The best of the worst of 2011's Local Elections #3 Wrong Winners

16 Apr 2012

The NO2AV campaign's constant refrain in last year's referendum was ‘the winner should be the winner’. Well if that’s the test, then First Past the Post loses hands down in local government.


Last year in 15 local authorities, the party with the most votes did not win the most seats.These were the ‘wrong winners’. And these perverse outcomes demonstrate the capacity of the system to misrepresent voters’ wishes at every turn:

  Most Votes % votes % seats Most seats % votes % seats
Broxtowe Lab 38.5% 38.6% Cons 35.6% 40.9%
Calderdale Lab 35.2% 41.2% Cons 32.5% 47.1%
Darlington Cons 44.6% 28.6% Lab 44.4% 61.2%
Gravesham Cons 50.4% 43.2% Lab 45.1% 56.8%
High Peak Cons 36.6% 34.9% Lab 32.8% 48.8%
Hinckley & Bosworth Cons 44.2% 44.1% LD 32.2% 52.9%
North Norfolk LD 35.7% 37.5% Cons 31.3% 58.3%
North Warwickshire Cons 48.4% 48.6% Lab 47.1% 51.4%
Portsmouth Cons 37.2% 28.6% LD 32.9% 64.3%
Purbeck Cons 46.5% 44.4% LD 38.8% 55.6%
Redditch Cons 44.5% 45.5% Lab 38.6% 54.5%
South Somerset Cons 39.7% 40.0% LD 37.8% 53.3%
Stroud Cons 35.3% 22.2% Lab 34.5% 38.9%
Telford & Wrekin Cons 40.7% 31.5% Lab 39.9% 61.1%
West Lancashire Lab 49.2% 42.1% Cons 46.1% 57.9%

One factor that increases the chance of such results is the use of multi-member wards (those in which two or three winners are elected). The FPTP system, a flawed method in any case, is especially unsuitable for electing candidates in multimember seats – usually one party will win every seat in the ward, even in a close race.


In our local elections the winner should be the winner. And that’s what Scottish voters now experience electing councillors in multimember seats using the Single Transferable Vote (STV). Parties and independents now win their seats based on their actual popularity.


That’s hardly revolutionary now, is it?


PS: Don't imagine this problem is restricted to local elections. There have been two General Elections with a ‘wrong winner’ in post-WWII Britain, 1951 and February 1974. It's part of the price you pay for running elections under FPTP.


For more about last year’s local elections see English Local Elections 2011, Report and Analysis, by Andy White and Magnus Smidak.


2 Responses to The best of the worst of 2011's Local Elections #3 Wrong Winners

David Turner 16 Apr 2012

It is unfortunate that the information provided in this table and the relevant sections of the report is so sparse, and so poorly cited. It is difficult to have a meaningful and informed debate about FPTP against different voting systems if we don't even have a rough breakdown of the votes cast for the parties mentioned, let alone for the candidates running. Surely the raw voting data must be publicly available somewhere - why not make it easier for us to look at it?

Electoral Reform Society's picture
Electoral Refor... 16 Apr 2012

 David. It's all in the report, but look above. Your wish is our command.