Labour at bottom of European league on share of votes

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Labour has one of the flimsiest mandates for power in the Western world, a study of governments around the globe shows.

Labour has one of the flimsiest mandates for power in the Western world, a study of governments around the globe shows.

Tony Blair is second from bottom of the league table of democracies with only 35 per cent of the popular vote, even below minority governments such as Spain and Sweden.

Yesterday, MPs seized on the figures and said the tiny share of the vote diminished Mr Blair's "legitimacy" and authority to govern. They said his failure to get a greater share of the vote would reduce his clout on the world stage, when he takes over the EU presidency and chairmanship of the G8 group of industrialised nations.

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat MP, said: "When Prime Minister Blair looks round the G8 and EU summits when Britain is presiding he will see governments with real democratic legitimacy. We can only hope he learns the lessons and at long last takes the case for reform seriously."

The study, by the Electoral Reform Society, came as Independent readers sent in coupons calling on the Prime Minister to "institute urgent reform of our voting system".

The study shows that several minority governments - such as in Canada, Sweden, and Spain - are in power with a larger share of the vote than Mr Blair.

Among majority governments only Turkey, which received 34 per cent of the vote, has a smaller democratic mandate than Labour.

In South Africa, the government gained almost 70 per cent of the vote during last year's election, giving it a mandate twice as large as Tony Blair's. In Switzerland, a broad coalition government received 71.7 per cent of the vote.

Parallel single-party majority governments, such as those in Jamaica, Portugal and Greece, have substantially higher shares of the vote than in Britain.

Labour received just 35.2 per cent of the British vote, or 36 per cent excluding votes cast in Northern Ireland.

A spokesman for the Electoral Reform Society said: "With the single exception of Turkey, law-making power in Britain rests on the smallest share of the vote in any large democracy. The closer other countries' systems come to ours, the more unrepresentative their governments tend to be. Properly designed proportional systems mean governments must represent a much larger share of public opinion and not take parliaments for granted."

This week a letter from a cross-party group of politicians was delivered to Downing Street demanding that Mr Blair keep his promise to hold a referendum on voting reform.

The letter, signed by Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat politicians called for a referendum on voting reform "before this parliament is too far advanced".

"You promised in the aftermath of the election that you would listen to the message of the people. We believe that this is something all politicians should do. One way of demonstrating this would be to open up to public consultation the government's review of voting systems," it said.

Charles Kennedy has also stepped up pressure for voting reform, telling Mr Blair the main parties were "competing minorities" after an election result where none of the three main parties gained more than 50 per cent of the vote.

The Liberal Democrat leader said that the result of the election raised questions about Labour's mandate to govern.

Yesterday John Denham, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, warned that relations between Labour and the Liberal Democrats - which have reached a new low following the election - would get worse unless talks began about PR.

The Liberal Democrats said it would be "grown up politics" for progressive parties to sit down and hold informal talks. But the party is wary about entering into formal discussions with Mr Blair, which they said had "got us nowhere" under Paddy Ashdown. Lord Newby, a senior Liberal Democrat peer, said: "It is always sensible for reformers to sit down and discuss how to take forward reform. I think at this stage exploring ideas has everything to recommend it. What we would not want to do is start considering what might happen after the next election. To have discussions across the parties on PR is a very good idea."