First past the post


Sir, – Christopher McMahon (Letters, January 21st) is but the latest of many complainants to The Irish Times over the years about the UK’s “first past the post” electoral system. Perhaps it is time to put up a defence of that system.

When the EU elections of 2014 took place under proportional representation, Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (Ukip) took 24 of the UK’s 73 seats. This was sufficient to spook the then-prime minister David Cameron into offering a referendum on EU membership to prevent Ukip from garnering Conservative seats in the upcoming general election. In the event, Ukip managed just one of the UK’s 650 in the 2015 general election. Mr Farage’s follow-up Brexit Party did not even obtain a single seat in the 2019 general election, despite having gained 29 out of 73 seats in the 2019 European elections under proportional representation. Mr Farage himself has never succeeded in being elected to Westminster. The lesson in all of this is that the “first past the post” system has consistently ensured that extremist radical parties have not achieved a foothold in Westminster but have most to gain from proportional representation.

If David Cameron had learned the lessons of history and held his nerve, we would not see the UK exiting the EU at the end of this month, following the chaos of the past three years and with all the unknown consequences for the future. Brexit is a product of proportional representation, not of the “first past the post” system which broadly leads to more consensus politics. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.