Would Labour have seven Sussex MPs under new voting system?

Lloyd Russell-Moyle (centre), and Peter Kyle (left) are Sussex's two Labour MPs
Lloyd Russell-Moyle (centre), and Peter Kyle (left) are Sussex's two Labour MPs

Labour could have returned seven Sussex MPs to Parliament at the 2017 general election if a different voting system had been used, according to new research.

Back in June under first-past-the-post, West Sussex elected eight Conservatives, East Sussex four Tories and one Lib Dem, and Brighton and Hove two Labour and one Green representative.

However if the single transferable vote (STV) system had been used the county and the country would have seen radically different results, according to research commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society.

STV is where larger constituencies are created and represented by a small team of MPs, elected by voters ranking candidates by numbered preference.

Rather than 16 separate Sussex parliamentary constituencies, the scenario imagines four: West Sussex (five representatives), Brighton & Lewes (four), and East Sussex (four), and Horsham & Crawley (three).

East Sussex would have returned two Labour MPs, a Tory, and Lib Dem; West Sussex three Tories and two for Labour; Brighton & Lewes two Labour, one Green, and one Tory; and Horsham & Crawley two Tories and one Labour, according to the research.

Overall in Sussex this would equate to seven Tory MPs, seven for Labour, one Lib Dem, and one Green.

This compares to the actual general election result of 12 Tory MPs, two Labour MPs, one Green, and one Lib Dem.

‘The 2017 General Election: Volatile Voting, Random Results’ was released today (Monday August 21) and relies on YouGov surveys to model results based on the different electoral systems.

The society described the report as the ‘third strike for Westminster’s voting system’.

Darren Hughes, the society’s newly-appointed chief executive, said: “June’s election has shown First Past the Post is unable to cope with people’s changing voting habits – forcing citizens and parties to try and game the system. With an estimated 6.5 million people ‘holding their nose’ at the ballot box, voters have been denied real choice and representation.

“This surge in tactical voting – double the rate of 2015 – meant voters shifted their party allegiances at unprecedented rates, with the second highest level of voter volatility since the inter-war years. A system designed for two parties cannot accommodate these complex electoral swings.

“In the nations and regions of the UK, elections now feel more like lottery than a real choice. As we’ve shown, tiny shifts in the vote result in drastically different outcomes. Having results hinge on a few hundred voters is no way to run a modern democracy.”

He added: “There are a wide range of systems where votes are not thrown on the electoral scrapheap.

“We need to move towards a means of electing our MPs where all voices are heard and where people don’t feel forced to hold their nose at the ballot box.”

While the Labour party’s vote surged across Sussex it picked up just one extra seat compared to 2015.

This was in Brighton Kemptown, where Lloyd Russell-Moyle turned a slender Tory majority into a near 10,000 vote majority for Labour.

The party did come close to unseating Home Secretary Amber Rudd in Hastings & Rye, and was nearest to taking seats off the Tories in Crawley and East Worthing & Shoreham,

According to the ERS’ research, under STV Labour would have polled 297 seats, ahead of the Conservatives at 283, with the Lib Dems taking 29.

Under the system, to be elected candidates are required to reached a set share of the vote, known as the quota, which is determined by the number of positions to be filled.

Parties can stand more than one candidate in each constituency, and in the polling station voters put numbers next to candidates, with a one next to their favourite, and two next to their second favourite, and so on.

Each voter has just one vote, but the numbering provides instructions for the counters to allow the vote to transfer.

Once all the votes are counted, any candidates who have more than the quota are elected.

Rather than waste votes over the quota, these votes are re-distributed based on the voter’s instructions.

If no candidate is then elected the worst performing candidate is eliminated and their votes redistributed. This process continues until all seats are filled.

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