Muslim Votes Affecting Swing Seats08 Dec 2019
Election day is fast approaching as we draw closer to 12th December. News, posts and stories about the general elections are flooding social media feeds and it seems that this year especially, lots of mosques and Muslim organisations are urging Muslim communities to have their voices heard and actively participate in the elections.
Only recently, I came across several posts on my insta-feed, suggesting that Muslim voters have the potential to majorly impact the outcome of the elections. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) released a list of ‘marginal’ constituencies in which Muslim citizens could influence the results. I became curious as to how this would work practically. Do such claims hold validity or are they simply too idealistic?
So how would it work? The UK has an electoral system called first-past-the-post. Citizens in each constituency must choose between a number of candidates – each from a different party – and vote for the one that they feel is best suited to represent them in parliament. The candidate that wins the greatest number of votes, wins the seat and becomes the MP for that constituency. The party with the highest number of seats across the country, wins the election overall, making the leader of that party the nation’s next Prime Minister.
In other words, it is not the number of votes which determine who wins the election, but the number of seats. If a party gains a high number of votes collectively, but their supporters are scattered across different areas, they may end up winning only a few seats as has been the case with smaller parties like the Greens and UKIP. Parties with supporters that are saturated within certain constituencies have a greater chance of winning more seats, which in turn, wins them the election overall.
In some of these constituencies the votes are almost equally split between different candidates. Many of these even have margins as small as 1000 votes. These are called marginal seats or ‘swing’ seats. The pendulum could swing towards either one of the parties, meaning that parties will focus much of their campaigning in these areas, trying to gain as many votes as possible to secure the seat.
If you are living in a constituency which is a marginal seat, your vote could have significant impact in determining which party wins your constituency and the overall election. The catch is, you might intend to vote for a particular party whose policies appeal to you most, but they have very little to no chance of winning the seat, as they are massively outnumbered by two (or three) more popular parties. Voting for your favourite, but less popular party, would in essence be a wasted vote.
This is where tactical voting comes in.
To ensure your vote really counts in the elections, it is better to vote for one of the two popular parties in your constituency, who have a greater chance of winning the seat. It is likely that out of the two competitors, you dislike one party more than the other, in which case, it is better to vote for the opposing party. You can visit tactical.vote to see which parties in your constituency are most likely to win, and inform your vote.
Research shows that there are up to 50 ‘marginal seats’ in which Muslim voters constitute a sizeable proportion of the citizens residing in the area, meaning they could largely influence the outcome of the elections this month. There are over 30 constituencies where Muslim voters could have ‘high’ impact. To find out if your constituency is on the list, see below*.
What does this mean? Well, for one it means that Muslim participation in the coming elections all the more crucial and powerful. Muslims can collectively determine the future of this country’s political, social and economic landscape. With the sharp rise in hate-crime that we have witnessed across the UK, driven largely by Islamophobia, xenophobia and far-right extremism, it is imperative that Muslims are actively involved in the election process.
As Muslims, it is the responsibility of every single one of us to do what is in our capacity to help combat the injustice and hate that is rampant in our country. And voting in the elections this month is a golden opportunity to exercise this responsibility.
We must assess the policies of different political parties, engage in discussion, and make a well-informed judgement before casting our vote. Voting tactically will ensure that our vote actually counts towards making a change to the future of this country, and does not go to waste. With greater Muslim participation in Britain’s political process, perhaps we will begin to see parties take serious steps towards tackling issues that are of concern to the Muslim community. We must be at the forefront of initiating change if we hope to see a brighter future for our society.
|Constituency name||Party||Runner-up Party||Level of impact|
|Richmond Park||Conservative||Lib Dems||High|
|Glasgow South West||SNP||Labour||High|
|Finchley and Golders Green||Conservative||Labour||High|
|Cities of London & Westminster||Conservative||Labour||High|
|Glasgow North East||Labour||SNP||Medium|
|Chingford and Woodford Green||Conservative||Labour||Medium|
|Bolton, North East||Labour||Conservative||Medium|
|Wolverhampton South West||Labour||Conservative||Medium|
*Data from MCB – British Muslim Votes Matter (2019)