This is how crap FPP is – statistically speaking

The big problem with FPP is that it divides an election up into many mini elections – one in each electorate. If you live in an electorate that for demographic or economic reasons has always been won by the same party, then a vote for any other party is wasted. Also electorates can have different amounts of people in them, but only one MP. So FPP is quite inefficient at translating the will of the people into a government.

But how inefficient is it, really? How many votes are wasted in this manner? Well, someone with a statistics mind has come up with a way to measure this, and the results are quite scary.

It is clear that [FPP] is hugely inefficient at translating the will of the people into the result of a general election. The [UK FPP] system is only 25% efficient – whereas some sort of proportional representation system would approach 100% efficiency (for example the 2004 European Elections were about 96% efficient).

It betrays the fundamental principle of democracy:  one person one vote.

This startling conclusion was reached by calculating, for each electorate in the UK, how marginal that electorate is and the amount of people in that electorate. Marginality is calculated based on how many times the electorate has changed hands in the past. If it rarely changes hands then votes are worth less. Electorates with higher populations still only get one MP to represent them, so the votes of people who live there are worth less.

A web site has been created which will let you get the voter power index (VPI) for any electorate in the UK. I searched for ‘london’ and got Londonberry East which has a VPI of 0.1, meaning each voter has the equivalent of 0.1 votes. Glasgow North-West is 0.045. Stunning. These kinds of results start to make a lot of sense.

I’d be very interested to see if there was a correlation between VPI and income, crime, or any other social indicator. How would having no political power affect you?

9 Comments Posted

  1. In terms of democracy FPP and MMP both fail to represent the majority in most cases. Maori and National together, both correctly representing the wishes of the people who voted them in? Unlikely to say the least!

    I rather like the idea of a Recoverable Proxy system.

  2. I’m not sure of the correlation you posit.

    In the UK, maybe 50% of the electorate vote tribally for Labour or Conservative. This hasn’t changed much, even since Labour ceased to be a left-wing party. So the “safe seats” where votes have the lowest values are either middle-class Tory or working-class Labour. The former are rich and the latter poor, and that broadly drives their social situation.

    The marginal seats are either places in transition (like Croydon) or where an educated population actually thinks about how they vote (like Hove).

    My experience of Britain is that a large number of people are completely disillusioned with politics, and that manifests in a kind of apathetic rejection of society. Maybe *if* they get fair votes that’ll improve, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  3. Frog,

    There is almost certainly a correlation between income and VPI. Electorates with predominantly low income working class people living in them will probably be safe electorates for Labour. The same thing applies to electorates with much higher than average incomes; these will be safe electorates for National. In both cases the VPI will be low.

    However, I would also expect to find that the correlation between income and VPI is less than it once was (someone could test this out to see if it is in fact true). Labour has shifted far to the right in the last 30 years, so working class people realise that whichever main party they vote for will not make a huge difference to the final government. Indeed, Labour almost won the old (and high average income) seat of Remuera in 1987, probably resulting in an increase in the VPI in this traditionally safe National electorate.

  4. @toad

    not in the party sense but in the voter sense, most of the commentary from the lib dem supporting blogs and conservative supporting blogs clearly indicate they want change- the conservatives I think would support it because they would still have required support from parties such and the UUP and the DUP or even the BNP (shock horror!)- so they may not become less extreme at all even under Mr Cameron’s leadership
    The LibDem’s have alot to gain and since they’ve stated they may be willing to stop a hung Parliament I can very clearly see a electoral review as one of their demands in that case

    I’m going to keep my comments on topic of the British system though but your views are noted and respected – maybe not the bastards bit though…

  5. There is no consensus between the Tories and the LibDems on this at all, stephensmikm. The Tories will have to be dragged screaming and kicking to support any form of proportional representation. They fear that under a proportional system they will be in permanent Opposition. Of course that is an incorrect analysis, because under a proportional system they will discard some of the more extreme policy positions to become electable, just as National did here.

    But just as National is doing here too (witness ECan, preparation of local government and SOEs for privatisation, mining Schedule 4 land) they will run secret agenda that they have no mandate to implement.


  6. It seems to be there is common consensus between the Conservatives and Lib Dems in regard to review of the way they elect MPs, although they probably will not revert to MMP due to the fact that it would almost certainly guarantee cdonstant hung government in the UK it will likely end up taking on SM or a form of transferred vote to allow for proper government with a semblance of citizen support

  7. Um, Derry/londonderry (depending on your religion ) is in northern Ireland. You might want to correct that before it gets the trolls going. 🙂

  8. Under FPP it is quite possible to control government having achieved as little as 1/3 of the vote. When over 60% of voters didn’t vote for a Government and yet must accept the governance dealt to them, this isn’t democracy, this is a tragedy. Each vote must count equally!

    Even under an MMP elected government the democratic process can be fragile;
    Those people who voted for what they thought was a centre/right government (National and Act) make up 48.6% of the vote, which means 51.4% did not get what they were voing for. This is hardly a mandate for National to force through legislation without wider engagement.

    The one person one vote principal is important for accuracy during the election process but democracy has to be carried into the governance, too. MMP must be protected but the recognition of the final vote must be recognised when creating legislation, too!

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