Maybe Nigel Farage saw this result coming. “The most likely outcome is a lot of UKIP votes and a lot of angry UKIP voters. They are going to feel unrepresented,” Fararge told reporters last night after polls closed and the count for South Thanet began.
Today we know UKIP is the UK’s third party by a substantial margin. The “UKIP surge” never waned and they are likely to command over 15 per cent of the vote after this, their breakthrough general election, as the Lib Dems slump to single figures.
That’s not all. The party is also likely to win 400 new council seats and take control of many. All this on top of last year’s European election triumph.
At every level of British politics UKIP is clearly emerging as an entrenched force. But, at the heart of British politics, in the House of Commons, the 3.8 million Britons who supported the party last night will be represent by just one man – Douglas Carswell.
In his victory speech Mr. Carswell described the FPTP system as “dysfunctional” and said, “the time for political reform is now.”
He added: “I hope that those vying to get their hands on the levers of power will have the modesty to remember there are many people who feel under-represented. The ministers represent parties with hardly a third of the popular vote.”
The First Past The Post (FPTP) system rewards concentrations of votes not overall numbers. The SNP’s vote is concentrated for obvious reasons, and they have duly been rewarded with 50 times more MPs than UKIP. Under a proportional system, with 15% of the vote, UKIP could win as many as 98 seats.
UKIP has been hit doubly hard by FPTP in this election. The current system has induced tactical voting, and some UKIP voters may have been artificially persuaded back towards the Tories for fear of the SNP and Ed Miliband.
Electoral reform was not mentioned in the UKIP manifesto, probably due to the fact that the party’s policy on the matter is in flux. Not long ago Farage was defending the FPTP because it produces “strong government.”
In March, however, he told The Telegraph: “…The first past the post electoral system is bankrupt in modern Britain… We do need electoral reform and we will be pushing for electoral reform.”
Susan Evans has said in interviews that she supports the Single Transferable Vote system, but Farage is said to supporting the Alternative Vote (AV) system. Either would advance the party’s interests.
Electoral reform was decisively rejected in a 2011 referendum. However with this election clearly representing the end of two-party politics in Britain, the debate about adopting a more suitable system may be back on the table. A petition calling for electoral reform hit 100,000 signatures last night.
UKIP has established itself in firm second place in a swathe of northern and eastern seats and counting on them continuing to build support. It is entirely possible that UKIP could start to do better out of FPTP system at the next general election.