Bedford Place and bike lanes: a window into our flawed voting system

 Charlie Cutt  July 2021

Whatever side of the debate you are on, the Bedford Place saga and bike lane removal have perfectly illustrated the problem with First Past the Post as a voting system: just because one party won the majority of seats, does not mean they speak for the majority of residents. In fact, quite the opposite here in Southampton. 

In May’s local elections, the Conservatives took power of the council for the first time in nine years, due to winning a majority of seats via the First Past the Post system. The votes across the city were split as follows: Conservative 43.2%, Labour 37.9%, Green Party 9.2%, Liberal Democrats 8.5%, Others  1.2%, yet the Conservatives won 11 seats, Labour 5 and the others nothing! Hardly representative of voters’ preferences.


The Conservatives now claim to have a mandate for reversing all the positive active travel schemes that the city’s multitude of ‘green’ community and political groups have long campaigned for, which were backed by the Labour council. However, we can see from the results that the Conservatives do not speak for the majority; 56.8% of voters did not want their plans for this city. 56.8% of voters want to see a Southampton that rivals all the other major cities of the UK and Europe. Active travel, pedestrianised centres which are welcoming and friendly for visitors, bustling bars and cafes on our streets, culture and vibrancy, green corridors for walking and cycling, far less air pollution. The benefits are endless, yet the Conservatives are trying to take Southampton back into the dark ages of the grey, choked, polluted, vehicle-centric city centres of the past.


The issue here is that we do not have Proportional Representation. Therefore, the votes for candidates that didn’t win are essentially cast aside, irrespective of the number/percentage overall. We end up with one party claiming to speak for the majority, when the opposite is true. So until we can fix our broken system, the Green Party, Southampton’s third largest political party, is urging you to get out there and support your community’s local active travel initiatives and traffic free zones that have started to make our city a better place for people to thrive. Use your right to protest and fight for the human rights and freedoms that our national Conservative government are also currently trying to take away from us!

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