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  • Campaigners warn of vote-splitting as new analysis finds that the average number of ‘progressive candidates’ outnumber right-wing candidates 2-1 in next week’s elections.
  • Statement from Politics for the Many campaign
  • For media enquiries and interviews, contact Jon Narcross [email protected] / 07794728820

The progressive vote will be systematically ‘split’ in next week’s council elections – with on average two candidates from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens running against just one right-wing candidate in England, new research has revealed.

Campaigners warn that this set of elections will yet again see the left and centre-left held back by the First Past the Post system – a system that has given the Conservatives and increasing advantage in recent elections.

The research from the Politics for the Many campaign, using data collated by Democracy Club, finds that England’s winner-takes-all voting system means voters on the left are in effect being punished for having a choice of parties to vote for, whereas voters on the right see their chances of success boosted by fewer candidates to choose from.

In 43.8% of wards, there is one unified ‘right’ party (the Conservatives) standing candidates against all three of the progressive ‘left’ parties (Lab/LD/Green).

There are a further 35.5% of wards where there is one ‘right’ party (the Conservatives standing candidates against two of the largest ‘left’ parties (either Labour, the Lib Dems or the Greens).

It means many voters may have to ‘hold their nose’ and vote tactically, opting to support a party they view as a lesser evil, or risk seeing their vote ‘let in’ a right-wing party – a problem that voters on the right do not face this election.

In 81.7% of wards, there are more ‘left’ parties standing candidates than ‘right’ parties.

The stark figures reveal that out of almost 3000 council seats up for grabs, there are only 15 wards in the whole of England (0.5% of wards) where there are more right parties standing than left parties.

There are zero wards where all three ‘right’ parties are standing candidates and only one ‘left’ party is standing candidates.

Pressure on Labour to back electoral reform is growing – at the party’s 2021 Conference 80% of Constituency Labour Parties backed a motion calling on the party to support PR in the next manifesto [1]

With a proportional voting system like STV – used for Scotland and Northern Ireland’s local elections or AMS as used in the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments and the London Assembly – voters can rank candidates from different parties by preference, almost entirely eliminating the issue of votes being ‘split’. Voters can always vote for who they believe in and express a range of choices.

The analysis comes just days after the government past the Elections Bill which further imposed the use of First Past the Post on elections for Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners, a move seen by many as a further attempt to tilt those elections in their favour [2].

Nancy Platts, coordinator of the Politics for the Many campaign, said:

“We’ve seen all too many times how our voting system serves as a barrier to progressive change, amplifying the votes of some while casting others on the scrap heap. The result – a winner-takes-all system that gifts unearned majorities to the government of the day. Governments that are all too often conservative.

“It’s a system that forces voters to vote tactically, often supporting the ‘least worst’ candidate in order to try and game the broken system. In these local elections the odds are once again stacked against progressives and the results will likely reflect that in seats up and down the country.

“Labour must get serious about electoral reform to overcome the structural advantage our electoral system gives the Conservatives – only then can progressive views to be given a fair chance at the ballot box.”

Full Findings

  • Across all 2859 wards, there is an average of 2.2 ‘left’ candidates standing per seat available, versus 1.0 ‘right’ candidate.
  • In 43.3% (2859) of wards there is one ‘right’ party (the Conservatives) standing candidates against all three of the ‘left’ parties (Labour/Liberal Democrat/Green).
  • There are a further 35.5% (1015) of all wards, where there is one ‘right’ party (the Conservatives) standing against two of the ‘left’ parties (either Labour, the Lib Dems or the Greens).
  • There are a further 2.4% (70) of all wards where there are two ‘right’ parties standing candidates against all three of the ‘left’ parties.
  • This means that in 81.7% (2337) of all wards where there are more ‘left’ parties standing than ‘right’ parties (excludes the 48 wards where there are either zero ‘left’ or zero ‘right’ parties).
  • There are zero wards where all 3 ‘right’ parties are standing candidates.
  • There are only 15 wards (0.5% of all wards) where there are more ‘right’ parties standing than ‘left parties’ (excludes the 48 wards where there are either zero ‘left’ or zero ‘right’ parties).
  • There are 459 wards (16.1% of all wards) where the number of ‘left’ and ‘right’ parties standing candidates is the same and a further 48 wards (1.7% of all wards) where either zero ‘left’ or zero ‘right’ parties are standing.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Politics for the Many is the trade union campaign for political reform, campaigning for proportional representation and a democratic overhaul of Westminster. https://politicsforthemany.co.uk/

Methodology

Politics for the Many and Labour for a New Democracy analysis of Democracy Club data. Our thanks to Democracy Club: democracyclub.org.uk

There are other parties standing candidates who could potentially be classified on the ‘left/right’ spectrum (e.g. TUSC/Freedom Alliance), but the researchers have focused on the three most established parties on either ‘side’.

The Liberal Democrats are generally described as ‘centre-left’, and are seen as a potential partner in a Progressive Alliance.

Researchers analysed data of all English local election candidates for elections taking place on 6 May (London boroughs; metropolitan boroughs; district councils; unitary authorities) from Democracy Club’s database.

They then took the three ‘right/centre-right’ parties (Conservative; Reform UK; UKIP) and the three ‘left/centre-left’ (Labour; Liberal Democrat; Green) and went through each ward, identifying how many candidates each of these six parties are standing.

[1] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/80-of-clp-back-pr-but-motion-falls-at-labour-party-conference/

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/greater-protections-for-voters-as-governments-elections-bill-achieves-royal-assent

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