How Far Does the Westminster Electoral System Ensure Strong and Stable Government?

903 Words Feb 9th, 2013 4 Pages
Westminster is the location of the Houses of Parliament, where the majority of political decisions (other than those for devolved states) are made for the nation. The current Westminster electoral system is First Past the Post (FPTP) which is used for general elections every 5 years (due to the new fixed-term parliaments brought in by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.) The FPTP system is constituency based, each person votes for a representative for their constituency and whichever party wins the most constituencies gains governmental power. First Past the Post works on the basis of a plurality of votes, that is, that the winning party need only gain the most votes out of all parties to gain power, they do not need an overall …show more content…
For example, in the 1974 General Election, the Labour party gained government with 301 seats (and 37.2% of the votes), but the Conservatives (37.9% of the votes) gained only 5 less seats than Labour and so did not have a parliamentary majority. This election result means that Labour could much more easily pass all of their policies than the Conservatives even though the Conservatives gained almost the same number of seats and a larger percentage of votes. How is it possible that this electoral system creates a government that does not even have the highest percentage of votes and leaves out all other parties with any fewer votes? This system therefore cannot create strong governments as they do not have an overall majority in parliament and so will find it difficult to pass their policies as easily as in a system where the governing party has a definite 50%+ of the seats in parliament. In October 1974 another election was called and Labour again won a small majority, political stability was not regained until the landslide election of Margaret Thatcher in 1983.
In conclusion, the Westminster electoral system has the ability to create strong and stable governments, it’s creation of coalition governments is rare and so weak governments are unlikely although not impossible. The need for only a plurality of votes

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