A personal history of First Past the Post 1950 – 2010

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 5th May 2015

This blog is a guest piece by one of our members, Alan Errock.

I’m now 86 and have voted in election after election, but my vote has seldom counted towards the result. Here is my history of a life under First Past the Post.

I was 21 years old (the voting age at the time) in March 1950 and was living in my parents ‘ home in Nottinghamshire at that time. I completed a degree in Physics with Electronics during the summer, and I moved to Stretford near Manchester in 1950 to start a 2-year postgraduate apprenticeship in light-current-electrical engineering.

I believe that the first time I voted in a General Election was while living in Stretford. I voted Labour but, though Stretford was a Labour-leaning town, the constituency included Urmston and Davyhulme, and the Conservative candidate won the seat. I moved to Altrincham, Cheshire, in 1953 by which time I had decided that the Liberal Party represented my views better than Labour did. Altrincham was a Conservative ‘safe seat’ so my Liberal vote didn’t count.

I moved a few times until 1961 but I was always in the same constituency, hence my solid support for the Liberal candidate didn’t help him to defeat the Tories in their safe seat

Early in 1962 I went to work on behalf of my employer for 18 months in the USA then returned to Manchester in 1963 to continue my career. My wife and I settled in Sale, near Altrincham. I voted Liberal, and eventually Liberal Democrat, and parliamentary life went on as it is destined to do with First Past the Post in a multi-party setting, so Altrincham remained a safe Conservative party seat!

So, I was still voting Liberal Democrat in the Altrincham constituency, just as before. Perhaps sensible people would have given up by that time; but my father had told me very early-on about the difficulties men, and later women, put themselves through in order to gain the vote. So I hung on.

I did a fair amount of work in local elections to support our Liberal Councillor candidates, and they often won, so there was life in the Party locally – though not of course in Parliamentary elections in my ‘safe seat’ constituency! I also took opportunities to try to spread the word for Proportional Representation when possible.

The next change occurred when the boundaries were re-drawn (in the later 1990s I guess) and our part of the constituency was hived-off from Altrincham to the Wythenshawe Constituency! So overnight I changed from being an Elector in a safe Conservative seat to an Elector in a safe Labour seat. I guess some people might have become a bit disillusioned by that stage!

My first wife died suddenly in 2001, and I continued living in Sale until 2003 when I re-married and moved to the Stroud Constituency, where my wife had been living. In the 2005 election I felt that there was little chance for a Lib Dem candidate to win the probably Tory seat, so I decided to vote tactically for the first time and checked out the candidates and supported David Drew, a Labour/Co-op candidate. David Drew won the seat, so for the first time in my life my M.P. was someone I’d voted for!

My wife and I moved 2 years ago to the Chichester Constituency in order to be near our children and we are very well settled here. But the Chichester Constituency is another safe Conservative seat.

I guess it just remains to be seen what specific form of shambles First Past the Post produces in May!

Alan Errock

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