Electing Poverty

How is the Empire?” – King George V

In a first-past-the-post parliamentary electoral system, a candidate need not win an outright majority of votes to be declared the winner, just the most among the contenders. This can often cause wide disparities between aggregate voter preferences and the resulting distribution of political power. Such situations arise when there are more than two major parties contesting, which spreads votes across several candidates, or when small parties are particularly popular in certain regions, thereby concentrating their votes in fewer constituencies. With only a plurality of votes in any individual race needed to win a seat, a party’s share of the nationwide popular vote counts for very little.

Consider the most recent election in the United Kingdom, where Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party received 4.1 million votes, the third most of any party and more than 14% of the total cast—an impressive feat for a new entrant. Nonetheless, Reform won only five of the 650 seats contested, or just 0.77%. Compare this to the Liberal Democrats party, which translated its 3.5 million votes into 72 seats, or Sinn Féin, which received just 210,891 votes but retained seven seats, all of which are in Northern Ireland.

Don’t spread your bets | Financial Times

Although the media is generally portraying Keir Starmer’s Labour win as a “historic landslide” and a “sensational victory,” a closer inspection of the results in the context of recent elections reveals otherwise. Compared to the 2017 election in which it was handily defeated by the Conservatives, Labour’s total vote count in 2024 was down 25%. And despite losing the support of 569,000 British voters compared to the election of 2019, Labour still managed to double its seat count this time around.

The hollowness of Labour’s victory in no way diminishes its importance, if only because the new prime minister is a deeply devout apostle of the Church of Carbon™, and his party’s newfound dominance of parliament ensures the UK is about to take an even sharper green turn. Here’s how Irina Slav summarized things on her popular Substack in a piece titled “You Reap What You Sow”:

It’s official: we just got the energy transition experiment we have been calling for. Labour won the UK elections with the predicted landslide and is chomping at the bit to put its energy plans to the test of reality. Heartfelt commiserations to the British.

The party, comically referred to as ‘center-left’ by several news outlets covering the vote, has pledged to raise windfall profit taxes for the oil and gas industry, end new exploration licences for the North Sea and boost wind, solar, and storage deployment. There doesn’t seem to be a shadow of a doubt that it would all work.

If you insist | Getty

Although analysts rarely present it in this way, the decades-long decline of the UK from global power to geopolitical afterthought can be modeled quite reliably through the lens of the physics of energy.  With the recent publication of the 2024 Statistical Review of World Energy and other widely available government data, the story of Britain’s relentless demise is available for observation by anybody with rudimentary spreadsheet charting skills. Starmer’s plans, combined with his undoubtedly temporary but near-dictatorial powers, look set to complete the UK’s final descent into economic oblivion. Let’s take a closer look.


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