The Mayoral Elections – a fair system?

On Thursday, the electorate took to the polls to decide on the new mayor of London and with Boris Johnson reclaiming the title we can now look at the vote from an electoral point of view.

The Mayor of London is elected through a system called supplementary vote, a majoritarian system. The voter gets one vote with a first and second preference. If no candidate wins a majority of first preferences, all but the top two candidates are eliminated, and the second preference votes for the remaining two eligible candidates are added to their first preference votes.

The advantages of this system are that the winning candidate must achieve broad support as they are appealing for not only first preference votes but second preference votes as well, they also need broad support to ensure a majority. Another advantage is that the second preference of voters who supported minor parties are counted (as long as their second preference is for a party that’s most likely to be within the top two), suggesting that most votes count.

The disadvantages of this system are that the winning candidate does not need to get a majority of first preference votes; they could just get a high number of second preference votes. Also, if the system was used for general elections, it would not deliver a proportional outcome. The system is still skewed towards the big parties, with smaller parties ultimately not getting anything, even if they come a strong third.

Turnout was very low, at 38%, at the last mayoral elections in 2008 it was 45% and considering the difference between Boris and Ken was a 3.06% majority, turnout could’ve been what lost it for Labour. However Ken was always going to be a tough candidate, with much personal controversy and dislike towards him, many Londoners just felt like they couldn’t trust him although the party did make advances on the London Assembly.

The Lib Dems were one of the main casualties of this election, finishing 4th behind the Greens, a sound reflection alongside the local election results of the troubles that the Lib Dems will face at the next general election.


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