What If: The council elections had been FPP

The Dom Post today reports that businessman Graham Bloxham wants “to start a conversation” about the single transferable voting system. 

“A central Wellington billboard saying “It took five losers to unseat Kerry – RIP democracy Wellys!” was swiftly dismantled at the behest of a “horrified” Kerry Prendergast.

The Cable St billboard was commissioned and paid for by businessman Graham Bloxham “to start a conversation” about the single transferable voting system, which let Celia Wade-Brown clinch the Wellington mayoralty.

The M5 advertising company shareholder said it was unfair the outgoing mayor was beaten by her underdog, Green rival despite winning thousands more first preference votes.

Mr Bloxham, 42, said he paid $1500 to erect the six-by-three-metre billboard but had it pulled down only hours later yesterday morning. “I feel strongly about it but, on reflection, I decided I needed to do it in a different forum.”


While I prefer STV this got me thinking about how FPP would have changed the result. So what would the Wellington City Council look like under First Past the Post?

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown Kerry Prendergast
Northern Justin Lester

Ngaire Best

Helene Ritchie

Onslow-Western Andy Foster

John Morrison

Jo Coughlan

Lambton Ian McKinnon

Iona Pannett

Stephanie Cook

Ian McKinnon

Iona Pannett

Marcus Ganley 

Eastern Leonie Gill

Ray Ahipene-Mercer

Simon ‘Swampy’ Marsh

(order change only)

Ray Ahipene-Mercer

Leonie Gill

Simon ‘Swampy’ Marsh

Southern Paul Eagle

Bryan Pepperell


So the overall composition of the council would change very little, apart from the key figure of the Mayor.  Kerry Prendergast got 21,809 first preferences votes compared to Celia Wade-Brown, who received 18,560.

The only other change would have been that Labour candidate Marcus Ganley would have been elected with 1,143 first preference votes compared to the seemingly very lucky ex-Alliance councillor Stephanie Cook, a councillor since 1995, who received 1,077 votes.

I am glad that Celia was elected. It was time for a change. But it’s a shame that someone with Marcus Ganley’s energy and fresh ideas was defeated by someone whose effectiveness and work ethic was recently rated as ‘very poor’ by a panel of local body experts.  Name recognition still counts for too much.


13 responses to “What If: The council elections had been FPP

  1. STV is clearly too complicated for some people, that two votes for losers line really misses the point. More voters preferred W-B to Prendergast how hard is that to grasp?

  2. I think you’re being a bit harsh on Stephanie as I suspect she will be a lot more effective under Celia than under Kerry. Time will tell though. That said, I do agree that Marcus looked like he would have made a good addition to council.

    And rather than blame STV, Kerry’s fanclub should point the finger at her campaign which was pretty much non-existant. She sleepwalked her way to defeat against a very passionate and mobilised opposition campaign.

  3. While your analysis makes sense on the surface, the key unanswered question is whether people would change their voting approach under FPP – and the evidence from national elections is that voter behavior under MMP is much more tactical and nuanced than voting under FPP. So while the comparison is interesting, it’s not necessarily directly comparable.

    And the other question is why the same billboard didn’t appear after Kerry won under STV at the 2007 election. Or perhaps the obvious question about why Graham Bloxham didn’t bother having a “conversation” about the merits of STV when the issue of electoral systems went to referendum in Wellington in 2008 ….

    But for all that, good on Kerry for being horrified at the billboard.

  4. You are a clever man and that’s absolutely right. People would be much more careful with a use it or lose it vote. Sir Michael may have been further down the rankings.

  5. Kent Duston :
    …the evidence from national elections is that voter behavior under MMP is much more tactical and nuanced than voting under FPP.

    I’m not sure what your definition of tactical voting is, but were it not for the 5% threshold (and the aberrant ability to override it with an electorate seat), it would be virtually impossible to tactically vote under MMP.

    MMP is ideally suited to electing assemblies where parties dominate and STV to those where individuals do. In fact, STV for our electorate MPs would be a democratic improvement.

    I would argue that while the resulting parliaments are more nuanced the votes that put them together are more explicit (if varied) under MMP.

    Kent Duston :
    But for all that, good on Kerry for being horrified at the billboard.

    In light of her earlier comments I bet it was through clenched teeth.

  6. I think this exercise is a bit of a mistake, tbh. Well we can only speculate about the result, I’m sure there would have been a lot of people who first-preferenced Jack Yan or Brian Pepperall who would have instead given their vote to Celia in an fpp situation, in order to avoid wasting their vote.

    Stephanie and Marcus were both good candidates, Lambton was saturated with quality.

    • Agreed. I suspect there’s every chance Kerry’s numbers would have looked worse under FPP. Given the strong ‘anyone but Kerry’ sentiment, many of those who voted Jack or Brian as their first choice under STV may have shifted their vote to Celia instead.

      • Yes, I am in Canberra working for Gillard. No, Marcus has no plans to move here.

        I suspect Qantas and Air NZ will be making some money from us in the next little while though.

      • Hi Wilbur. While it is true my partner (and campaign manager) Annie Williams has recently started a job with Julia Gillard, I’ve got no plans to move to Australia. I’m currently in Canberra visiting and I will visit as frequently as I can manage.

        I agree with Iona and Kent that it is very difficult to know how people would have voted if the electoral system was different. Patrick Dunleavy of the LSE did some really interesting work in the 1990s on the extent to which you can model what the likely results would have been if a UK election was run under electoral system. This could provide some useful insights.

        Finally, I should say I support STV, I voted for it in the referendum and would vote for it again.

  7. I had my tickets booked to Australia if Kerry got a 4th. I know I know, I would have been raising the IQ totals of both countries.

  8. Will Marcus stand again? I’d drop off pamphlets for him if he did. In other news – Mayor-elect Celia Wade-Brown is to nominate Cr Ian McKinnon as Deputy Mayor.

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