No, the Lib Dems are not being “saved” by first-past-the-post

by Stephen Tall on February 19, 2015

‘The Lib Dems have admitted that they are now relying on the first-past-the-post voting system to save them from a wipeout in May.’ (The Times)

‘… the Liberal Democrats will be saved from wipe out by the first-past-the-post system.’ (The Guardian)

It’s a meme I’ve seen repeated a lot. Oh, the irony!, it goes, Those Lib Dems banged on about electoral reform all those years and now they’re going to be saved by the voting system they wanted to change. Haha!

It’s rubbish, of course.

According to UKPollingReport’s rolling poll average, the Lib Dems are currently on 7% — that’s less than one-third of the vote the party won in 2010. Most commentators reckon that’ll convert into something like 20 to 30 seats. It would be worse, but for the fact that many of our MPs are well dug-in locally.

Twenty MPs would mean the Lib Dems have 3% of the seats in the House of Commons, less than half the 7% we’re currently polling.

If we actually polled 7% at the next election, and there was a proportional voting system, the Lib Dems would have about 45 MPs.

bar chartAnd in case that’s not clear enough, in true Lib Dem fashion I’ve drawn a bar chart. I think I’ve got the scales right, yes?

What is true is that compared to previous elections, first-past-the-post is less rigged against the Lib Dems than it has historically been.

It is not small parties that first-past-the-post discriminates against — the threat the SNP poses in Scotland disproves that.

It is, however, just as rigged against parties whose support is evenly spread as it has ever been… as Ukip and the Greens will discover in a few weeks’ time.


I contributed some numbers to a Newsnight report on this last night ( Assuming 2010 levels of turnout, and taking forecasts from, the average number of votes required to win a seat is as follows:

– Labour: 33,000
– Conservatives: 34,000
– UKIP: 1,800,000
– LibDems: 160,000
– Greens: 760,000

by Chris Hanretty on February 19, 2015 at 4:41 pm. Reply #

The scales are certainly right for a Lib Dem bar chart, Stephen.

by Tom Papworth on February 19, 2015 at 10:48 pm. Reply #

[…] 5. No, the Lib Dems are not being “saved” by first past the post by Stephen Tall on Stephen Tall. And there’s even a bar chart to prove it. […]

by Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #412 on February 22, 2015 at 7:00 pm. Reply #

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