I’m not sure about this. Of the 356 seats Labour won in 2005, only 37 - barely 10% - were won with a majority of under 2000, the equivalent of grinding out results where it matters. On the other hand, Labour won more seats with majorities of 12000 or more than the Lib Dems won in total.If Manchester United win the Premier League title, but have a lower goal difference than Chelsea as it looks as though they may, we won’t say that United cheated; we’ll say they ground out the results when it mattered.
One could equally well argue - consistently with the paper cited by Paul - that Labour’s success is due to geography. Its support is concentrated in urban and working class areas, which gives it lots of seats with a huge majority. With these in its pocket, it can divert resources to fighting marginals.
Put it this way. It’s theoretically possible to get 30% of the votes in each constituency but end up with no MPs; Lib Dems suffer under FPTP because they are closer to this than Labour or the Tories.
But is this due to inefficient campaigning, as Paul implies? Or is it instead because of a geographic misfortune which FPTP penalizes?
If I were to defend FPTP, I’d argue differently from Paul - along the following lines:
We know from welfare economics that, in a world of inefficiencies, it’s possible to increase overall welfare by introducing a new inefficiency. A similar thing might be true of justice. The injustice done by FPTP to Lib Dems actually increases overall justice.This argument seems to me theoretically acceptable. The objections to it are that the Labour party has been a poor defender of the interests of the worst off, and that FPTP doesn’t just give a bias towards working class votes, but also towards Tory ones which are also geographically concentrated. The argument that FPTP gives us "strong government" is, of course, gibber.
FPTP gives more weight than would a “fair” voting system to the votes of the worst-off, as these are geographically concentrated. But this extra weighting merely offsets the injustices the worst-off suffer in other ways. It introduces a little Rawlsianism into an unjust world.
Yes, in a fully just world we wouldn’t have FPTP. But such a world would also see the biases against the worst-off removed as well. Whilst the latter remain, FPTP gives a little counter-weight to those biases.