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FPTP Elections Suck


Having wibbled on about how we ran our general election campaign it's perhaps time to talk about why the whole thing sucks and the biggest issue here is First Past The Post (FPTP).

I suspect anyone who's bothering to read this knows why FPTP is so badly broken1 so I won't rehearse those arguments here but it's perhaps worth looking at the consequences of it on the ground.

Our constituency, the rather long winded Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, used to be a Lib Dem seat held by Danny Alexander but he lost it in 2015 to Drew Hendry when the Lib Dems lost across the UK and the SNP surged in Scotland. Here the Lib Dem vote went down 9.4% and the Labour vote went down 14.6% while the SNP vote went up 31.4%!

In Theresa May's 2017 election yet more Lib Dems defected, this time to the Conservatives from the look of the figures, who were now in second place but still almost 5,000 votes behind Drew with 30.5% of the vote compared to the SNP's 39.9%.

So for the Tories, given that the polling evidence suggested their priority in Scotland was hanging on to the gains they'd made elsewhere rather than hoping to win more seats, our constituency clearly didn't look like a winner and that was reflected in their campaign here which was lacklustre to say the least. Their candidate was a first timer and from what I saw of her was unimpressive2. In Nairn they relied on Royal Mail to deliver all their leaflets except one and the one leaflet we did get delivered by volunteers (all two of them) looked like it had been made on a colour laser printer at someone's house!

Drew Hendry lamp post board

They didn't appear to be alone in the view that an SNP win here was a foregone conclusion.

The Lib Dem candidate was a local councillor from Mallaig (so the other side of Scotland3) and their few election boards on lamp posts were clearly recycled from his last Highland Council election campaign as they said "RIXSON for the HIGHLANDS" (and yes, putting boards on lamp posts is legal here, other than on truck roads, although unfortunately the A96(T) goes right through Nairn which is a bit of pain).

We never saw a Lib Dem volunteer on the ground other than that one at the polling station on the day.

The party that did at least put some effort in was Labour, although they would have known full well it was a lost cause, but it was good experience for their young (21 or 22) but very capable candidate. I suspect he'll be an MP in a safe Labour seat one day. Unlike the other two parties I know that they did do some canvassing locally, but I never saw them on my travels.

But all of this is the problem with FPTP: there's really no point in parties spending a lot of time and money in seats they can't hope to win. especially if they're short of active members. So you get the spectacle of the Tory candidate spending more time in the high street in Elgin (which is in the next constituency over, and was looking like a possible SNP gain from the Tories4) than she did in Nairn high street.

I'd really like to see the UK switch to some form of PR. For example the Scottish Parliament's system of a mix of constituency and regional MSPs works well. Here's our MSPs for the Highlands.

Highland MSPs

You'll note that the constituency MSPs are all SNP except for Orkney and Shetland, so pretty much identical to the UK parliament, but look at those regional MSPs: three Conservative, two Labour, one Green, and one SNP. So that means that every party has reason to actively campaign in every constituency across the Highlands and the MSPs we have far more accurately reflect the political preference of our voters.

Thank goodness that once we have independence we'll use this system for our parliament.

  1. Although it's perhaps worth pointing out, as I'm arguing against FPTP, that it did benefit the SNP in Scotland at the last election.
  2. She also blocked me on Twitter - which is a first for me - after I'd had the temerity to agree with someone that her leaflet lacked any positive policies.
  3. I never quite worked out where the Tory candidate lived but I think it was only a short distance outside the constituency.
  4. It wasn't in the end but it was damn close, the SNP candidate was only 513 votes behind the winner.

Tags: Nairn, national politics, Scotland Written 09/01/20

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