Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

First Past the Post helps elect extremists like Collin Brewer

During the AV referendum campaign a couple of years ago great play was made by the "No" campaign of how a preferential system would "allow BNP voters to dictate the result".

This was always a highly dubious claim. Indeed the BNP actually opposed AV, presumably because they realised that under a system where a candidate needs to get broad support they would likely get no seats at all. At least under FPTP they can occasionally win, usually where the barrier is often considerably lower than 50%.

One of the results from the recent local elections amply demonstrates this point.

Collin Brewer was an independent councillor in Cornwall who before the elections attracted a lot of publicity having made some highly offensive comments about disabled children and how they cost too much money so should be "put down". He resigned at the time but decided to stand again for the Wadebridge East ward and to the consternation of many was actually re-elected.

There is an online petition at the moment trying to get him to resign again which has gathered hundreds of signatures.

But it is worth bearing in mind how he managed to get re-elected. Here is the breakdown of the 2013 results for Wadebridge East taken from the Democracy Cornwall website:

Wadebridge East - results
Election Candidate Party Votes %
Collin William Brewer Independent 335 25% Elected
Steve Knightley Liberal Democrat 331 25% Not elected
Roderick Harrison UK Independence Party 208 16% Not elected
Adrian Darrell Jones Labour 161 12% Not elected
Brian Aubone Bennetts Conservative 150 11% Not elected
Sarah Hannah Maguire Independent 146 11% Not elected

As you can see Collin only got 25% of the vote. Now I don't know how many of those who voted for him were aware of his remarks but even if most of them were, 75% of voters voted for a candidate who does not have those views. And yet because of First Past the Post Collin was allowed to take the seat on only a quarter of the vote.

Far from preventing extreme candidates from being elected, FPTP actually allows it to happen by simply taking the candidate with the plurality of votes and giving them the seat no matter how low the vote share is. Elsewhere in Cornwall another candidate was elected on less than 20% of the vote.

We aren't going to get AV or any other form of electoral reform any time soon I suspect but we have to accept that keeping FPTP means as a country we reap what we sow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This issue may not automatically vanish. The BBC's PNS had Lab down 9 pts, Con down 6 pts and LD down 2 on 2012. 'None of the big 3' polled 32%, and 'Neither of the big 2' polled 46%. Won't definitely persist, but certainly unprecedented.