Received a copy of the Electoral Reform Society magazine in my post bag this week. The cover picture was a monkey in a top hat, I wondered if Hartlepool had hit the election headlines again but it was just a co-incidence.The report was highlighting the strange results around the country in the local election last May. They mentioned Lincolnshire where 29.5% of the vote gave the Lib-Dems 7 seats while the Tories won 4 seats for their 38.2% of the vote. Ipswich have Labour winning half the sears on 34.1% of the vote, ahead of the Tories on 41.1%. These are of course the result of our first past the post system.
Mind you, Hartlepool should have got a mention. In May 2008 the Labour Party took 46.6% of the seats (7 out of 15) with only 31.6% of the vote. The Tories took only 2 seats with 22.3% of the vote but the Lib Dems also took 2 with only 13.9% of the vote. UKIP managed 11.1% of the vote and won a single seat. Work that out in approximate percentages and it is less than 5% gets you a Labour Councillor, arounf 7% elects a Lib Dem Councillor but you need over 11% to elect a Tory or UKIP.
The figures are even more distorted by the number of wards contested by each party. Labour put up 15 candidates, The Tories 11, Lib Dems 8 and UKIP 7. So UKIP actually got 2,121 votes in 7 wards, average of 303 votes per ward. Average the Labour vote over the 15 wards they fought and their average is only 403 votes per ward. If you actually look at the highest votes for individual Councillors then only 2 (Turner in Seaton ands Morris in Park) achieved more than 1,000 votes. Third place was Marshall in St.Hilda on 742. So the top three places were Independent, Tory, Independent.
Sheila Griffin was Labour's top performer on 715 only 2 vote ahead of another Tory.
So the Top 5 places in Hartlepool's Local Election in May 2008 were, Independent, Tory, Independent, Labour, Tory. Hardly a ringing endorsement for Labour rule in Hartlepool. UKIP's sole winner, Martyn Aiken in Foggy furze was well down the list with 396 votes but he was ahead of Labour's Marjorie James who got the lowest vote of the Councilors actually elected, polling just 318 votes. UKIP's top performer was Eruic Wilson in Park who polled 522 votes, the eighth highest total and more votes than 8 out of the 5 councilors that were actually elected in fact only one other Candidate polled more votes than Eric without being elected. If the 15 seats had gone to the 15 individuals who polled the most votes then Preece for the Lib-Dems, Aiken for UKIP and James for the Lib-Dems would not have been elected. These three would have been replaced by one Labour, one UKIP and 1 BNP. So maybe there is something to be said for first past the post!
Incidentally, taking the average votes cast in wards contested and using this to estimate the result if there had been a representative of every party in every ward gives the following result,
Which would give a Council made up of 12 Independents,
7 Lib Dems,
6 UKIP and
As opposed to the current make up of
5 Tories and
So no matter how you slice it, the Labour Party in Hartlepool is over-represented in the Council Chamber for the number of votes it actually gets in local elections.