However, coalitions work well in other countries (such as Germany), and FPtP does not completely stop coalitions, as shown by the fact that the UK currently has a coalition between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Indeed, coalitions can be more powerful than single-party governments as they have a larger majority, so are arguably more decisive – the 2010 election gave the coalition a 59% majority, which is the highest since 1935. Coalitions also stop an electoral dictatorship from arising, as one party does not hold all the power.
I think that the strong and decisive government is a key advantage to the FPtP system, and the benefits of it definitely outweigh its negatives.
FPtP is very simple and straightforward to use, whereas other systems are complex and harder to understand. FPtP relies on a very simple concept: the one with the most votes wins. This idea is accessible to all, which means that a good turnout is ensured – if people understand it, they’ll vote. Other systems, such as AMS and STV, rely on complex ways of calculating the winner of an election, some including formulas, such as the Droop and D’Hondt. It was shown that the public prefer the simplicity of FPtP in the 2011 referendum.
Because of its simplicity, FPtP is cheaper to run – you only need volunteers to count the votes, not to calculate.
However, turnout is low in the UK – 2001 had the lowest turnout since 1918, with only 59% of the electorate voting. That’s 41% of the public not being represented. Because of this, there’s an argument that there’s currently a participation crisis in the UK, which when political apathy is so high that election turnouts drop very low, which shows that only a select number of people are voting, and the views of the whole of the UK is not being represented in Parliament. The people who do not vote as much are those in a disadvantaged situation – the poor, or the homeless, which is a large part of the UK’s political voice not being heard.
I think the simplicity of FPtP is a good idea in theory, but not when it’s put into practice, so overall the drawbacks of this advantage outweigh the negatives, as it’s hard to tell if political apathy would be lower if a different system were used.
A third advantage of FPtP is party representation. FPtP allows a link between voter and the MP. The public know who to go to when they want something changed or to complain – the MP of their constituency. FPtP can also stop parties with extremist views from coming into power. This is because it requires a party to have the most votes, and if an extremist party is competing with a major party in the same constituency, the likelihood is they won’t win that seat. This can stop fringe groups being put in a position where they can influence the country’s outcome. An example of this is that the BNP (a far-right party) gained over 550,000 votes in 2010, but didn’t win a seat.
However, some would argue that the under-representation of smaller parties is bad – if over half a million people vote for a party, then why shouldn’t they have any influence? This is because FPtP is not a proportional system, and therefore over-represents the larger parties, giving them more power than they are entitled to.
Wasted votes are also an issue with this system as well. In the 2010 election, 52.8% of votes cast were for the losing candidates. That’s over half the population who made no difference to the overall outcome of the vote, and aren’t represented in the Commons by someone they support.
I think that this advantage is outweighed heavily by its drawbacks, and is one of the key failing points of FPtP.
When assessing voting systems, a key part of where you fall on the debate is whether you think that Parliament is in place to produce a strong government or to represent the people. It’s a compromise that has to be made, and although I feel the biggest advantage is the strong and decisive government FPtP produces – coalitions may work well in some situations, but a single-party system work better. However, this is not enough to sway may view. I think that the advantages of the FPtP system do not outweigh the negatives. This is because it’s ridiculous that the majority of the electorates views are not represented and that smaller parties (although large) are unable to have a say in this country’s politics.