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Study Notes

First Past The Post (FPTP) - Introduction

Level:
AS
Board:
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) is a simple plurality electoral system, used in the Westminster general election to allocate votes to seats.

Candidate A- 20,000

Candidate B-15,000

Candidate C -35,000

Result:C wins

The party that wins the elections is the one that has most seats, with the general idea being that the winning party will have won more than 50% of the seats in the Parliament, which is 326 in the case of the House of Commons.

It is important to note some of the consequences of using First-Past-the-Post as an electoral system. In the example given above, the winning candidate (C), has won 50% of the votes, and the other two adding up to 50% of the votes in their constituency. The other candidates’ 35,000 votes are now wasted, as are the 14,999 surplus votes of the winning candidate (C only needed 20,001 votes to have won).

It is possible for Party C to have a result like this in every constituency, end up with 50% of the overall vote, and 100% of the seats (which is more or less what the SNP achieved in Scotland in the 2015 election. FPTP rewards parties that win small and lose big.

It is because of this that most Westminster General Elections are won by parties with nowhere near 50% of the total vote. In fact, Labour achieved 55% of the seats in the 2005 election with only 35% of the vote. FPTP is thus a non-proportional election system.

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