First Past the Post
Posted by Matt Walker on September 28, 2009
First-past-the-post (FPTP) is the electoral system used for UK parliamentary elections. An electoral system is the method of counting up the votes cast in an election and then distributing them to the political parties involved.
FPTP usually distributes seats disproportionately to votes cast. At the last election Labour won 36% of the vote, but gained 55% of the seats in the House of Commons. The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, gained 10% of the available seats yet won over 20% of the vote.
FPTP tends to give the winning party more seats than their vote deserves, and hits smaller parties in particular. The Lib Dems, for example, often win a decent number of votes but do not come ‘first past the post’ enough times to win a lot of seats.
In the latest opinion poll, Labour and Lib Dems both have 23% public support. If this happened at the general election, Labour would win over a hundred seats more than the Lib Dems. This is because Labour’s vote is likely to be concentrated in a smaller number of constituencies, allowing them to come ‘first past the post’ more often than the Lib Dems, where a lot of their votes will be ‘wasted’ when they come second in a constituency.