UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could have dethroned Prime Minister Theresa May in the recent general election if the election system was not biased towards the ruling Conservatives, a new study has found.
The UK’s current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system prevented Labour from getting 35 seats in the House of Commons in the recent general election, where May saved her position despite losing seats to the opposition, according to the study by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) published Monday.
May hoped that her gamble in calling a snap vote to win a stronger majority in the parliament would pay off. However, the outcome of the June 8 vote was nothing short of a disaster as her party lost 14 of the 330 seats they had before. Labour, on the other hand, clinched 30 new seats to reach a total of 261.
The ERS said at least 22 million votes—nearly two-thirds of the total—were “wasted” in the election since they were cast for candidates who did not win or won more votes than they needed to secure the seat.
This is expected in an FPTP voting system, where a very small number of voters in marginal constituencies can ultimately determine the entire result.
That is why some 6.5 million people voted tactically to ensure that their vote was not going to waste because they were living in areas that their favorite parties had no chance to win, the study found.
The ERS also claimed that only if 0.0016 percent of voters had voted differently the Tories would have won an overall majority in the parliament, saving May the embarrassment of asking the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to help her form a majority government.
The ERS and YouGov asked 13,000 people how they would have voted under different systems.
It turned out that Labour would have defeated the Tories 197-182 under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, which is used in Northern Ireland and for local elections in Scotland. In this scenario, the Liberal Democrats would have gained 29 seats.
Labour would have won even 24 more seats in the Alternative Vote (AV) system and Additional Member System (AMS).
Under AMS, the Lib Dems would have secured 19 seats, more than three times what they won under FPTP.
“June’s election has shown first-past-the-post is unable to cope with people’s changing voting habits – forcing citizens and parties to try and game the system,” wrote Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, noting that “voters have been denied real choice and representation.”
“As we’ve shown, tiny shifts in the vote result in drastically different outcomes. Having results hinge on a few hundred voters is no way to run a modern democracy,” added Hughes, whose organization pushes for electoral reform in the UK.