The Daily Telegraph
‘Fair and simple’ first past the post to be restored for all elections
THE traditional “first past the post” voting system is to be restored for all elections in England, The Daily Telegraph can disclose, to make metro mayors and police and crime commissioners more accountable to their voters.
New changes to the Elections Bill this week will axe the supplementary vote system, which has been blamed for confusing voters with a first choice and second choice transferable vote system.
There have been claims that the system – which can mean that a “loser” candidate can win on second preferences – had led to hundreds of thousands of votes being wasted.
Winston Churchill was a critic of using transferable votes to decide elections, saying in 1931 that the system meant “the decision is to be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates”.
The changes will be implemented for the elections for metro mayors, the Greater London Authority mayor, and elected council mayors, across England; and police and crime commissioners across England and Wales from 2023. Ministers believe that restoring the first past the post system – which is used to elect MPS to the House of Commons – will further strengthen the accountability of elected mayors and PCCS to their electorate, making it easier for voters to express a clear choice.
One Government source said: “The person chosen to represent a local area should be the one who directly receives the most votes.”
Chloe Smith, the Minister for the Constitution, said: “Britain’s long-standing national electoral system of first past the post ensures clearer accountability, and allows voters to kick out the politicians who don’t deliver. First past the post is fair and simple – the person with the most votes wins.”
The current supplementary vote method of electing officials can mean that a “loser” candidate can win on second preferences.
In a 2011 nationwide referendum, two-thirds of voters endorsed first past the post, rejecting changing to a transferable voting system, or an alternative vote system for Westminster elections.
The 2019 Conservative general election manifesto says: “We will continue to support the first past the post system of voting, as it allows voters to kick out politicians who don’t deliver, both locally and nationally.”
Kit Malthouse, the Minister for Policing, said: “We are strengthening the accountability and role of police and crime commissioners, to help cut crime and deliver on the people’s priorities.”
Luke Hall, the Minister for Local Government, added: “Elected mayors can provide strong leadership, and must be held to account at the ballot box. The supplementary vote is an anomaly which confuses the public and is out of step with other elections in England, both local and national.
“Moving to first past the post will make it easier for voters to express a clear choice.”
In the 2021 London mayoral elections with supplementary vote, 5 per cent of the total votes in the first round were rejected (114,201 ballots); of these, the majority (87,214) were because voters cast a vote for more than one candidate in the first preference column.
‘The supplementary vote is an anomaly which confuses the public and is out of step with other elections’