A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The madness of FPTP

Anyone who hasn't already worked out that our First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system is nuts and indefensible should look at the projected results that the post-debate YouGov poll would produce on a uniform national swing:

Con 33% - 254 seats
LD 30% - 101 seats
Lab 28% - 263 seats

So Labour would get most seats despite coming third on the popular vote! Even a partisan Labour supporter like me can see that isn't a sustainable constitutional position.

As the three parties are so close together in the polls, let's have a look at the results if they were flipped round:

Lab 33% - 351 seats
LD 30% - 99 seats
Con 28% - 169 seats

i.e. an increased Labour majority on 3% less of the vote.


Lab 33% - 334 seats
Con 30% - 196 seats
LD 28% - 89 seats


Con 33% - 245 seats
Lab 30% - 289 seats
LD 28% - 84 seats


LD 33% - 127 seats
Con 30% - 215 seats
Lab 28% - 276 seats

- the largest party gets least seats and the smallest the most!

This isn't an electoral system it's a lottery.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

FPTP is no more mad than using a uniform swing methodology to calculate the number of seats based on a poll!!!

I suspect if these results really did happen, and I don't think the LibDem boost will last the weekend, the seat distribution would be somewhat different.

2:05 pm, April 17, 2010

Blogger David Boothroyd said...

This is a very weak and circular argument against first past the post. First Past the Post doesn't claim to produce a result where the proportions of seats are in line with the proportions of votes nationally, so it's a waste of time criticizing it for not so doing. It's a bit like buying a block of wood, and then taking it back because it's useless as a TV remote control.

(Also the seat projections for FPTP begin to break down when there are big changes in votes.)

2:22 pm, April 17, 2010

Blogger Piers Fallowcherry said...

This is why I like your blog. Firmly on the left but open to sensible argument. I know Brown was late to the electoral reform party but Cameron has yet to arrive and is a fool for ignoring the one change guatanteed to lift voters out of their apathy.
There would be problems with whatever system was introduced but surely anything sensible has to be better than the majority of electorate knowing that their vote counts for nothing.

3:05 pm, April 17, 2010

Blogger James Kelly said...

David, I think we all know that proponents of FPTP aren't suggesting it's a proportional system. But what a lot of them do regularly suggest is that it's an effective system for delivering a strong mandate to the single most popular party. Luke's examples show that it doesn't even do that, instead producing essentially random national outcomes when the result is close. Yes, these are just projections - but we already have the historical examples of 1951 and February 1974 to demonstrate that it can easily happen in reality.

4:17 pm, April 17, 2010

Blogger Jimmy said...

I'm in favour of reform but this is a poor argument. It ignores the extent to which the system itself distorts voting patterns by forcing voters to choose parties other than their first preference. I've always thought the strongest argument for reform was that two thirds of seats never change hands and are effectively in the gift of the local party.

7:04 pm, April 17, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the LibDems will try (and possibly succeed) to exaggerate the effects of their poll boost by saying "Labour can't win here" in Aldershot and "The Conservatives can't win here" in Durham!

8:15 pm, April 17, 2010

Anonymous Delbert Wilkins said...

For God's sake, we elect local representatives, not a President. If you want a Presidency, call for that - constituency elections based on FPTP are perfectly rational and work very well.

10:49 pm, April 17, 2010

Blogger Diane Abbott MP said...

First Past The Post is perfectly defensible and by no means a lottery. First, as an earlier poster points out, in this country we elect representatives of local communities. And FPTP does just that. It allows the British Parliament to have a range of MP's of different backgrounds. A national party machine selecting candidates under proportional representation would never have supported a black female candidate for Hackney twenty three years ago. It took a determined local party with an eye to the changing nature of its community to do that.
FPTP also helps creates strong linkages between MPs and their local communities.And this helps make politics real to people who are not avid Guardian readers like Luke.
Secondly, correlating votes to seats and using this to claim that FPTP is unfair is just silly. For one thing the pattern of votes might be quite different if people realised they might be electing an actual MP as opposed to casting a "protest" vote. And this changed pattern would not necessarily be to the Libdems advantage.
Furthermore there is nothing random about the FPTP. In 1945 and again in 1987 the election results faithfully reflected seismic changes in the national mood.
Finally, the most bogus claim made about proportional representation is that it is somehow a cure for voter apathy. There is not a shred of evidence that proportional represention pushes up voter turn-out. On the contrary, our European elections are held under PR and not only has it not raised turn-out, but very few people (unless they are party activists) know who their Euro MP is.
However what almost all systems of PR provide for is much more control from the centre. Maybe that is what Luke finds so attractive.......

8:59 am, April 18, 2010

Blogger Jimmy said...


You criticisms are valid if you're talking about a party list system, but they would not apply to a constituency based system along the lines of the Irish model.

4:27 pm, April 18, 2010

Anonymous Paul said...

'Guardian readers like Luke' - not a great comment by Ms.abbott

I could say 'middle-class parents who send their children to private schools' but I won't.

Agree wholeheartedly with your views here.

Electoral reform is needed asap.

5:33 pm, April 18, 2010

Anonymous Cardiff said...

AV ensures that local seats do decide who their MP is.

9:58 pm, April 18, 2010

Anonymous cardiff luxury apartments said...

The AV system will ensure every constituency decides who their MP is but that they need 50% of the vote in that particular seat.
So you cannot get MPs elected on the basis of dividing the vote, or exploiting the split of their opposition. .

10:09 pm, April 18, 2010

Anonymous Research Paper said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

10:10 am, April 19, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not true that, in this country we elect representatives of local communities. Try having an MP like Government Minister Meg Hillier or media star Diane Abbott (both "too busy" to fulfill their duties as our representatives).

To misquote Ms Abbott, "There is not a shred of evidence that ...
a national party machine selecting candidates under proportional representation would never have supported a black female candidate for Hackney twenty three years ago."

And "There is not a shred of evidence that ... FPTP helps creates strong linkages between MPs and their local communities."

In the interest of balance, I should like to add: there are MPs from the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democratic Party that, sitting in safe seats, also don't care two hoots about the needs of their constituents.

10:11 am, April 19, 2010

Blogger Unknown said...

I'm with Diane on FPTP. However, think what the effect of AV would be if votes were distributed as in this poll. The Lib Dems could clean up and win a more "disproportionate" share than either we or the Tories ever do under FPTP.

Even if a sustained period of genuine 3-party politics rendered FPTP unsustainable, AV's not the answer. Nor is any national list system which maximises the personal power of the party leaders.

3:52 pm, April 19, 2010

Anonymous Democracy RIP said...

Labour are fooked whatever voting system you decide you want. Do a Clegg and joing the Monster Raving Loonies sorry LibDems

9:16 pm, April 19, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

Agreed. At least if there is a hung parliament there is a good chance to change it

10:04 pm, April 19, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think FPTP can lead to governments the people do not want. An extremist party can win an election with 35 % of the vote.
What is wrong with AV?
It forces parties to be able to attract the majority of the public.

11:58 pm, April 19, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

......so let's have AV where these discrepancies can be made even worse!

12:43 pm, April 21, 2010


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