FPTP is deeply flawed. The system inflates the representation of the country’s largest parties – usually Labour and the Conservatives – while quietening the voices of smaller parties such as the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and UKIP. Furthermore, FPTP aims to deliver strong and stable governments, but in two out of three of the last general elections it has failed to do this. On top of that, in close elections, the party that emerges with the most seats can often be the party with the second highest number of votes.
First-past-the-post lacks a democratic legitimacy. Here are seven alternatives.
One alternative to FPTP is the Alternative Vote. Proponents promote the fact that each elected member wins a majority of votes cast in their seat due to the fact that constituents don’t place an ‘X’ next to a candidate’s name – instead they rank candidates. Votes are reallocated until a candidate has over 50% of the votes in the seat.
One flaw with AV is that it is not a proportional alternative. According to the BBC, one model indicates that in 1997, had AV been used Labour would have won even more seats and the Tories would have been reduced to a rump of just 70 MPs.
The Liberal Democrats would have won over 100 seats.
This option was rejected in a referendum under the Cameron-Clegg coalition government.
The Alternative Vote Plus system is the result of the Jenkins Commission, which was set-up after Tony Blair’s 1997 win to look into changing the country’s voting system. Like under AV, voters using AV+ would rank constituency candidates, but would also vote on a second ballot paper for top-up MPs. Such a ballot would likely boost the representation of smaller parties such as the Greens.
The Additional Member System is currently used in Scotland, Wales and London. Under AMS, voters have two ballots: the first uses a FPTP system where voters back one candidate in their constituency. The candidate with the most votes in that seat wins the seat. On the second ballot, voters vote for a party. In Scotland, there are eight regional lists, and seats allocated via the second ballot are based off constituency seats won so as to benefit the smaller parties. For example, in the Glasgow region in 2016, the SNP won all the constituency seats. They also received the most votes on the regional list, but won no additional seats due to their constituency dominance. AMS produces broadly proportional results.
The Single Transferable Vote is used in Northern Ireland, Ireland, and for Scottish council elections. Under an STV system, constituencies have multiple members and voters rank candidates from one to however many they wish. STV improves proportionality, retains constituency links – and even strengthens them by offering voters a wider choice of representatives, and does not create two classes of representative, as is the case for the previous three systems.
5. Party-list (regional)
One alternative is to have a strictly proportional system with regional lists. This system is already used at the European Parliament Elections in Great Britain, where the country is divided into massive regions and people vote for their preferred party. Seats are then allocated on a proportional basis, with the regional split-up allowing for variations across the country.
6. Party-list (national)
Another alternative is to have the UK as one giant constituency for which voters support a party with seats distributed proportionally. Such a system would result in near perfect proportionality, but would give an incredible amount of power to the parties, resulting in voters backing faceless parties. Open lists can be added so voters can rank candidates within parties, diluting this issue, but the fact that there is one large constituency creates a distance between voters and their representatives.
7. Two-round instant run-off voting
This system is used in France, and is similar to FPTP except that first-placed candidates who do not receive over 50% of the vote in their constituency face another vote two weeks later against the second-placed candidate. The winner becomes that area's MP.
Which system would you like to see implemented in the UK?
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