Geography, Election 2010 and Democracy(?)

It is commonly held belief that Geography degrees prepares you for everything and nothing in the real world. Geography is less of a vocation (like a degree in engineering is) and more of a way of life. A way of looking at the world.

So how does a geographer look at the election 2010?

One of my lecturers has looked at the way that the redrawing of constituency boundaries affects neighbourhood regeneration schemes. This is certainly a interesting point. But looking at the election through the micro perspective of the way that moving boundaries may favour one party over another misses the biggest point: any democratic system which is more influenced more by the geography of constituency boundaries than by the number of people who vote for a party, is not really democratic. It is, as we love to say in the UK, a postcode lottery.

The feelings of geographical (and therefore sometimes like minded) people is important, and is why we have local government – so that local priorities are reflected in local policy (or should be). But at a macro, National level, the first past the post system disenfranchises anyone who doesn’t support the dominant local party. Ironically, it means that a party with broad, Nationwide support can lose to a party with support concentrated in a small area. This epitomizes the ecological paradox: just because an average is true at macro level, there is no reason to assume that it is true at the micro level. The result of this geographical quirk is that FPTP is not really a democratic system. It is a geographical gamble.

If you need further convincing, this neat video summaries the undemocratic nature of first past the post.