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Government Government

Use ‘first past the post’ voting for police and crime commissioner and mayoral elections

Last updated: 11:10am 14 December 2019

We will retain the first past the post system of voting for parliamentary elections and extend this system to police and crime commissioner and mayoral elections.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.43

Our verdict

The FPTP (First Past the Post) voting system has been used in all constituencies in UK general elections since 1950. Under FPTP, each party puts forward one candidate in each constituency, each voter votes for one candidate, and the winning candidate in each constituency is the one who receives the largest number of votes. For supporters of FPTP, its simplicity is one of its main advantages. But FPTP has also been subjected to various criticisms, such as the argument that it does not accurately represent public opinion, due to the discrepancies which can occur between a party’s vote share and its share of seats in Parliament.

But FPTP is not the only voting system in local and regional politics. In England and Wales, elections for mayors and police and crime commissioners use the Supplementary Vote system, in which voters get to express two preferences. This system is designed to elect candidates who have a broad level of support, as winning candidates either need to obtain more than half of the first preference votes, or to attract enough second preference as well as first preference votes if there is a run-off between the top two candidates. This is in contrast to FPTP, where a candidate can win a seat without a majority of the votes (as it is possible for most of the votes to be spread across all the other candidates).

In its 2017 manifesto, the Conservative Party committed to changing the voting system for mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections to FPTP. However, there have been two mayoral elections since this government came to power, and both of those used the Supplementary Vote system. The government knew well in advance that those mayoral elections were taking place, so we see them as de facto deadlines for implementing this policy, deadlines which were missed – twice. On that basis we’re marking this as ‘broken’.

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