Episode 20: Every Vote Counts

John Lanchester

Relief at the fact that this general election campaign is over will for many of us be tempered by the fact that it also, most likely, isn’t over – in the sense that we probably won’t wake up tomorrow morning knowing the identity of the next government.

There’s one important thing to bear in mind today. For most electors, most of the time, it isn’t true that every vote counts. There are usually about 100 seats in play in a general election. The others are safe seats, and while voting in them is an important part of belonging to civil society, blah blah etc, your individual vote is unlikely to have any bearing on the outcome of the election overall. This is one of the factors which leaves electors feeling disconnected from the whole process.

This time is different. The total number of votes for the parties is going to be very important, not in determining the outcome – it doesn’t – but in affecting the negotiations afterwards. The further behind the Tories Labour are in the popular vote, the easier it will be for the Tories and their allies to claim that a Labour government is illegitimate (constitutional position notwithstanding). So, this time, every vote counts.

It’s a novel feeling. We could get used to it.


  • 7 May 2015 at 1:06pm
    Simon Wood says:
    Miliband has not convinced people that he is one of them. In fact he has made it clear that most of them are ordinary, normal, everyday hardworking families and not individual people at all. Labour has loads of good people. Maybe they will appear while a coalition limps towards failure.

  • 7 May 2015 at 2:11pm
    Steve W says:
    You're wrong - every vote does count. But you need to remember that you aren't voting for a government, you're voting for a local representative.

  • 8 May 2015 at 10:24am
    Robot Emperor says:
    Your frankly unlikely to attract the epithets "Psychic" or "Mystic" aren't you...

  • 8 May 2015 at 11:22am
    B says:
    We won't get used to it.