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Editor's comment: Hackney Council election result proves we need a fairer voting system

PUBLISHED: 12:24 10 May 2018 | UPDATED: 13:33 10 May 2018

Alastair Binnie-Lubbock (right) looks on at the tense Hackney Downs count on Friday. He lost out on a seat by a few dozen votes. Picture: Ken Mears

Alastair Binnie-Lubbock (right) looks on at the tense Hackney Downs count on Friday. He lost out on a seat by a few dozen votes. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

Fifty-two Labour councillors and five Conservatives will file into the Hackney Council chamber on May 23.

Re-elected: Mayor of Hackney Phil Glanville. Picture: Ken MearsRe-elected: Mayor of Hackney Phil Glanville. Picture: Ken Mears

So the Tories must have been Hackney’s second party, right?

Actually, no – the Greens polled more votes than they did, and performed particularly strongly in Dalston (where Alex Armitage came so close a recount was needed).

But for two dozen more ballot papers, the party might have won its first seat since 2006, but there are no shades of grey (or green) in first past the post: you’re in or out.

It’s not that I resent Labour’s success in Hackney: having got to know a number of councillors and the mayor since I started in 2016 I believe the borough is in good hands.

It’s more that the result seems to vindicate the unshakeable tradition of people not voting in local elections: there’s no point going to the polling station, goes the (circular) argument, because my voice won’t be heard.

So what on earth can be done to convince people local elections really are a big deal?

Problem is, I don’t think the solution is to tell people over and over again that they have to vote when we get results like this: I think they need to actually see the difference they’ve made by voting.

And for everyone who voted Green (and for that matter Lib Dem), first past the post hasn’t delivered that.

Proportional representation in 2014 would have delivered 11 Green councillors in Hackney – 11 more than we actually got.

And for those worried that PR would allow fringe or extremist parties to get a foothold, all the other seats would have gone to the three main parties.

The local government secretary is just days into his new job, and I believe he has his work cut out for him.

Our local voting system isn’t fit for purpose: he must look into bringing in PR for councils before 2022.

The electorate deserves it.

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