Local elections update: Could an overhaul to London Mayoral Elections be on the cards?


Another week and seven days closer to the local election. As things stand, we are 30 days away from the Monday, April 19 deadline for voter registration. The deadline to apply for Postal Voting is Tuesday 20 April 17:00. Polling day (the day everyone heads out to vote in person) is 6 May.

A recent revelation from the Home Secretary looks like it could have a lasting impact on elections in the capital.


The Home Secretary’s willingness to adopt the first past the post voting system has received notable pushback. 

The first past the post system – which is used during general elections – operates on a winner takes all principle. This results in the elected official with the largest number of votes in an area winning that seat. The most common criticism is that split votes among other candidates can lead to officials being voted in without a majority of the vote – this leads to a number of votes that are essentially wasted.

By contrast, the supplementary vote system which is used to elect the London mayor, metro mayors and police commissioners (PCC) is a preferential voting system.

Under this system, candidates must have ‘support’ from at least 50% of the voter base to be voted in. The public vote for their first and second choice in order of preference. If no one is elected with a majority of the vote, the two leading candidates advance to the next round. The second preference of those who voted for less successful candidates is then redistributed to name a winner. This is done to ensure a ‘broad base’ of support is established for the candidate that’s eventually elected. 

The 2016 London Mayoral elections provide an example of this system in action. Neither Labour candidate Sadiq Khan nor the Conservative’s Zac Goldsmith passed the 50% threshold in the first round of voting. Based on first preference alone, Sadiq Khan won 44.2% of the vote. Only in the following round, once they accounted for second choices, was the ‘broad base’ of support guaranteed. 

The Home Secretary argues that the change will make the system ‘simpler’ and give strong and clear accountability to the elections. Yet, there is no clear suggestion that voters do not understand the current voting system at present. The changes will not arrive in time for the elections in May but do provide an insight into what could be on the horizon. 

The Conservatives have been firm proponents of First Past the Post. In their 2019 manifesto, they stated that it ‘allows voters to kick out politicians who don’t deliver both locally and nationally’. Yet, the pushback has been clear.

The Standard reported that a spokesperson for Sadiq Khan described the current system as ‘fairer’ while saying a referendum should take place on the issue before any changes are made. 

Organisations such as Make Votes Matter and the Electoral Reform Society have also been critical of the proposals. Frederico Scolari was particularly strong in his rebuke of the proposals:

Turning back the clock with a discredited, outdated and broken voting system should never be a priority. And while the ends are commendable – improving accountability and legitimacy – these proposals do neither. 

~ Frederico Scolari

30 days until April 19 -  the registration deadline 

31 days until April 20 - postal vote application deadline

47 days until May 6 - election day 

Mayowa Ayodele


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