 I was reminded of how they do, genuinely, believe they were born to rule.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Patricia Sheerin-Richman wrote:

    But, Andy, the swings were not spread out evenly. I will look at the stats more closely but it appears that there were disproportionately large swings in a small number of seats.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    OK, Patricia, let me know what a closer analysis reveals.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Patricia Sheerin-Richman wrote:

    So far I have found that there were about 24 constituencies where there was a large swing from LD to Con and this clearly gave them their majority. Take Bath for example. 16.8% swing from LD to Con. Turnouts greater than average in these constituencies too. I think Bath was 77%. Can’t figure out why disenchanted LD’s in these 24 constituencies went massively over to the Cons instead of it being more evenly spread…in the seats where LD’s went over to Labour the swing was average, 2 or 3%.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Interesting, Patricia​. Has anyone else been discussing this? I agree it looks odd, but people are strange. If they weren’t long-standing Lib Dems, but recent converts in 2010, then it seems plausible to me that they decided this time to vote Tory. After all, many Tory voters did just that in 1997, when they voted Labour, and then again in 2010, when they switched back to the Tories. People can be so illogical.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Carol. I’ve been reading a bit about it, seeing some interesting photos. Lots of young people out on the streets. Good to see instant outrage, to be honest, and I like this photo, which refers to our rigged voting system, as I discuss in my article – government by a party with the backing of just 24% of those entitled to vote:

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Excellent article as always… and yes an important point on photo

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s our best way forward from a Parliamentary point of view, Carol, to campaign for PR, which will lock the Tories out of any more opportunities to form a government with the backing of just 24% of those entitled to vote, unfairly transformed into over 50% of the seats. There are suggestions already that the Greens and UKIP will campaign on this. The Lib Dems need to join in, as this voting injustice has afflicted them for a very long time!

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    I was also appalled to read this yesterday, Carol, about the Tories’ cynical plans to – under the current system – [r]edraw … constituency boundaries to lock Labour out of power for a decades.” Scumbags. They’ve just legally stolen an election,and the first thing they think of is to screw Labour. Nasty, spiteful, vindictive people.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Jacquelyne Taylor wrote:

    Couldnt put it more succinctly than Andy Worthington has here.
    MAYhem in the Motherland
    A deMockcratic disaster in the Disunited Isles .
    Little AmerikA with different accents..
    What is left of the working poor, middle class and small business people may as well packup now.
    N.Z take note..This is our future if people don’t wakeup.
    Best article I’ve read on the UK election results..

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Jacquelyne, for the supportive words. I am genuinely delighted that you found my analysis to be the best you read!

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Ruth Gilburt wrote:

    Awful times, Andy…

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    The continuity disturbs me, Ruth. They’re able to carry on, unencumbered by the Lib Dems, even, and with the arrogance of believing they won outright, even though they “won” with only 24.4% of those eligible to vote. They will feel they have the right to do whatever they want – even more than in 2010. I hope the infighting starts soon, by those in the Tory party who – amazingly – think “Dave” isn’t right-wing enough.

  20. damo says...

    There is a repulsive picture of the Cameron thing cooking ..a victory feast…no dought of the finest food ..while people like David chapson starve to death he was found with no food in his stomach surrounded by job applications and cc copies ..due his benifits being sanctioned ..god help us,god help us, the lib dems are gone they were the brakes on the Tories ..fasten your seatbelts is gonna be a bumpy night now we will se what thease monsters grisly are ..I just hope people wake from there stupor and rise up …yesturday afternoon was fantastic ….please please more

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m sorry I missed that first outburst of revolt against the Tories yesterday, Damo, although it augurs well for further resistance, and I hope to be out on the streets soon. I cannot bear the Tories biing so smug, when they “won” nothing, and have only legally stolen government, getting 50.9% of the seats with the support of just 24.4% of those eligible to vote.

  22. damo says...

    I just feel Andy that things in this country are so unfair at the moment.that the poorest people at the sharp end of the cuts are faceing the harshest times to come on a street level people are feeling scared and very fucked off .as you know here in London you have the poorest place starting to be gentrified the money pours in and dosent trickle down then i think poeple feel pushed agaist the wall haveing everything taken away from them….its gonna blow up man…

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I agree, Damo. An awful lot of people have been pushed into profound suffering by these monsters over the last five years, and I suspect that many can no longer contemplate remaining silent in the face of another five years of the same – or worse.
    £12bn of cuts, for example, doesn’t even bear thinking about.
    I think something is going to blow, but I wonder how many of the 11.3 million people who voted Tory will be sympathetic in the Tories’ new UK, a place where only the rich are entitled to support, as money continues to be transferred to them from the poor, and yet ordinary people only see those less fortunate than themselves as scroungers, losers and parasites.
    We’re now being told that Labour needs to appeals to the aspirational, but that’s what the Tories do. What happened to looking after those less fortunate than oneself, and trying to create a decent society for all? Swallowed up in “I’m alright, Jack and you can f-off and die” selfishness and greed. That augurs very badly for a decent future.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Jacquelyne Taylor wrote:

    Andy what you describe is almost exactly what I saw as the UK’s political future when I left (for good as it turned out) in 1987…
    I thought it would be the Welsh who would scare the life out of Westminster not the Scots..
    The paedophile circles were already entrenched and protected, but the whispers were loudest in The Cartoonist when liquid lunches were still the staple source of stories that never actually made it out of the door, onto what was replacing the presses..
    Here in NZ we were a little slower to be infected with the Privatise it all spectre, but when it actually came it was via a Nu Labour predator in a benign Red ridinghood cape.
    Now with a relentless influx of those who have learnt their ‘graft’ ( not an accidental replaced C) from within the UK..
    Top down sadly we are rapidly catching up.

    Take a look at this announcement from NZ version of the Tory Free Market backers and Private Profiteer’s wet dream..

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m sorry to hear about how neoliberalism is spreading to New Zealand, Jacquelyne. We need parties prepared to stand up to it and to articulate why to voters. Looking at your link, it is, typically, the kind of jargon that encourages readers to drift off, and which, on the face of it, seems to sound fair, but isn’t. We are constantly being lied to.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Jacquelyne Taylor wrote:

    We are trying Andy…
    CrosbyTextor spinspeak and wedge politics came with the current regime leader unfortunately and is pretty entrenched now.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Jacquelyne. Horrible jargon to be found by following that link! More of the dangers we’re all up against.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Pat Bryan wrote:

    Aren’t some of these poor bashing moves against basic human rights.Nearly had a panic attack reading this-and I’m 12000 miles away.Unfortunately with another odious party in charge….

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, the UN tried to take on the Tories over the bedroom tax, Pat, but was met with abuse and misogyny. They really are profoundly unpleasant people:

  30. damo says...

    The tories are even trying to take away our human rights..when will people rise..stand aside police …let us be rid of the Tories and there stooges and the parasitical vampire English aristocracy once and for all…starting with the inbreeds in pallmall

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    On top of all their other crimes against the people, Damo (their assault on the poor, the unemployed, the disabled), the Tories’ enthusiasm for watering down our human rights obligations is alarming. From what I understand, the Human Rights Act, introduced by Labour, essentially only reinforces our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, introduced in 1950, and largely written by … British Conservatives! THis is binding on all EU/Council of Europe members. To truly escape the obligations of the ECHR, we would have to do more than just come up with a British Bill of Rights, as the Tories propose; we would actually have to leave the EU – but that, of course, is exactly what Nigel Farage has driven David Cameron to promise! It’s very worrying.

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Care 2 has also set up a petition, ‘Make UK elections more democratic with proportional representation’, which currently has nearly 60,000 signatures:

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    The Electoral Reform Society’s petition, ‘Make the seats match the votes’, now has over 135,000 signatures:

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    And the Avaaz petition, ‘Democratic Deficit’, now has over 92,000 signatures:

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    And the biggest petition was set up by a teenager, Owen Winter, on ‘Reform our voting system to make it fair and representative’ currently has nearly 230,000 signatures:
    Overall, that’s more than 565,000 people calling for proportional representation.
    477,000 signatures from most of these petitions and others were handed in to 10 Downing Street on May 18. Details here:
    One of the other petitions was a 38 Degrees petition with 48,000 signatures:
    The Green Party also had a petition, but I don’t know how many signatures it gathered. The 565,000 figure above doesn’t include the signatures gathered by the Green Party.

  36. The austerity fairy story | Fierce Writing says...

    […] Tories won the election with 24.4% of the eligible […]

  37. Sean Connor says...

    I cannot disagree with anything everyone said. The Tories are arrogant, snobbish gits. They won this election through fear and lies. Some of the vile stuff from the Mail and the Sun aimed at Ed Miliband, was beyond anything I had ever seen in any election in my 74 years. I warn them, if they lock Labour, or any other progressive force, out of office for a generation then people will take power away from Parliament and the struggle will be on the streets.

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sean. Very good to hear from you – and to hear your perspective with 20+ more years of dealing with politicians and the things they put us through – sometimes for the better, but so often not.
    I thought there was something nakedly greedy about the opposition to Labour in the majority of the mainstream media and amongst parts of the electorate – a desire only to continue a system that makes the rich richer, and does nothing to address the increasing poverty of so many others, all supposedly defended by arguments that it’s better for business, economically sound etc. when the truth is much blunter, and not at all pleasant. I agree that if we don’t get genuine notions of inclusivity, of the common good, back into politics – instead of all this endless hot air about not wanting to stifle “aspiration” – there will be trouble.

  39. Annabel Pritchard says...

    If the Tories are so keen not to stifle aspiration why are they charging students a fortune to go to university?

  40. Andy Worthington says...

    A very good point, Annabel. Good to hear from you. One of the Tories’ problems is that they believe that the cost of everything must be transferred to the consumer – partly through their obsessive desire to eliminate the state provision of services and privatise almost everything (but never their salaries, of course), and presumably so that, if they shrink the state enough, they will be able to cut taxes even more for the rich and the “aspirational,” which is one of the only things that modern-day Conservatives care about. The problem is that the cumulative cost of living in a unfettered property market, paying for education, paying for health etc. is way out of the reach of ordinary people.
    The irony, to me, is that I think I pay my taxes so that these things can be provided – things that we all use, which are therefore things that shouldn’t be privatised, but the Tories don’t agree, although they are unwilling to talk about what they think our taxes should pay for – which includes their salaries, obviously, war, the renewal of Trident and subsidising profits for corporations at our expense. I wish people would look more closely at some of these things. When the Tories sold the Royal Mail cheap to their cronies, for example, they had already spent loads of our money – taxpayers’ money – making it attractive to investors. How is that kind of crooked behaviour ever justifiable?

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    […] Labour government gave way to the Tory-led coalition government, and, in turn, the Tories alone, in May s particularly depressing General Election4, we got involved in the destruction of Libya and, after a burst of sanity in 2013, when Parliament […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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