“First Past the Post: Even its very name is a lie!”

I thought I’d mention & link to a more light-hearted blog posting from Ben Donnelly, who writes over at Purple People. He’s been thinking about what a misleading name we have for our current electoral system, “First Past The Post”, & I must say I agree with him! Here’s a bit of what he thinks FPTP sounds like to him-

It sounds like a racing analogy, with a post being a fixed point at the end of a race course with all the runners (candidates) trying to be the first one to get there, until eventually one of them does. Hang on, that sounds like AV, doesn’t it? A fixed point, say, a 50% +1 majority with iterations of elimination and redistribution of votes until ultimately one candidate reaches that post and is the first to do so.

I suppose the serious point is that in “First Past The Post” there actually is no defined winning post at all. I’ve seen some pro-FPTP people use the analogy of a running race to try & show that systems such as AV are flawed because “the person in 3rd place could win”, but there the analogy falls flat as an athletics track race has a definite finishing line the winner has to pass through first- elections ran using FPTP certainly don’t have this. With FPTP the “winning post” is handily movable, allowing the largest minority to elect their candidate despite the majority of voters not endorsing that person or party at all, & this minority could range anywhere broadly from 20-49%, especially where there are quite a few credible candidates on the ballot paper that could split the vote even further.

The fact that you get an actual winning post with AV- the winning candidate has achieve at least 50% of votes- is a major plus-point in it’s favour & one that a lot of people I talk to who aren’t politics fans like the sound of. You can read Ben Donnelly’s article here

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