Writing, life, politics

First Past The Post: A Good Idea?

The BBC have put up an election calculator, where you can plug in various hypothetical national votes shares for the parties and then see what the election result would be, assuming consistent swings. You can find it here:


I had a play around, and managed to come up with an interesting scenario. Imagine you had the following result:

Lib Dem: 37.0%

Conservative: 28.9%

Labour: 24.1%

Other: 10%

Who would be the winner of that election? Why Labour of course! (Largest party, though not with a majority).

Labour: 215 seats

Lib Dem: 211 seats

Conservative: 195 seats

Other: 29 seats

Of course, you can also dream…

Lib Dem: 42.6.0%

Conservative: 26.3%

Labour: 21.1%

Other: 10%

Which gives:

Lib Dem: 415 seats

Labour: 106 seats

Conservative: 103 seats

Other: 26 seats

Amazing the difference 5.6% can make. And then there’s the result that might really set the cat among the pigeons of the FPTP supporting Tories:

Conservative: 35.6%

Labour: 35.3%

Lib Dem: 19.1%

Other: 10%

Which gives:

Labour: 331 seats (5 seat majority)

Conservative: 240 seats

Lib Dem: 50 seats

Other: 29 seats

So it would be possible for the Tories to get more votes than Labour, but for Labour to then not only get more seats, but actually achieve a majority. (i.e. An absolute victory).

I think if they lose they’ll cry, sack Cameron, and then tear themselves apart. But if they lose in a way where they could reasonably claim “we woz robbed”… How funny would that be? (And if you think I’m being mean, I’d ask how sympathetic they were when the Liberal Party got 19.7% of the votes in the February 1974 election, and received 14 seats in return).


  1. MatGB

    UNS doesn’t work with a third party in contention. All the above results (apart from the last one) are wrong. Simples.

    Yes, FPTP is crap, but UNS is even worse.

    • Jonny Nexus

      Yeah, true. The whole concept of calculation based on swing is based on a load of assumptions; go more than a certain amount from the source data and the assumptions multiply to the point that it’s all really a game.

      I explained my take on the subject in a comment I made on the LJ version of this post:

      At this point I think (IMHO) the most likely scenario is looking like the Tories having considerably more votes than Labour, but with Labour being the largest (albeit minority) party.

      The only thing is, it would be difficult for the Tories to claim that they have some kind of moral mandate to govern based on total vote share without conceding the argument for proportional representation.

    • Nomen

      WTF is UNS?

      • Jonny Nexus

        Universal National Swing.

        It’s the idea that you can take the national swing from the previous election and multiply it to each individual result.

        i.e. If the LibDems got 20% nationally at the previous election but now get 30% (+10%) you can assume that in a constituency where they previously got 30% of the vote they’ll not get 40% (or perhaps 45% – not honestly sure how they do it).

        It’s flawed because life is much more complicated than that, and people are trying to vote for people who they think can win.

  2. Jonny Nexus

    There are more comments on the Live Journal syndicated version of this post:


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