Election Dissection: Double your Vote

Part of a series on General Elections in the UK.

The General Election is less than four months away, and already we’re getting arguments and debates about debates. Everyone is trying to appeal to the voters, but, as it happens, not all voters are equal.

One oddity is that the speaker’s constituency is not contested by major parties: indeed the Speaker does not list a party affiliation on the ballot paper, being marked instead as “the Speaker Seeking Re-Election”. Then, when elected, the speaker by convention does not debate or vote in Parliamentary Proceedings, except in case of a tie-break which is rare (and even then, they are obliged by convention to side with government). Minor parties can and do run against the Speaker, with limited success. The speaker also has three deputies who are also constrained by convention but have a little more freedom in voting.

As far as “normal” constituencies go, every other Member of Parliament’s vote counts equally (when they show up). However, not every constituency is equal in terms of size, meaning that there are places in the UK where voters have more influence than others.

The table below shows the constituencies with the highest population in 2010, that is, where you potentially have least influence. Note that this doesn’t take turnout into account.

Top 5 Electorate Local Authority
Isle of Wight 110,924 Isle of Wight England
East Ham 91,531 London (Newham) England
Manchester Central 89,519 Greater Manchester England
North West Cambridgeshire 89,419 Cambridgeshire England
Ilford South 86,401 London (Redbridge) England

And the below table shows the constituencies with the lowest electorate in 2010:

Bottom 5  Local Authority
Na h-Eileanan an Iar 21,837 Na h-Eileanan Siar Scotland
Orkney and Shetland 33,755 Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands Scotland
Arfon 41,138 Gwynedd Wales
Dwyfor Meirionnydd 45,006 Gwynedd Wales
Aberconwy 45,407 Denbighshire Wales

So, if you live in the Western Isles, your vote counts about 5 times as much as someone from the Isle of Wight. Indeed, it’s looking pretty good for you if you live in the Northern Isles as well.

What about the countries? Despite having the vast majority of the seats, England has the worst voters: MP ratio with 72,000, while Wales appears over-represented with 58,000 voters per seat. Scotland and Northern Ireland score about the same.

Seats Electorate People per MP
England 533 38,432,802 72,107
Scotland 59 3,929,956 66,609
Wales 40 2,302,300 57,558
Northern Ireland 18 1,190,635 66,146

So in short, you can boost the value of your vote by moving to Stornoway, or, if you have only your country’s interests at heart, move to Wales.

If you’re curious, Northern Ireland has a very even spread of electorate sizes, while Falkirk is the worst place to be in Scotland in terms of vote value. In England, the Wirral is the place to go for higher-value votes.

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