Wednesday, 9 March 2011

FPTP doesn't guarantee a winner has the most 1st preferences either...

Question: Do you think it’s unfair that AV takes in to account people’s second preferences to determine winners?

FACT: FPTP is no more sure of winners having the most first preferences than AV.

FPTP might only let you put one vote, but it ASSUMES that it is your first preference, and no doubt you assume they are all first preferences. This is wrong. Tactical voting is happening up and down the country, where people put a cross against someone other than their true first preference...and in some constituencies supporters don’t have their preferred MP standing at all, so have to vote for their second choice!

The reality is that a FPTP winner could win on LESS 1st preferences than the person that came second had, and further more the FPTP can easily also be disliked by over half the voters taking part in the election too! If that isn’t truly giving the gold medal to the runner up I don’t know what is!

Take this example...

Red: 40%
Blue: 60%

You’d say Blue was the winner, under AV or FPTP right? Under FPTP you may also say that Blue has the most first preferences.

How about if I told you that Blue is made up of supporters of Aquamarine (10%) Blue (30%) and Cyan (20%)? Half of the votes for Blue are second preferences, meaning Red actually has more first preferences but still lost. Red rightfully lost, of course, as it’s clear that the majority prefer a Blue of some kind.

But take a more "realistic" example if you will, North Cornwall...

Liberal Democrat 48.1%
Conservative 41.7%
UKIP 4.9%
Labour 4.2%
Mebyon Kernow 1.1%

We cannot know how people vote here, but a Labour result of 4.2% is extremely low. Could it be that Labour voters are propping up the Lib Dems to save the seat from going Tory? This is, of course, speculation (FPTP doesn't show us enough information, unlike AV), but if 7% of that Liberal Democrat vote is actually 2nd preference Labour votes, and all of the Conservative vote is 1st preference...then FPTP has failed the main test that so many of it's supporters hold up as it's main strength.

So, I repeat: FPTP does not guarantee that the winner has the most first preferences, it is an ignorant assumption to believe that it does.

All this leaves is one difference between AV and FPTP (for the purposes of how much mandate a candidate has), and that is that AV ensures that the MP elected does have the most support. Both systems can’t guarantee the winner is the one with the most first preferences, so it is common sense that we make a change that at least means that our MP is actually popular rather than unpopular in their area.


  1. Even if a candidate beats another one who has more first preferences, all that means is that the beaten candidate was so unpopular, that a large number of people found the winner a more acceptable candidate even though they weren't their first preference. Or put another way the loser (with the larger number of first preferences) was even less popular with a larger number of voters than those peoples second (or even third) choices... if that doesn't deserve losing, I don't know what does.

  2. I think this kind of beats around the bush a bit in what it's saying, but it does point out the most significant thing about AV. Most people will prefer a range of candidates before one or more of the other candidates, under FPTP people have no way of expresing this, under AV they do.

    AV offers a little thing called consensus in the important decision over who represents a whole constituency in parliament. FPTP merely rewards the group that has the least diversity and choice.

  3. Hi Alex,

    Exactly... FPTP currently operates as a fudged AV for some voters, for several reasons...we might as well actually go to AV and let people have the freedom to give their full opinions freely.


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