How is the Election Won?

How is the Election Won?

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To end our series of politics blogs we thought it would be useful to look at how our votes are counted and how a party would win the election.

To end our series of politics blogs we thought it would be useful to look at how our votes are counted and how a party would win the election.

If you find any of the terms used below confusing please see our Jargon Buster blogs.

The British electoral system operates a First Past the Post method. This system is used both at constituency level, electing the MP for the individual seat and also at National Level, with the party with the majority in the House of Commons.

What is First Past the Post?

First Past the Post essentially means that the candidate with the most votes wins, this doesn’t matter if it is one vote or 100 votes more than their rival. This also means that the party with the most MP’s elected wins the election.
Just because a party wins the election it does not however guarantee that they will form a government as a majority of MP’s is need to form a government.


Party A receive 4 votes
Party B receive 3 votes
Party C receive 3 votes
Party A have the greatest number of votes but they do not have enough to form a government as they are outnumbered by Party B and Party C. Party B and C can form a coalition government, however this is not usual practice, as generally speaking a government is not formed without the winning party.

Advantages of First Past the Post
The main advantage of having first past the post is that there is very little chance of extremist parties being elected to Parliament as they are very unlikely to achieve enough votes in one given area.
It also makes the result easier to calculate therefore the change from one government to the next can be achieved in a fluid movement.

Disadvantages of First Past the Post
The main disadvantage of first past the most is that the number of votes does not necessarily transfer to an even number of seats won. There have been numerous cases of this in the past where the votes cast do not reflect the seats gained. E.g. in 1974 Labour won the general election as they had the most seats however the conservatives had a larger number of overall votes across the country.


Vote 1 Vote 2 Vote 3 Total Seats Total Vote
Party A 40 10 50 2 100
Party B 30 80 30 1 140
Party C 30 10 20 0 60

Party A would win the election under first past the post as they have the most seats gained however Party B have the most overall votes. Party C on the other hand represent 20% of the vote but do not have any seats or any say in overall policy.

This means that any small parties that receive votes may have no representation in parliament or indeed the majority of voters chose another party.

This sometimes leads to tactical voting – Please see yesterday’s Blog “The Truth about Vote Swapping” for more information.

How does a party win the election?

In a nutshell a party would win the election by having the highest number of MP’s elected. From this the party would be required to form a government that can pass legislation, for this a majority would be needed. Just because a party has won the election does not guarantee a majority.
There are 650 seats available so technically, 326 is a majority; however in practice 323 is, as the Speaker in the commons customarily does not vote and MP’s from Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland don’t recognise the sovereignty of Westminster, so don’t vote.
If a party does not hold an overall majority it is classed as a hung parliament and a coalition between two or more parties would be needed to form a government.

We hope you have enjoyed our series of Politics Blogs! Hopefully we have been able to provide you with a more informed insight into how the General Election works. By now you should be able to vote for the party that best represents your values and ideals about the best government.


Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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