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LOCAL ELECTIONS 2023: Left-of-Centre Vote ‘Hopelessly Split as Twice as Many Progressives Running Against the Right in England’

Campaigners warn of vote-splitting as new analysis finds that the ‘progressive’ vote will be more split than the right in 69% of England’s council wards on 4 May

Photo: Claire Doherty/Sipa USA

LOCAL ELECTIONS 2023Left-of-Centre Vote ‘Hopelessly Split as Twice as Many Progressives Running Against the Right in England’

Campaigners warn of vote-splitting as new analysis finds that the ‘progressive’ vote will be more split than the right in 69% of England’s council wards on 4 May

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The progressive vote will be systematically ‘split’ in Thursday’s local elections in England – with on average of two candidates from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens running against just one right-wing candidate, new research suggests. 

A study by the union-backed Politics for the Many campaign, using data collated by Democracy Club, found that England’s ‘winner-takes-all’ First Past the Post voting system means that voters on the left are in effect being punished for having a choice of parties to vote for. Voters on the right, by contrast, see their chances of success boosted by fewer candidates to choose from.

Campaigners warn that today’s local elections will yet again see the left and centre-left held back by the First Past the Post – a system that has given the Conservatives an “increasing advantage” in recent elections, according to reform advocates. 

The findings come after Keir Starmer appeared to reject a move to proportional representation, after his spokesman told Byline Times that the Labour Leader had a “long standing” opposition to PR. 

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In 33% of wards, there is one unified ‘right’ party (the Conservatives) standing candidates against all three of the progressive ‘left’ parties (Labour/Lib Dem/Green), according to the research.

There are a further 32% of wards where there is one ‘right’ party (the Conservatives in all but four wards, where the ‘right’ party is Reform UK) standing candidates against two of the largest ‘left’ parties (either Labour, the Lib Dems or the Greens).   

This suggests that many voters may have to ‘hold their nose’ and vote tactically, opting to support a party they view as a lesser evil or risk seeing their vote ‘let in’ a right-wing party – a problem that voters on the right do not face in the local elections.  

Altogether, there are 3,345 wards (69% of all wards), where there are more ‘left’ parties standing candidates than ‘right’ parties (excludes 102 wards where no ‘right’ parties are standing). 

A new tactical voting tool is urging left-wingers to “hold their nose” and opt for a second choice to beat the Conservatives in the local elections. More than 250,000 people had reportedly used it by Wednesday afternoon. 

The figures reveal that, out of almost 5,000 wards where elections will take place, there are only 76 in the whole of England (1.6%) where there are more right parties standing than left parties (excluding 128 wards where no ‘left’ parties are standing).

There is just one ward out of thousands where all three ‘right’ parties are standing as candidates.  

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Pressure on Labour to back electoral reform is growing – at the party’s 2022 Conference delegates overwhelmingly backed a motion calling on the party to support PR in the next manifesto and just last week USDAW became the latest affiliated union to come out in support of reform meaning that two-thirds of Labour-affiliated trade unions now back reform.

Politics for the Many argues that with a proportional voting system like Single Transferable Vote (STV) – used for Scotland and Northern Ireland’s local elections – voters can rank candidates from different parties by preference, almost entirely eliminating the issue of votes being ‘split’. Voters can always vote for who they believe in and express a range of choices.   

Nancy Platts, coordinator of the Politics for the Many campaign (and a freelance colleague of the study’s author), said: “We’ve seen all too many times how our voting system serves as a barrier to progressive change, amplifying the votes of some while casting others on the scrap heap. The result – a winner-takes-all system that gifts unearned majorities to the government of the day…

“Our two-party system doesn’t reflect the reality of modern politics. It splits the vote of progressive voters forcing many to vote tactically, often supporting the ‘least worst’ candidate in order to try and game the broken system. In these local council elections, the odds are once again stacked against progressives and the results will likely reflect that in seats up and down the country.” 

If you have a political or social story that needs telling, get in touch with Byline Times’ Chief Reporter Josiah Mortimer confidentially by emailing

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