UK: First-Past-the-Post will be the Winner on the Day

By   /   May 2, 2015  /   11 Comments

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The outcome of the overall election will be a lottery, determined largely by the distribution of votes for losing candidates in constituencies where the winning candidate does not secure a majority of the votes.

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On Friday (our time) we will be witness to 650 simultaneous Northland-style first-past-the-post (FPP) elections. FPP will be the winner of the United Kingdom general election. The outcome of the overall election will be a lottery, determined largely by the distribution of votes for losing candidates in constituencies where the winning candidate does not secure a majority of the votes.

More than half of these 650 constituency elections will be a foregone conclusion, which means that votes there will be a voluntary opinion poll. These are no-contest elections; what Northland would have been, had Winston Peters not run. Most of the rest could be proper contests between two candidates, at least if people vote – as they did in Northland – as if it was a two-candidate contest. Some of the remaining constituencies will be genuine three-candidate contests.

In this FPP system the typical result is one party gaining an overall majority of seats while gaining about 37% of the overall national vote. (In 2005 Labour gained a comfortable overall majority with 35% of the vote, and about 21% of the eligible franchise.) So don’t be surprised if the Tories get returned with an overall majority of MPs this time; they are polling 36%. They surprised before in 1970 and 1992.

Interestingly, the UK has had a few episodes in its post-war history of minority government despite the single-party bias of FPP. In 1964 Labour formed a minority government, eventually calling another election in 1966. These three years were glory years for Britain, at least if its music is anything to go by.

On my OE I arrived, aged 20, at Southampton in May 1974. That February there had been an election in which Labour got four more MPs than the Tories, and formed what was effectively a caretaker government. In the ensuing October election, Labour gained a majority of 3 seats, and a margin of 42 over the Tory Conservatives. In 1977 that majority was whittled away through by-elections, resulting in the Lib-Lab pact, a governing arrangement between Labour and the Liberals that presaged modern governing arrangements in New Zealand.

That 1977 Lib-Lab government was one of the best in the UK’s post-war history, sullied however by Dennis Healey’s foray into monetarism. Further, in 1979 Labour’s real achievements in getting through the serious economic and financial crises that it inherited were not recognised. For the incumbent pragmatist government, the 1979 election in the UK was much like the 1984 election in New Zealand.

Since 1979, the United Kingdom has featured a long sequence of right-wing governments, with only Gordon Brown’s 2007-10 administration breaking that mould. In 2015 I am not sure whether a Miliband-Balls Labour government would qualify as left of centre. My feeling is that such a government could be too much like the unlovely French ‘Socialist’ Hollande-Valls regime. Further, Ed Miliband does remind me of David Cunliffe, who did not really have the common touch required of a leader of the left. Actually I think the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon looks more Prime Ministerial.

The saving grace of a Labour-led government next weekend would be the almost certain necessity of a substantial SNP (Scottish National Party) contribution. They – and the Greens who may lose their one MP – seem to be the only parties offering left-wing fiscal policies. This puts Labour in a difficult position, given that the SNP look likely to displace most of Scotland’s remaining Labour MPs. Miliband continues to deny that he will need the support of SNP to form a government.

What will happen if Labour, SNP and the surviving Lib-Dems gain just enough seats to build a three-way coalition? If so, it is likely that the Tories could also form a less squabblesome government with either of these. The Tories could then make some interesting concessions possibly forming a fiscally left administration not unlike that of Shinzō Abe in Japan. Alex Salmond possibly is the Winston Peters of the UK; might he become Chancellor of the Exchequer as Peters became Treasurer (and a good one) in 1996?

It’s an intriguing time in British politics; in the land whose flag we fly as part of our own but whose electoral system we have largely disowned. Yet we are strangely uninterested in the politics of the land of (most of) our ancestors and of our identity.

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11 Comments

  1. jay says:

    ” This is an election dominated by one issue above all others—the ever-widening social chasm between a thin layer of the super-rich and the broad mass of working people, who comprise the vast majority of the population.

    This week, the Sunday Times noted that Britain’s super-rich are now more than twice as rich as they were in 2009. The wealthiest 1,000 people based in Britain are collectively worth £547 billion. There are now 117 sterling billionaires based in Britain, more per head of population than in any other country.

    This obscene wealth is being gouged out of the working class.

    The Tories are pledged to tens of billions of pounds in new cuts, including £12 billion in welfare. Labour has promised a “Budget Responsibility Lock” committing it to cut the deficit every year.

    The SNP, Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) and Green Party pose as anti-austerity alternatives, seeking to exploit popular opposition to the Tories and Labour. However, none of these capitalist parties offers anything more than a somewhat slower pace in the implementation of austerity measures. ” https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/04/27/elec-a27.html

    ” Labour’s 1983 manifesto is widely known as the longest suicide note in history. Its 2015 manifesto is the longest till receipt in history. It is costed and funded, ordered and itemised, and will electrify anyone who is aroused by the high wild cry of accountancy.

    Labour has allowed the Conservatives to frame its politics. Frames are the mental structures through which we perceive the world. The dominant Tory frame, constructed and polished across seven years by its skilled cabinet makers, is that the all-important issue is the deficit. The financial crisis, it claims, was caused not by the banks, but by irresponsible government spending, for which the only cure is austerity.

    In reality, the deficit should rank somewhere in the low hundreds on the list of political priorities. It’s a con; an excuse for redrafting the social contract on behalf of the elite. But Labour has meekly acquiesced to this agenda, disputing only the extent of its application. By accepting your opponents’ frame, you reinforce their power, allowing them to pull the entire polity into their own arena. No Labour capitulation has been as extreme and catastrophic as the one with which it begins this year’s manifesto. ” http://www.monbiot.com/2015/04/15/the-longest-till-receipt-in-history/

    • jay says:

      ” The economy is now based on (held to ransom by) a banking and finance-sector cartel that specialises in rigging markets, debt creation, money laundering and salting away profits in various City of London satellite tax havens and beyond. The banking industry applies huge pressure on governments and has significant influence over policies to ensure things remain this way.

      If you follow the election campaign, you will see no talk from the main parties about bringing the railway and energy and water facilities back into public ownership. Instead, privatisation will continue and massive profits will be raked in as the public forks out for private-sector subsidies and the increasingly costly ‘services’ provided.

      There will be no talk of nationalising the major banks or even properly regulating or taxing them (and other large multinationals) to gain access to funds that could build decent infrastructure for the public benefit.

      Although the economy will be glibly discussed throughout the campaign, little will be mentioned about why or how the top one percent in the UK increased their wealth substantially in 2008 alone when the economic crisis hit. Little will be said about why levels of inequality have sky rocketed over the past three decades.” http://www.countercurrents.org/todhunter140415.htm

      • jay says:

        ” The latest attempts to cure people of unemployment would be almost laughable if the impact on people’s lives were not so tragic. Jobcentres are now being run like cults, with managers spouting mumbo jumbo motivational garbage like Sandra Lambert‘s now deleted twitter feed calling on staff to ‘pink up the pace’ and handing out sheriff stars to Jobcentres which meet benefit sanction targets. Half-arsed online Cognitive Behavor Therapies are on the way, to cure unemployed people’s mental health problems. Pull yourself together and get a job is the message from the DWP for those who are unable to work due to depression or other mental health conditions. Forced treatment for some groups has been threatened should the Tories win the election.

        That this flies in the face of what is considered good practice amongst psychologists no longer seems to matter. Unemployed people are now fair game for almost any kind of treatment as long as it’s designed to punish and scapegoat. Claimants have at best been abandoned and at worst openly attacked even by charities and institutions which claim to support those with a mental health condition.” https://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/the-2-25-million-hidden-unemployed-people-reveals-the-stark-truth-theres-no-fucking-jobs/

      • Murray Simmonds says:

        The “Countercurrents” article is an excellent summary of British Election policy. It highlights the power already exerted by the big Multinational Corporations and how it is they, not the elected Governments, are the “ones in charge”.

        Excellent article, thank you for the posting, JAY.

        Well worth a careful read if you care about where this country is heading.

  2. richarquis says:

    It puzzles me that people are so opposed to MMP when FPP is so blatantly unfair. But then I remember that those people who are so opposed to it are the ones who stand to lose from it.

    Once again, the conservatives use dodgy math to impose their desires upon the unwanting majority.

  3. Dennis Dorney says:

    I cant understand why the Lib-Dems will want to make a coalition with any party in the near future. When I was living in the UK up to 2005 I was a member of the Lib-Dems and told them, when they teamed up with the Conservatives, that they had just destroyed the party. At the time they had 23% of the vote. Now its about 7%. How is forming a coalition with Labour (supposedly the opposite of the Conservatives) going to help? What kind of message would the public read into that?
    I think it is safe to say that The Lib-Dems have run out of options and are history now.

  4. CLEANGREEN says:

    Keith please warn the British opposition parties of this source code issue which the ruling Tories may use as National here looks to have used.
    If there is a wide swing to Tories from pre election polls, then they must request a manual only recount.

    No source code will be used if they keep away from any ELECTRONIC RECOUNT PROCESS.

    READ THIS AND WATCH Clint Curtis as he INFORMS THIS ELECTION RIGGING PROCESS.

    Beware of Tories pulling yet another election fraud here as the Tories here possibly did during our last election since there were anomalies in the pre election predictions and election results which suggests vote rigging has occurred.

    Watch this video of evidence given by a US federal incitement of a Election ex NASA programmer hired by a Chinese Lobbyist during a US election using rigged “Source codes” developed by Programmer Clint Curtis.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4aKOhbbK9E

    http://godfatherpolitics.com/8149/were-election-computers-programmed-in-ohio-to-give-obama-the-victory/

    Also this is confirmed by a retired NSA analyst also in this link.

    http://www.ukprogressive.co.uk/breaking-retired-nsa-analyst-proves-gop-is-stealing-elections/article20598.html

    So according to NASA programmer if the pre election and the final election results are significantly different then according to his testimony there is evidence of voter fraud and therefore to prove voter fraud it requires only an manual independent vote recount to prove rigged voting fraud as the programmer had built the software program to not be traced or even finally discovered as his program finally eats itself afterwards.

    To help protect the integrity of this vital election we must have opposition use this resource of independent oversight of these elections from now on.

    Election Defense Alliance has tools to protect election fraud we observe.

    http://electiondefensealliance.org/?q=resource_list

    Here are some other pieces of evidence for our election strategists to be aware of.

    Note we shall require a significant winning margin (more than 10%) because the vote rigging program will shave off 10% of the NZ First vote the evidence information tells us.

    harpers.org/…chive/2012/11/how-to-rig-an-election/6

    bronxtparty.tripod.com/…ction-rigging-danger-2.html

    http://www.wesavedemocracy.org/does_your_vote_count.html

  5. Mike the Lefty says:

    What puzzles me about the Brits’ electoral system is how they have gradually gone for other electoral systems in their regional (Scottish, Irish and Welsh assemblies) and local bodies, but they stubbornly stick to the FPP system for the UK assembly. The regional assemblies use MMP, I believe and the council elections use STV. The European elections also use MMP.
    It is like they think these other elections are less important than the UK parliament elections. When they have had the opportunity in referendums to change the system it has always been decisively defeated. I wish some UK political expert could explain why.

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