Does money succeed in buying elections? This research suggests that it matters more than ever, with fewer doorstep volunteers. In both 2015 and 2017 it’s hard to imagine that the millions spent on relatively few voters didn’t swing the result. Many seats were won by low margins: Gower in south Wales relied on a swing of just 0.04%. In 2017, 10 constituencies were won by under 100 votes and 52 seats were won by under 1,000. Big money almost certainly “bought” key seats – critical to the result in 2017. The report calls for state funding of parties: rewarding mega-donors with “honours” has for years poisoned voter trust in politics.
Both the forensic detail and the broad thrust of this report make an undeniable case for urgent reform. It raises the great underlying electoral issue: the incentive to cheat will be propelled by the first-past-the-post system for as long as a handful of marginal voters, often as few as 200,000, decide the whole country’s fate. A proportional system would see every vote weighed equally, each as valuable as the next, no “safe” seats, no marginals. The only good lesson of the otherwise dismally fought referendum campaign was a reminder of the fairness in valuing each vote everywhere the same. When every vote mattered, more people came out to vote.
The leap being to assume that a PR system reduces election expenses or the ability to purchase the election. Where every vote has to be scrapped over nationally I’m not entirely sure that that would be the case to be honest.