First Past the Post Electoral System

In the UK, our goverment is elected by a system called first past the post. This means that the country is split up into constituencies, of around 70,000 people. Each party usually has a constituant who stands to be voted as MP for that area (not everyone because the Speaker, once elected in as Speaker has a secure seat). The MP will win if more people have voted for them than any other candidate. The political party with the most MPs will become the goverment. If they do not have a majority (more MPs than all the other patries put together), then they have to form a coalition goverment, so that they will be voted for (MPs are meant to be loyal to their party, and vote for their policies, so if there is not a majority, the government's policies may not be passed, so they need a coalition).

This can be a very unfair system, as a party can win a majority of 1 MP and still become the government, and an MP can have a majority of one vote but still win in their constituency. This can mean that a goverment with a majority of MPs can sometimes not have a majority in terms of the number of pople who voted for them. This is because the system is leaving out the people who did not vote for the winning party, when in some constituencies this can be an almost majority, meaning that the combined amount of people who didn't vote for the government is larger than those who did, but first past the post presents it as a win.

This is shown in instances such as in the 2015 general election, when the Conservatives won 50.9% of the seats in the House of Commons (they had a majority of MPs), but only 36.9% of the people who voted voted for them, which is definitely not a majority. This was also seen in the most recent election, in December, when the Conservatives won 56.2% of the seats, but only 43.6% of those who voted voted for them.

As well as this, first past the post can harm smaller parties such as the Green Party and Ukip (when it was a working party). This is because, although a lot of people may vote for them, because they are smaller and have less support, tey do not have the power to gain a whole constituency, and their votes are more spread out, not bunched together enough to gain a majority. If our electoral system instead counted the number of votes generally, instead of ineach constituency, these parties would probably have many more MPs.

This can be seen in the 2015 election, when just over 15% of voters voted for the Green Party and Ukip combined, but those two parties together only got 0.4% of the seats. This is over 5 million people for two seats, where seats are usually 70,000 people, making 140,000 combined, instead of 5,000,000. More recently, in the 2019 election the Liberal Democrats where voted for by 11.5% of the voting population, but they only got 1.7% of the seat in the House of Commons. Further back, in the 1983 election, the Lib Dems (then the SDP) got just over 25% of the votes, but only 11 seats, whereas Labour got less that 5% more votes than them, but 250 more seats.

Many people say that the First Past the Post system is bad for the country and democracy, as it is an inaccurate way of representing the will of the people and the vote, however many argue that it is the best possible solution, as other electoral systems are often worse, such as America's where Donald Trump won the election with millions less people voting for him than Hilary Clinton, to places such as North Korea where the president is not voted for at all.

What is your opinion? Should we change our electoral system? Or is it the best option we have?

Sources:

https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/voting-systems/types-of-voting-system/first-past-the-post/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/elections-first-past-post-system-wrong-winners-may-2019-a9073116.html

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/09/our-archaic-first-past-post-system-alarmingly-unfit-multi-party-age

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_United_Kingdom_general_election

Comments (6)

  • tom Tom @ the BNC
    05 Feb 2020

    A very well-reasoned and evidenced contribution, beloved_chocolate! Can you research what other systems have been proposed and the pros and cons of them?

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  • Hammond School logo genuine_cat | Hammond Junior School A
    06 Feb 2020

    Is the plurality system what you're talking about for 'first past the post' electoral systems?

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  • CuddingtonCroft-logo-250x250.jpg mindblowing_tree | Cuddington Croft Primary School
    06 Feb 2020

    That is very well done, how long did all that research take?

    Reply to this comment
  • Braiswick Primary School succinct_leaves | Braiswick Primary School
    13 Feb 2020

    I think the "First Past The Post" system is better than a lot of systems because it gives a second chance to some parties after they've had one bad election. If their reputation is ruined after one vote, then people wouldn't vote for them in future elections even if their policies change. This shows that it is unfair to judge someone on one bad performance, because everybody makes mistakes at some point even if they are revolutionary in other aspects. And it works the other way round as well. If one smaller party (such as the Brexit Party or the Green Party) have an election where they do really well, then if they get elected in it would be unfair because next year they could get elected out and there would be constantly changing standards from all the different Prime Ministers. People would naturally disagree and some people will start protesting for all the new laws so "First Past The Post" gives people a second chance. Whoever decided it was very smart.

    succinct_leaves

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    1. tom Tom @ the BNC
      succinct_leaves's comment 13 Feb 2020

      A balanced approach, succinct_leaves. Is there any drawbacks to the first past the post system?

      Reply to this comment
  • Hammond School logo versatile_molecule | Hammond Junior School B
    13 Feb 2020

    I am finding it hard to come to a conclusion. On one hand, the first past the post system costs less to run, this means that politicians can spend less money on the vote and therefore spend it on things like the NHS. In addition to this, voting is about the public and other systems are a lot more complicated than the first past the post system, the public might find it hard to understand other systems and therefore might have trouble voting. On the other hand, the first past the post system is arguably less fair because if the party gets a few more votes than the other parties then the winning party can try to form a minority government, this means that the people who voted differently are not properly represented. In addition to this, other systems such as proportional representation give a better chance of smaller parties such as the Greens coming to power. After weighing up both sides, I am still not sure because other systems are more fair put our current system is less costly to operate and is easier to understand. Succinct Leaves, I am sceptical of your comment, other systems give other people a second chance such as the majority system in France which has several rounds of voting, this means that a candidate might fail in one round but in the next round could win.

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