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|
|Hinckley & Bosworth||Cons||44.2%||44.1%||LD||32.2%||52.9%|
|Telford & Wrekin||Cons||40.7%||31.5%||Lab||39.9%||61.1%|
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.