Five million votes but just two seats. UKIP and Green set to campaign for electoral reform

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The Greens and Ukip have formed an unlikely alliance to demand electoral reform after their parties polled almost five million votes between them but won just one seat each.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage joined in the criticism, eventually pledging that his party would lead the reform before he discovered this morning that he had failed to oust the Conservatives in the South Thanet seat.

He said: “There’ll be lost and lots of Ukip voters out there very angry that they are not going to be represented and I think our system is bust.

“However, we have got a Conservative majority government, by the looks of it, which means not terribly much is going to change.”

Speaking after failing to be elected, he vowed that Ukip would be the party to push for electoral reform.

He continued: “I think the time has come for real, genuine, radical, political reform and it is Ukip that will be the party that leads it.”

Re-elected Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Ukip’s Douglas Carswell both spoke out against the “dysfunctional” first past the post system.

Ms Lucas held on to the Green Party’s one seat in Parliament, winning 22,871 votes in Brighton Pavilion. Across the country, the party saw over a million votes cast in its favour.

Ms Lucas said the results indicated the need for reform of the voting system, adding: “I think it’s a real travesty over a million people voted Green up and down the country and yet that’s been translated into just one seat.

“I’m feeling fairly confident that as a result of what we’ve seen tonight there will be a real movement outside of Parliament, a real anger for people wanting voting reform.”

She also said that she would make common cause with any party which wants reform - including Ukip which also held one seat but saw more than 3.7 million people vote for it.

Mr Carswell kept his seat in the Clacton constituency but saw his majority from last year’s by-election cut from more than 12,000 to 3,547.

In his acceptance speech he said: “Here, in our part of Essex, people voted Ukip and they got Ukip.

“Yet across the country about five million people will have either voted for Ukip or for the Green Party. Those five million people will be lucky to get a tiny handful of MPs in the House of Commons.

“That failure to translate those five million votes into seats is less a reflection of how my party or the Green Party campaigned, rather it tells us how dysfunctional our political system is.”

Critics of first past the post (FPTP) argue that it allows parties to win large numbers of votes that are not reflected in the number of seats they gain.

But after a May 2011 referendum saw voters reject electoral reform - in the form of the Alternative Vote system, it is unlikely that there will be much appetite in Parliament to re-examine the system.

Under FPTP voters put a cross by their preferred candidate. The one who secures the most votes, even if that is less than half the total, is elected. AV would have seen voters second, third or fourth preferences taken into account until one candidate secured a majority of voters.

Many electoral reform campaigners believe AV does not go far enough and that the country needs to move to a system of proportional representation where each party’s share of the national vote is reflected in Parliament.

Reflected in this election it meant that while the 1,454,436 votes cast for the SNP gave it 56 MPs, the more than 2.2 million votes cast for the Lib Dems only saw eight of their candidates elected MPs.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said the results of the election were a “game changer” in terms of electoral reform.

She added: “That is because we have seen millions of voters from different parts of the political spectrum cast their votes, but not see those votes reflected in a fair number of seats in our Parliament.”

Ms Ghose continued that the sense of “injustice” felt by almost a quarter of the electorate who had voted for the Greens, Lib Dems or Ukip, would “really help to bring voting reform back on the agenda”.

When asked what had changed since the 2011 referendum, she said: “In particular, what has changed is the wish to express support for a much wider range of political parties.”

“We don’t have an electoral system which can cope with the choices that the people are making,” Ms Ghose said.