A Party for Britain’s “48 Percent” Would Be Doomed

Britain’s electoral system gives an advantage to the very areas that voted in the referendum to leave the EU.

London England
Aerial view of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey in London, England (Unsplash/Ricardo Frantz)

Britain’s EU referendum has split the country in two. On the one hand are metropolitan areas, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which voted to stay in the bloc. Rural England and Wales, by contrast, largely voted to get out.

There were splits along educational and generational lines as well. The better educated, the more likely Britons were to vote “remain”. The older, the more likely they were to vote “leave”.

The referendum also split the two major parties. A majority of Conservatives voted to leave the EU, as did around a third of Labour Party voters, although both party leaderships had endorsed a remain vote.

These divisions have given way to calls for a political realignment that would see cosmopolitan, pro-European voters team up against more conservative and nationalist forces.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, whose party is the most pro-European, has publicly urged such a shift. (Possibly to take advantage of the division in Labour, where centrist lawmakers might break away if their far-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn, refuses to step down.)

The trouble is, a party for the “48 percent” would be doomed at the next general election.


Chris Applegate and Tom Phillips ran the figures and report for BuzzFeed that a “remain” party would win just 229 out of 650 seats in the House of Commons. “Leave” would have a majority of 192, larger even than Tony Blair’s majority in the 1997 Labour landslide.

The reason is that general elections aren’t national affairs, like the referendum was. British lawmakers are elected at a constituency level, similar to how congressmen and -women in the United States are elected in districts.

Because the 48 percent who voted to stay in the European Union mostly live together in Britain’s major cities, they would be underrepresented in Parliament.

Just as America’s electoral system gives an advantage to rural districts and states, Britain’s favors lightly-populated constituencies in the country as well as more densely-populated postindustrial areas, both of which voted to withdraw from the EU. A cosmopolitan, pro-EU party wouldn’t stand a chance.