In my previous article I discussed the way that voter turnout relates to local party campaigning in local elections, with voters more likely to go to the polls in marginal wards where the parties are mounting more vigorous campaigns. Of course, the first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system encourages parties to concentrate on seats where they have a chance of topping the poll. But how well did the parties do at turning votes into seats? This graph shows the average number of votes per seat for each party across Cambridgeshire:
The Conservatives did best at turning votes into seats, winning 32 seats with their 59,129 votes. Although they lost ground this year, they needed fewer votes for each seat than in 2009, when they won 42 seats with 94,806 votes, an average of 2,257.
The Lib Dems did reasonably well in terms of votes per seat. Despite their support for proportional representation, they are ironically very good at fighting low-turnout FPTP elections, and are known for their effective targeting of resources.
UKIP needed an average of 3,094 votes for each of their 12 seats. To a large extent they were swept along by a wave of support that didn’t have much to do with local campaigning – they won several wards that they probably weren’t expecting to, where they had done little on the ground. It remains to be seen how well they can turn their sudden increase in support into an enduring campaigning capability.
Poor old Labour are propping up this chart, with only one seat for every 4,376 votes they received. Their main problem is that, outside Cambridge, their support is so widely distributed that they didn’t win any seats. They got nearly two-thirds of their votes from outside Cambridge, but all seven of their councillors were elected by Cambridge City wards. This is the opposite of the situation at Westminster, where FPTP gives Labour a distinct advantage due to the concentration of their voters across the country.
There were also four Independent councillors elected, but since they don’t form a party, their votes per seat aren’t really comparable.
Finally, here are the total votes across Cambridgeshire for the parties that didn’t win any seats at all:
Only the Greens are really in a position to feel hard done by, and given the current state of their party locally, it’s hard to see where their next council seat is coming from.