Campaigners call for proportional representation as ‘skewed’ local results expose broken electoral system

Posted on the 3rd May 2019

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, immediate release 3rd May 2019
  • For more information/comment or for interview bids, contact [email protected] / 07794728820. ERS spokespeople are available to comment on the local elections this week – including turnout, engagement, voting systems, process, ID and more

The disproportionate results of Thursday’s election have exposed the limits of our broken voting system as voters turn against the two main parties – renewing calls from campaigners for an overhaul of our outdated voting system.

Following Thursday’s election which saw larger than expected swings away from the two main parties and an increased number of independents elected the ERS is leading calls for a proportional system to better reflect voter opinion.

The results, which the BBC is projecting represents a national vote share of just 56% for the Labour and the Conservatives, showing increasing dissatisfaction with the two main parties [1].

Despite smaller parties and independents breaking through in many places, England’s ‘out-dated’ First Past the Post system meant results in many areas were disproportionate – allowing the two main parties to win large majorities with increasingly smaller percentages of the popular vote.

In the West Midlands district of Sandwell, Labour won all 24 seats up for election yesterday, despite over 40% of votes going to other parties. This means Labour continues to hold all 72 council seats on Sandwell Council.

Similarly, in Havant, the Conservatives won all 11 seats up for election yesterday, despite receiving fewer than half of the votes. Overall, the Conservatives hold 33 of the 38 councillors on Havant Council.

See a full breakdown of these results by party [bottom of PR]

The one-person-takes-all voting system also saw a range of other results that failed to represent the views of voters in local areas with parties with higher shares of the vote taking fewer seats than their rivals.

While the Liberal Democrats won most votes in Kingston-upon Hull (43%), they only won 47% of seats available yesterday. Meanwhile the Labour Party won most seats (53%) on a smaller percentage of the vote (40%). Overall, Labour continue to be the largest party on Kingston-Upon-Hull Council, with 31 seats, to 24 for the Liberal Democrats.

In Basildon, the Conservatives won the most votes (43%) but only won 36% of the seats available yesterday, whereas Labour gained the most seats (43%) on only 24% of the votes. However, overall, the Conservatives continue to be the largest party on Basildon Council, with 20 seats to Labour’s 15.

See a full breakdown of these results by party [bottom of PR]

The elections come as Hansard Society research found that 75% of people feel that the two main parties are so divided, they cannot serve the best interests of the country [3].
Despite the increasing support for parties beyond the big two ERS’ own research found 2.6 million voters had to choose between just two parties in yesterday’s election – showing once again our political system is unable to reflect the diversity of opinion in a modern democracy [4].

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society said:

“These results show that our two-party electoral system is being pushed to breaking point. With growing numbers of voters dissatisfied with the two main parties and many choosing to ‘shop around’ results are becoming increasingly distorted as the winner-takes-all-politics of first past the post is shown unable to keep up.

“In this election we’ve seen candidates winning seats with less than a quarter and in some cases a fifth of the votes cast. Parties have swept into power seizing control of entire council chambers with the support of barely half of voters. Something needs to change.

“These elections show again the increasing volatility we have seen in public votes in the last decade. Proportional representation now stands as the ‘strong and stable’ option because differences can be stated openly, and co-operation becomes the constructive and transparent way of getting things done.”

“Scotland and Ireland use proportional voting systems to elect their councillors, with voters consistently often a wide choice of parties. Now is the time to move to a truly representative, participatory politics, where every vote counts and people know their voice will be heard – wherever they are.”

Speaking on BBC News elections expert Professor John Curtice said: 

“I think it is fair to say that this is the return of at least three-party politics. But I suspect that on 23 May we will discover that there are more than three significant players and we may see the most fragmented British electorate since the advent of mass British democracy.”

ENDS

Disproportionate results

Sandwell

Votes % Seats %
Conservatives 18.5 0
Labour 58.6 100
Lib Dems 1.7 0
Green 9.8 0
Ukip 3.3 0
Independent 5.0 0
Other 3.1 0

Havant

Votes % Seats %
Conservatives 43.9 100
Labour 11.0 0
Lib Dems 18.6 0
Green 5.9 0
Ukip 20.6 0

Wrong Winners [areas where one party won fewer votes than next party but more seats]

Kingston-Upon-Hull

Votes % Seats %
Conservatives 7.5 0
Labour 40.1 52.6
Lib Dems 43.0 47.4
Green 5.7 0
Ukip 1.3 0
Other 0.7 0
Independent 1.7 0

Basildon

Votes % Seats %
Conservatives 43.1 35.7
Labour 24.4 42.9
Lib Dems 9.4 0
Green 1.9 0
Independent 21.2 21.4

Notes to editors

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-politics-48131095
[2] https://twitter.com/ElectionMapsUK/status/1124084384326352905
[3] https://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/publications/reports/audit-of-political-engagement-16
[4] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/millions-of-voters-across-england-denied-real-choice-as-hundreds-of-seats-contested-by-just-two-parties/

The Electoral Reform Society are calling for a fairer local electoral system which more accurately reflects people’s wishes.

Scotland has been enjoying a fairer voting system since 2007. Voter choice has more than doubled, uncontested seats have all but become a thing of the past, and the rotten boroughs that once plagued Scotland have been undone.

Introducing the Scottish system of elections into England and Wales would mean that people’s votes were more accurately represented, and there would no longer be any ‘no go’ areas for the big parties.

Read more posts...

Campaigners call for parties to back ‘vital’ Senedd reforms

Electoral Reform Society Cymru throws weight behind official Committee on Senedd Reform findings: “Now is the time to act to level up Welsh democracy”. Statement from the Electoral Reform Society Cymru – Thursday 10th September...

Posted 10 Sep 2020