From votes to seats

The operation of the UK electoral system since 1945

By Ron Johnston, Charles Pattie, Daniel Dorling, Danny Dorling and David Rossiter

From votes to seats

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-5852-3
  • Pages: 264
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: June 2001
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / Politics & government, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Elections, Elections & referenda, Politics & government


The British electoral system treats parties disproportionately and differentially. This original study of the fourteen general elections held between 1950 and 1997 shows that the amount of bias in those election results increased substantially over the period, benefiting Labour at the expense of the Conservatives. Labour's advantage peaked at the 1997 general election when, even assuming there had been an equal share of the votes for the two parties, it would have won 82 more seats than its opponents. This situation came about because of different aspects of two well-known electoral abuses - malapportionment and gerrymandering. With the use of imaginative diagrams the book examines these processes in detail, illustrating how they operate and stresses the important role of tactical voting in the production of recent election results.


Ron Johnston is Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol. Charles Pattie is Professor of Geography at the University of Sheffield. Danny Dorling is Professor of Geography at the University Of Leeds. David Rossiter is Research fellow in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol


1. From votes to seats - disproportionality, seats, votes, ratios and vote types
2. Biases between the two main parties
3. Bias and The Boundary Commissions
4. Variations in turnout and their impact on the outcome
5. Wasted and surplus votes - campaigning and increased vote effectiveness
6. Tactical voting - increasing vote effectiveness even more
7. Towards reform

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