First Past the Post (FPTP) is the electoral system used in the UK, and a rump of its former colonies, namely Canada, India and the USA.
It is a deeply flawed system, because:
1 It is not democratic.
Democracy is the political system where the Government represents the will of the people. There never has been a perfect democracy, there are only degrees of approximation, and democracy goes far beyond discussion of the voting system. Nevertheless, the voting system is an important element in shaping a democracy, and FPTP is woefully inadequate in expressing the will of the people, because the vote never gets beyond the constituency boundary. The only people whose will is represented in Parliament are those who back the local winner. All other votes are lost, or "wasted". They are no more. They are annihilated. They have no representation in Parliament.
In the UK 2005 general election, 70% of votes cast, 19 million, where invalidated in this way.
2 FPTP distorts the results
In the 1974 Election, the votes were as follows:
1st - Conservative - 37.9%
2nd - Labour - 37.2%
3rd - Liberal - 19.3%
The Parliament elected from this vote was as follows:
1st - Labour - 52% of MPs
2nd - Conservative - 47% of MPs
3rd - Liberal - 2% of MPs.
This is outrageous.
Just to prove this was not a fluke, in 1954 Labour got 48.8% of the vote, and 295 MPs, while the Conservatives got 44.3% and 302 MPs.
Anyone who thinks FPTP is a good idea is clearly not fit to be an MP.
Worse still, a Government can be elected on the basis of 33% of votes cast, but considering turnout, this falls to 22% of those entitled to vote. 22%! One in five!! Yet idiot conservatives of right and left still defend FPTP. Words fail.
MPs are elected on a minority of votes
The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) page on FPTP states: Representatives can get elected on tiny amounts of public support. In 2005, for example, George Galloway polled the votes of only 18.4 per cent of his constituents, yet ended up in the House of Commons. Only three MPs elected in 2005 secured the votes of more than 40 per cent of their constituents.
3 FPTP encourages Tactical Voting
Voters are frequently forced to vote for a party that they do not back, in an effort to keep out a party that they most dislike. So Labour voters might vote LibDem if the LibDem has the best chance of beating the Tory.
4 FPTP penalises parties whose support is spread widely,
and rewards parties whose support is concentrated in one area.
ERS again: at the 2005 general election, the DUP won nine seats on 0.9 per cent of the vote, yet the Greens won no seats, despite polling almost 16,000 more votes than the DUP.
5 FPTP encourages gerrymandering
ERS: With relatively small constituency sizes, the way boundaries are drawn can have important effects on the election result, which encourages attempts at gerrymandering.
6 FPTP encourages Safe Seats
MPs in safe seats are more or less guaranteed to win every election. They are not motivated to compete for votes, and their party in not motivated to frame policy that will benefit the people in that constituency. Since 1970, only 50% of seats have changed hands. The other seats are a sinecure; like the old Rotten Boroughs.
Politicians pretend that they are concerned about turnout, but ignore the fact that turnout is lower in safe seats.
7 FPTP delivers power to marginal seats
Parties lust after the vote in key marginal seats, where two parties stand neck and neck. Within those marginal seats, there are a few uncommitted voters who must be won over. The politicians pile in with money to campaign in those seats (this was Lord "non-dom" Ashcroft's tactic), and trim their policies and pronouncements to please the swing voters in key marginals, who constitute about 0.16% of the electorate.
8 FPTP is the first step to full radical reform in the UK
The scandals of the MP expenses, the unelected House of Lords and non-dom donors demonstrate the need for radical, root-and-branch overhaul of the British Parliamentary system. Voting reform is the first step.
So that is the case against FPTP. What is the case for it?
1 Proportional Representation (PR) breaks the constituency link
This is a lie. Some forms of PR maintain the link.
2 The British electorate is too thick to understand PR
The British electorate may take a different view
3 FPTP delivers Strong Government
So the One Party State produces even stronger Government. Is that the way to go?
PR produces mixed Governments, composed of more than one party. It seems to work in all democratic the countries with the exception of the UK colonies mentioned at the top.
4 FPTP is quick and easy to count
So? Do the count on the next day, not during the middle of the night. Idiots
5 FPTP keeps the BNP out of Parliament
That's true, but repression is not the answer to the BNP. They thrive on that sort of thing. The answer to the BNP is housing, jobs, and a more equal society. Here is an expansion of this argument.
6 PR gives too much power to Party chiefs
Some forms of PR rely on lists of candidates chosen by the party, who are used to "top up" representation in Parliament, to make it proportional to the vote. It is possible to dilute the party's choice by letting voters pick and choose from the party list. But it is rich for FPTP stooges to criticise PR for delivering too much power to the party politicians, when the effect of FPTP is to delever all power to one party, even if it is delivered by a minority of the electorate.
In conclusion, there are 8 forceful arguments against FPTP, and 4 weak and specious arguments, + 2 interesting arguments in its favour.
It is time to change the system. We have to recognise that this will take civil action, demonstrations and civil disobedience, since most MPs elected by FPTP are bound to regard it as an excellent way to elect people. However, those parties who do want change should clearly look to finding ways of co-operation to beat the system and get more pro-democracy MPs into the chamber.