Too many in England see their votes ignored, as voters hit by ‘warped results’

Campaigners warn First Past the Post system once against failing to reflect the views of voters in who runs their local community.

  • Statement from Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, 5th May 2023 
  • Contact Jon Narcross at / 07794728820 to arrange an interview or for more information.

England is seeing a raft of disproportionate results come in, with some parties securing 90% of seats despite receiving less than half the vote. 

Analysis by the Electoral Reform Society has identified a series of results where voter choices have been ‘distorted’ by England’s winner-takes-all First Past the Post system.

Warped results – ERS’ 5pm snapshot:

  • In Tameside Labour took 90% of the seats despite securing just 48% of the vote while the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Independents got no seats despite securing almost a quarter of the vote (23%) between them.
  • In Braintree the Conservatives gain over half the seats (53%) despite securing just 37% of the votes cast.
  • In Cotswold, while the Liberal Democrats’ 47% vote share secured them almost two-thirds (65%) of the seats, the Conservative’s 43% of vote left them with just over a quarter (27%).
  • In Broxbourne the Conservatives gained 90% of the seats with just 50% of the votes cast leaving no representation for the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and Independents despite receiving a combined 20% of the vote
  • In Bassetlaw Labour gained 79% of the seats with just 48% of the vote.
  • In North Devon the Liberal Democrats gained a majority of seats (52%) despite receiving just less than a third (31%) of the votes. Meanwhile Labour got no seats despite receiving 10% of the votes.

Under First Past the Post, all votes not cast for the one (or multiple) winners in each ward go to waste. Spread across a whole council area, parties can often secure a substantial number of votes and still be left with zero representation.

The ERS, the UK’s leading democracy group, is calling for a shift to proportional representation for English councils and to end the use of First Past the Post in local government.

In 2020 Wales passed legislation allowing councils to introduce the PR Single Transferable Vote system [1], which has been used for Scottish local elections since 2007.

Since STV was introduced in Scotland, one-party fiefdoms have become a thing of the past. Voters are able to rank candidates by preference in multi-member wards, giving them a diversity of local representation to hold councils to account.

The ERS is relaunching its petition for proportional representation on England’s councils.

Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society, said: 

“Nobody can look at these examples and think our system is working. It’s failing voters and it’s failing communities. From Braintree to Bassetlaw, election after election we see thousands of voters ignored by First Past the Post.

“No party should be able to sweep the board on a minority of the vote. But again and again, we see parties handed disproportionate numbers of seats, leaving many voters feeling their voice has been ignored.

“There’s a clear alternative, and it works. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland use a fairer voting system, which avoids random results like these. Proportional representation is vital to breathe new life and energy into our local democracy.”

Yesterday’s election was also the first to see First Past the Post used for Mayoral races instead of the preferential supplementary vote.

Under the preferential vote, if no candidate gets over 50% of the vote, the top two candidates continue to a runoff – ensuring winning candidates have a broad base of support unlike First Past the Post which allows candidates, who the majority voted against, to secure office.

  • In Middlesbrough Labour’s Chris Cooke beat incumbent Andy Preston (Ind) by just 760 votes, securing the mayoralty with just 40% of the votes cast.