UKIP rise: Expect the unexpected

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 2nd May 2013

As polls open in County Council Elections all the talk is on UKIP’s prospects.

Our elections were never designed for 3 party politics – let alone 4. Our fickle First Past the Post system has long since ceased to be a reliable gauge of local opinion and UKIP’s rise will throw these problems into stark relief.

A UKIP surge letting in Labour or shoring up the Lib Dems? Labour gains against the Lib Dems letting in the Tories? We’ve seen it all before, and we will see it again.

Some election experts will no doubt describe these results as ‘predictable’ but that’s only because of our system’s track record of misreading public opinion.


We will have to wait on the results.  The only certainty is that once again the public aren’t going to get the local democracy they voted for.

A taste of things to come: The results of vote splitting in previous elections:


  • Great Yarmouth, 2012: 20% vote for UKIP, they got no seats, but dragged enough votes from the Conservatives to let in Labour.
  • Plymouth, 2012: UKIP get 20.3% of the vote but lose their single seat. Labour get 43.9% of the vote, win 12 seats, as opposed to 7 for the Conservatives on 30.9%. Almost no Lib Dem vote (3.2%). Council swings from Conservative to Labour control.
  • Brighton, 2007: Greens gained 4.1%, mostly from Labour, leaving the Conservatives one off a majority.
  • Liverpool, 2008. Labour get 39% and 16 seats. Lib Dems get 34.6% and 13. Conservatives get 8.5% and 0. Liberals get 6.9% and 1. Had Conservatives and Liberals backed Lib Dems instead would have stopped a Labour majority in that year.
  • Westminster, 2010: Conservatives get 42.7% – 48 seats. Labour get 26.3% – 12 seats. Lib Dems 19.2% and Greens 10.5%. Both no seats. Almost no UKIP vote (0.7%). Divided left, homogenous right = Conservative supermajority.

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