A month ago, I predicted that Annelise Midgeley would be the next MP for Knowsley whilst observing that Ms Midgely’s election was going to happen regardless of how I marked my ballot paper.  On June 8, I noted that:

We can be confident that Labour will hold the seat on July 4 and will form the next Government… if I vote for a different party in Knowsley, it won’t make any difference to the result locally and because of the ‘first past the post’ nature of our elections, a vote in Knowsley for Green, the Liberal Democrats or anyone else wouldn’t count for anything locally, regionally or nationally.

I ended that piece with a simple wish: “I am, as yet, undecided and hope that progressive parties will at least attempt to make this campaign a proper contest.” It was a wish unfulfilled. We met no canvassers at our doorstep and only three of the parties standing in Knowsley bothered to put leaflets through the letterbox. We got two sets of communications from Labour, the Conservatives sent a leaflet through the post. The third leaflet was from Reform UK and was light on details, except for one; their candidate had lived in Kirkby all his life and fel ‘let down’ by successive Governments.

Nothing from the Green Party, nothing from the Liberal Democrats. In some respects, this makes sense; both parties are celebrating returning more MPs to Westminster than ever before, having focussed on target seats, rather than spreading their resources across every constituency. But for me, it was disappointing; having looked at the main parties policies, I’d found the Greens were a closer match to what’s important to me than anyone else. But I also wanted to cast a vote for the best representative for where I live and I wasn’t about to lend my vote to a candidate who didn’t tell me anything about themselves. It felt like Labour weren’t taking the seat for granted, but Reform clearly sensed an opportunity here while the Tories were ‘going through the motions’ of writing to postal voters like me. This gut feeling was more or less borne out by the result:

The results for the Knowsley Constiuency at the 2024 General Election

Annelise Midgeley was duly elected, but Labour’s share of the vote in this constituency dropped by 12.3% compared to 2019. This made only limited difference to the result, as Ms Midgely still received two out of every three votes cast, meaning that my pre-Election prediction was pretty accurate; if I had voted Green, whose policies were the ‘best fit’ to what I think is important to the country, it would have made no difference to the result. Besides, when you vote in a General Election, you vote to choose the person who represents the place where you live and so I felt that I couldn’t vote Green, because they made no effort to persuade me to do so. That left me a choice between voting for Annelise Midgeley or spoiling my ballot, given that both the Conservative Party and Reform UK stand for so many things I find abhorrent. So, like so many people around the United Kingdom, I voted Labour.

The scale of Labour’s victory was astonishing. The party won 412 seats – 63% of the total, despite only winning 34% of the votes cast. That is a function of breaking a national election into 650 individual ‘First Past The Post’ contests; the biggest two parties have a systemic advantage, leaving their rivals with a choice. Either they can target individual seats, or they can attempt to amass a large vote share in the hope that the apparent ‘injustice’ handed to those who voted for them creates a clamour for change. And perhaps change is required. If coalitions were the norm, rather than the exception and parties had to work together and compromise a little more, would the quality of decision making be better? Would voter turnout go up if more people felt that their vote would count for something?

There are two particularly large elephants in the room that need to be acknowledged when looking at the 2024 General Election results, particularly when considering the merits of different voting systems. One is that Reform UK secured a 14% vote share nationally, but won just five seats. That’s an awful lot of voters whose votes could be considered ‘wasted’. Depending on where you sit on the political spectrum and what you make of The Observer’s reporting of the campaign in Clacton, where Reform won, you might not consider that a bad thing. But the other factor to consider is that, nationally, four of out of ten people didn’t bother voting at all according to the BBC:

Turnout across the UK as a whole is 60%, the second lowest in a UK election since 1885. Only 2001 was lower with 59%.

So, while more than four million people voted for Reform UK last week, more than ten million people who were eligible decided not to participate. That’s a massive number, which might be significantly reduced by a switch to a Proportional Representation (PR) based model. However, because the United Kingdom is made up of four nations, each with very different political scenes, a ‘one size fits all’ approach is unlikely to work and perhaps the sheer complexity of what would be required to make PR work when electing a UK Government makes adopting such a system less appealing. A cynic might suggest that, with what we have now so clearly favouring the two largest parties, there is no chance of either of them agreeing to PR based General Elections. After all, would turkeys vote for Christmas?

The current, ‘winner-takes-all’ model is not without its compensations. I was up early enough on Friday morning to see Jacob Rees-Mogg’s political career end whilst he was standing next to a man wearing a baked bean balaclava and to witness the slow hand-claps when Liz Truss failed to take the stage at her count, swiftly followed by the befuddlement etched on her face as she was defeated, less than two years after becoming Prime Minister. Plus, with such a large majority – including holding the largest number of seats in all three nations within Great Britain – Labour has a clear mandate for taking the country in a new direction.

Time will tell how effective Sir Kier Starmer’s new Government proves to be and whether anything changes in how future Parliaments are formed. But I am pleased to have participated and I hope Annelise Midgeley is the strong voice for Knowsley she had promised to be. If Ms Midgeley works hard for local people, she will earn my vote next time around too.