Here's how Portsmouth, Havant, Gosport and Fareham's politics would look under proportional representation

A ballot box containing votes from local elections. Picture: Malcolm Wells
A ballot box containing votes from local elections. Picture: Malcolm Wells
Share this article
0
Have your say

POLITICS is often said to be an all or nothing game – with no prizes for second place in an election.

Councillors and MPs are elected in a first past the post system meaning the first person to hit a majority wins, and thousands of votes for other candidates are not represented.

Philippa Gray, third-right, joins campaigners including Caroline Osbourne of Make Votes Matter to demonstrate for proportional representation. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Philippa Gray, third-right, joins campaigners including Caroline Osbourne of Make Votes Matter to demonstrate for proportional representation. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Eight years ago an attempt to bring in an alternative vote was rejected in a Coalition-era referendum.

But now a national call to ditch the first-past-the-post electoral system is gaining traction. 

Amid the chaos of Brexit and the race for a new Conservative prime minister some activists now want proportional representation instead.

The electoral system would see the distribution of seats at parliamentary and council levels correspond as closely as possible to the total number of votes cast for each party.

A graph comparing the make-up of Portsmouth City Council with how the authority would look under a proportional representation electoral system. Figures used for calculations were from the authority's latest local elections results, on May 2, 2019.

A graph comparing the make-up of Portsmouth City Council with how the authority would look under a proportional representation electoral system. Figures used for calculations were from the authority's latest local elections results, on May 2, 2019.

LATEST POLITICS: Keep up to date on what our councillors and MPs are doing in Portsmouth

For example if a party earned 30 per cent of votes in an election, the system would see them gain 30 per cent of the seats available – contrary to votes currently wasted after a majority.

How proportional representation could change our councils’ make-up

Calculations by The News show Portsmouth, Havant, Gosport and Fareham councils would all look very different if the authorities’ latest local elections were run this way. 

A graph comparing the make-up of Havant Borough Council with how the authority would look under a proportional representation electoral system. Figures used for calculations were from the authority's latest local elections results, on May 2, 2019.

A graph comparing the make-up of Havant Borough Council with how the authority would look under a proportional representation electoral system. Figures used for calculations were from the authority's latest local elections results, on May 2, 2019.

Portsmouth would have gained six Ukip councillors and two Greens, and Labour would have picked up five seats to match the Conservatives on 11 – five fewer than the Tories have now. 

The Liberal Democrats would still be out on top but only by a single seat, on 12, replicating five opposition losses. 

READ MORE: Shared home bid is rejected for being ‘too small’

The change would be even more drastic at Havant Borough Council. 

A graph comparing the make-up of Gosport Borough Council with how the authority would look under a proportional representation electoral system. Figures used for calculations were from the authority's latest local elections results, on May 3, 2018.

A graph comparing the make-up of Gosport Borough Council with how the authority would look under a proportional representation electoral system. Figures used for calculations were from the authority's latest local elections results, on May 3, 2018.

Conservatives currently rule the roost by filling 33 of the authority’s 38 seats, leaving just two for Labour, two for Ukip and one for the Liberal Democrats. 

Conservative rule in Havant would be cut under new system

But under the new system the Tory rule would be slashed to 17, with opposition Ukip councillors filling eight seats and the Liberal Democrats taking seven. 

The borough would also have four Labour councillors and two representatives for the Green Party. 

As part of the national Make Votes Matter campaign, which is calling for PR, Lib Dem activist Philippa Gray took to Havant town centre earlier this month to rally for change. 

She believes a reformed system would fuel a ‘new type of politics’ that would give all voters the power to elect MPs and councillors who make them ‘feel like they are being listened to’.

A graph comparing the make-up of Fareham Borough Council with how the authority would look under a proportional representation electoral system. Figures used for calculations were from the authority's latest local elections results, on May 3, 2018.

A graph comparing the make-up of Fareham Borough Council with how the authority would look under a proportional representation electoral system. Figures used for calculations were from the authority's latest local elections results, on May 3, 2018.

‘You have only got to look at the number of votes cast and the number of MPs elected to see there is a huge mismatch... it leaves people feeling unrepresented,’ she said. 

‘It’s about that feeling of nobody listening’

‘People feel so disenfranchised and they say on the doorstep they won’t vote because they don’t see the point. It’s about that feeling of nobody listening.

‘[PR] is fairer for everyone involved, even the big parties, who go along with first past the post because it suits them.’ 

Another benefit of PR, Philippa claims, is that it would increase voter turnout by making the electoral process more accessible to the general public. 

‘I think we should have one system of PR across all elections so people feel they understand what they’re doing,’ she said. 

‘I believe participation really would increase because it might get them interested again – they would see something change dramatically.’ 

Change should ‘happen at all levels’

Even though his party would stand to lose councillors if it was introduced, Lib Dem Portsmouth City Council leader, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said PR 'should happen at all levels’. 

‘It means people from different parties are forced to work together which is much better,’ he said. 

‘I worked on a council where every single councillor was a Lib Dem and that wasn’t good because it meant everyone who voted for any other party had nobody to put their point of view to.’ 

If a new system was brought in at Gosport Borough Council it would see the Lib Dems lose six councillors, falling to 14, the Tories lose one to drop to 17 and Labour make five gains to earn seven seats. 

How were the figures cal

One seat would then be picked up by the Green Party and another would be won by Ukip or an independent. Both groups got less than one per cent of the vote in May, 2018.  

MP says system is ‘not perfect’ but should be kept

While her party would retain a nine-seat council majority, the town’s Conservative MP, Caroline Dinenage, is adamant a system like that used to elect MEPs is not the way forward. 

She fears locally-recognised ward councillors and members of Parliament would become a thing of the past if it was introduced. 

‘We held a national referendum in 2011 in which the country voted to keep the first past the post system for elections to the House of Commons,’ she said. 

‘This voting system, while not perfect, is well established and understood by voters and provides a clear link between constituents and their representatives in Parliament or councils.  

‘In contrast, how many people can name their MEPs?’

How politicians in the House of Commons could change

On a parliamentary level, our sums show the region would lose one of its four Conservative MPs under PR, with Labour standing to gain a second – but this distribution could differ depending on how the national political picture stacks up after electoral reform.  

Alan Mak, the Conservative MP for Havant, said proportional representation would be ‘unfair’ and its calculated nature would make it ‘complex to administer and hard to understand’. 

He said: ‘The current first past the post system is fair, easy to understand and ensures a strong direct link between an MP and a constituency. We should stick with it.

‘The principle that the candidate with the most votes wins an election is right and proper.’ 

Labour MP says voters have not raised alternative vote as a priority

But while it hasn’t been on his agenda the Labour MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said he would ‘always' welcome residents’ thoughts on ‘fairer’ voting systems. 

‘First past the post has contributed to political disenchantment, voter fatigue and consequently, low voter turnout,’ he said. 

‘My party has played a leading role in democratising this country by introducing proportional systems across all devolved parliaments and assemblies in Wales, Scotland and London, demonstrating a belief that democracy is not just a means to an end but valuable in itself.

‘We know that 87 per cent of OECD countries use proportional electoral systems, indicating that perhaps there is a need for electoral reform in this country.

‘I am sympathetic to fairer voting systems. Since being elected as MP this has not been a priority issue raised with me by Portsmouth people.

‘I always welcome constituents’ thoughts on this.’

Finally, in Fareham, a new system would see Conservatives’ 24 seats fall to 17, the Lib Dems would gain four seats to reach nine and Labour would leap from zero to four seats. 

Ukip would also lose its sole councillor and the seat currently held by a non-aligned independent would remain. 

‘Archaic and undemocratic’ first past the post causes tactical voting, MEP says

ELECTORS have picked their European representatives using proportional representation for 20 years.

It means our 10 South East MEPs have the system to thank for their election to the European Parliament on May 23. 

South East Green Party MEP Alexandra Phillips, who covers the Portsmouth area, is all for reform in Britain, claiming the current system is ‘archaic and undemocratic’ and encourages tactical voting. 

She told The News: ‘It's clear that the British public want a new way of doing politics, with an overwhelming increase in support for the Greens both in the local elections and in the European elections earlier this year.

‘The European elections use proportional representation rather than first past the post and therefore are the most democratic elections that my constituents in the South East region have.’ 

She added: ‘Only with parliamentary reform will we see more people coming out to vote and for their vote to be for their first-choice party. People have had enough of voting tactically for second-best.’ 

Liberal Democrat South East MEP Anthony Hook is also in favour of the system and says it would leave all voters ‘better off’, irrespective of party lines. 

He said: ‘In the European Parliament, PR is used to elect MEPs and people work together here.  

‘You have to build alliances across party lines and persuade each other with good points.

‘It is less confrontational than UK politics at Westminster or as I saw as a local councillor.

‘Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland use PR for some elections. Only England does not and it should do so. We would all be better off under a fairer electoral system.’ 

Calculations for proportional representation have been carried out by using the latest full local election figures for each authority. 

One per cent of each council’s total number of seats was multiplied by the percentage of the vote each party got at the polls. 

This was then rounded to the nearest whole number, to give a clear indication of how many seats each party would have based on the share of votes they received. 

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The MP for Gosport, Caroline Dinenage. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The MP for Gosport, Caroline Dinenage. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Havant MP Alan Mak. Picture: Sarah Standing (020519-6892)

Havant MP Alan Mak. Picture: Sarah Standing (020519-6892)

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

South East Green Party MEP Alexandra Phillips. Picture: Richard Lemmer

South East Green Party MEP Alexandra Phillips. Picture: Richard Lemmer