I keep reading that the leadership election is to be held under ‘First Past The Post’ rules. I find this incomprehensible and hope that the current leadership / those organising the election will change this assumption.
As a party we vigorously oppose the current system of FPTP for election to the House of Commons – why on earth would we adopt such a system for such an important decision as who is to be our next party leader?
Para 7(8) of the constitution states (inter alia) :
Any contested election for the leadership shall be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast.
I do not, as a lawyer, see in this sentence any authority for carrying out the election under FPTP rules.
If the constitution framers had wished the election to be conducted under FPTP they could easily have said so – eg:
The winning candidate shall be she or he who has obtained more votes than any other candidate.
The candidate who obtains more votes than any other candidate has not thereby obtained ‘a simple majority of the votes cast’ (unless of course s/he has obtained coincidentally 50% plus one or more of the votes.) Such a candidate can be said to have obtained a ‘plurality’ of the votes cast.
[Definition of ‘plurality’ from Mirriam Wenster online dictionary:
‘a : a number greater than another
b : an excess of votes over those cast for an opposing candidate
c : a number of votes cast for a candidate in a contest of more than two candidates that is greater than the number cast for any other candidate but not more than half the total votes cast’]
But our constitution requires the winning candidate to have obtained ‘a simple majority’ of the votes cast. This can not mean, in any circumstances, a number lower than 50%. ‘Plurality’ and ‘majority’ are different words because they describe two utterly different concepts.
In my view (of course I would appreciate learning any arguments to the contrary of my interpretation) the constitution not only permits but requires those conducting the leadership election to do so via a system which ensures that the eventual winning candidate has obtained at least 50% plus one or more than one of the votes cast. This could, for example, be via a French type system of two rounds of voting with the top two candidates emerging from the first round going forward to a final ballot.
However if cost prohibits this then it could be done by some form of transferable voting on a single ballot paper.
My main argument against using FPTP for our leadership election is derived from a simple, but careful, analysis of the actual wording of Para 7(8).
However, what might be called a dry, or technical, analysis is also bolstered by concern for what could happen to our party if FPTP is used and results in someone who happens to receive more first preference votes than any other candidate but who, for example loses her or his deposit!
Imagine the fun the MSM will have at our expense if this be the outcome.
There could be a highly divisive candidate who nevertheless whips up sufficient enthusiasm to achieve more votes than anyone else. Such a person could not hope to truly lead an united party through the huge challenges which now face us, with even previously strong Brexiteers in the Cabinet now stating they agree to a lengthy ‘transitional’ period after 2019 when mass uncontrolled immigration will continue, when our seas will not be ours, and all the rest of it.
We need the strongest possible leader, with the strongest possible support base within the party and FPTP is absolutely not the mechanism whereby this can be achieved. In any event, as I argue, Para 7(8) does not even permit the FPTP system to be used. One can even imagine a candidate who is unsuccessful (under FPTP) bringing legal action to have the election result annulled. In my view such an action would inevitably succeed, with possibly terminal results for the party and for Brexit.
Trusting the readership of UKIPDaily will consider carefully this hugely important issue. There may still be time to press the current leadership to adopt a fair votes system, in sympathy not only with what we advocate for elections to Westminster, but also, quite simply, in accordance with our existing constitution.