Sunday, 31 August 2008

Electoral Reform

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,

Independents 26%
Labour 18%
Tories 17%
Lib-Dems 15%
UKIP 14%
BNP 10%

Which would give a Council made up of 12 Independents,
8 Labour,
8 Tories,
7 Lib Dems,
6 UKIP and
5 BNP.

As opposed to the current make up of
23 Labour,
9 Independents,
6 Lib-Dems,
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.


  1. I always think this a faintly hilarious argument, because:

    1. It ignores turnout in individual wards - James in Owton had lowest winning vote in the Ward with lowest turnout, coincidence? I think not.

    2. It ignores the number of candidates in each ward - Marshall on the Headland and Griffin in the Brus (as 2 examples) were so high due to there only being two candidates.

    3. It ignores the individuality of candidates and the individualism of wards - they are all different and they will act differently.

    4. More people voted Labour than any other party and if you are whinging about not having as many candidates whose fault is that??

    5. P.R. only works (to an extent) if certain parties don't spend all their time doing deals to fix the number of candidates and denying the electorate choice.

    So here's a proposal how about a system where if political parties want to contest one seat they have to contest ALL seats? Accepting that you can't legislate for Independents (although you could ask them whether it is there intention to join the Admin Group b4 the election eh Stephen?!) this would give every member of the electorate the same choice in every ward to choose as they see fit,in line with our pleural democracy! Seems fair right?

  2. Yeah to be honest that seems pretty fair - I mean if you look at Foggy Furze some of the people who voted UKiP would have undoubtably voted Tory if that option had been availiable, but they were denied that choice. Seems unfair to me. As a loyal Tory I got the choice to vote for them in my Ward and if I lived in Foggy Furze I would be pretty annoyed to not have that choice.

    The other thing is Stephen your argument kind suggests that if you look at percentage votes across the town you can then apply them to individual wards. But surely the whole point is that each ward gets the representative they want. What brus want is likely gonna be very different to say the park or Seaton.

  3. Thanks for these comments. If you look at the post previous to this one I did say that you can prove anything you want with that aside I am please you find my ramblings stimulating enough to produce a response, especially you jimmy as you have been notably abscent from HTH for the past few weeks! I'll give your comments some thoughts and reply as soon as I can.