Plans to change London mayor election to First Past the Post system

A retrograde step, especially if viewed in the context of “devolution” to regions – Owl

Sean Morrison 

The London mayoral election and other local elections are to be changed to the First Past the Post system under plans being considered by the Government.

Priti Patel said the voting system for combined authority mayors, the mayor of London election and police and crime commissioners will all be changed.

Announcing the move, the Home Secretary said that First Past the Post “provides for strong and clear local accountability”.

The voting system awards seats to whoever has the highest vote count and does not take preferences into account.

The planned changes will need to be confirmed through Government legislation and will not be in place before the upcoming local elections on May 6.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson included in his 2019 election manifesto a pledge to further roll out the voting system, which is used for General Elections, at a local level.

The mayoral election in the capital is currently decided through a preference vote.

Two candidates go through to the second round if no one gets more than 50 per cent of the primary vote. A winner is then chosen by taking preferences into account from voters who chose eliminated candidates as their first preference.

In a ministerial written statement on Tuesday, Ms Patel said “transferable voting systems were rejected by the British people in the 2011 nationwide referendum”. Therefore, she said, local elections should be changed to reflect that.

Tony Travers, local government expert at the London School of Economics, said the change would “wipe out” many smaller parties like the Lib Dems and the Greens if it applied to the London Assembly.

The London Assembly is a 25-member body that holds the city’s mayor to account. It is made up of members directly elected through First Past the Post, and others who are elected through proportional London-wide voting.

“It’s hard to imagine them having the mayor and not the whole assembly as First Past the Post and if that happens it would disadvantage the Greens, Ukip and the Lib Dems,” he told City AM.

“It works very very well for the biggest and the second biggest party in the country.”

The London Mayor was created in 2000 following a referendum 1998. The type of voting system to elect the mayor was not on the referendum paper.

London Labour said the move amounted to “breathtaking arrogance” from the Government. A spokesperson said: “The people of London voted overwhelmingly in a referendum in 1998 for the creation of the Mayor of London in which voters would be able to state a first and second preference candidate.

“It’s a fairer system that promotes a wide choice for voters and it has served Londoners well for over twenty years and there’s no groundswell for a change.

“For the Tory Government to impose a change to the electoral system without first asking the views of Londoners in a follow-up referendum demonstrates their breathtaking arrogance and their utter disdain for devolution.”

The Standard has approached City Hall and the Home Office for comment on the move.