First Past The Post… A dying electoral system, or the best one for us.

First Past the Post is a disgustingly undemocratic electoral system that ensures that only one person need bother to vote.

First Past the Post ensures (in the majority of cases) a government is put in place that can effectively implement it’s manifesto pledges.

I would argue with you all day that both of these are completely true statements.

Here is my “informative” part, to the best of my abilities.

Currently, in the UK, we use an electoral system caled First Past The Post (FPTP).

Basically a constituency is made up of many people, there are 646 MPs, and each one represents roughly the same amount of people.

In the FPTP system, People vote for who they want to be their local MP, and the person with the most votes wins.

So, literally, if one person gets 10,000 votes and the second place person gets 9,999 votes, then the person with 10,000 votes becomes the MP and the person in second gets nothing, either for himself or for his party.

This means, and did mean in England in 2005, that the ruling party can actually have less votes than the party that came second. In England in 2005, Labour ended up with more MPs than the Conservatives, despite actually getting less votes (although across the UK, they did get more votes).

The main problems with this is that it means that if you are a party that has wide narrow support (Lib Dems) then you do nowhere near as well as parties which have deep support (Labour/Cons).

For example, in the 2005 General Election, the Lib Dems ended up with 22.1% of the vote but got only 9.6% of the seats, with Labour getting 35.3% of the vote and 55.2% of the seats. Something which is, it can easily be claimed undemocratic.

It does also (rightly or wrongly) give rise to independents.

For example, “Health Concern” Gained 0.1% of the votes yet still gained a seat in the House of Commons.

In the mean time UKIP, Britain’s 4th largest party ended up with 2.2% of the votes but did not even get one seat.

There are undoubtedly positives to this system, even if there are some undemocratic disadvantages, the two in fact are one in the same.

Best example of this would be the BNP. They get enough votes that if all BNP members moved into about 8 constituencies they would probably win all the seats. We see this as a (strangely) undemocratic positive to our political system, and rightly so. However, despite the fact that I despise the party, if people vote for it, shouldn’t they get it?

So, what is the alternative?

Something like proportional representation?

Basically, there is an argument for, get the amount of votes, and then allocate the seats accordingly. So,i f a party gets 10% of the votes, they get 10% of the seats and so on.

As democratic as it gets I would argue, but rises the problems of a hung Parliament (Which I will discuss in my next post).

Pure PR however would lead to a system where no-one has a constituency MP, a local representative who can redress your grievances in Parliament.

There are however “Hybrid Schemes” which are basically “PR with a constituency link.”

Do you want an example? Try every single election which takes place in all of the devolved assemblies in the UK eg Scotland, NI, Wales and London.

London can be my example.

basically, London in London Assembly elections is split into 14 FPTP seats. This ensures that everyone in London has an assembly member.

Then, to make things proportionate, there is a “top-up” system which seeks to rebalance things. 11 seats are allocated in this way. As a result we can say in London that we have a constituency member and a proportionately representative Assembly.

In effect it means that if your Constituency member you voted for gets 9,999 votes and the other person gets 10,000, then your vote was not a wasted vote because it can still be counted when it comes to the top up list.

This does however mean that if the Assembly was to be a form of Parliament instead of a scrutiny panel which barely scrutinises (no doubt a topic for a later post)  that there would be a “hung parliament) with the Conservatives only controlling 11 of the 25 positions.

On top of this, the BNP do have an assembly member due to the Top up lists, albeit one who is more or less seen as a clown with in the chamber and is ignored and ridiculed whenever he dares utter a word from his corner in his sickly cream suit.

But still, if the people vote for it, isn’t it what they and we ultimately deserve? And with the possibility (again) of there being a coalition government with the Lib Dems being a part of it it is looking more and more likely that electoral reform might have to be seriously considered in the near future….


2 Responses to “First Past The Post… A dying electoral system, or the best one for us.”

  1. Hung Parliament, Where will it get us, or not get us? « Politicspreacher's Blog Says:

    […] Politicspreacher's Blog Just another weblog « First Past The Post… A dying electoral system, or the best one for us. […]

  2. Electoral reform, a deal breaker or maker? « Politicspreacher's Blog Says:

    […] have already discussed the pros and cons of FPTP to death in a previous post if you happen to be […]

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