Two reasons why Libdems might not benefit from AV


12:42 pm - February 18th 2011

by Rupert Read    


      Share on Tumblr

For everyone, from the BBC and Peter Kellner to Nick Clegg himself, there are assumptions that LibDems will benefit from the referendum in May.

And after all, haven’t the LibDems in the past suffered a good deal from the ‘wasted vote’ argument, which AV would put an end to?

But there are two good reasons why this might not happen.

1) In general terms, First Past the Post (FPTP) suppresses the vote of LibDems in places where they are weak (where they are perceived as a ‘wasted vote’) – but it artificially bolsters their vote in places where they are already strong (where they benefit from tactical voting). What does this mean?

It means that introducing AV would (ceteris paribus) increase the 1st preference LibDem vote in places where they are weak – places where they have no chance of winning – and decrease their 1st preference vote in places where they are strong – where at present they benefit from tactical votes.

2) For the first time ever, there will be large-scale deliberate anti-LibDem voting, at the next General Election. There will for instance be many Labour (and Green, and Nationalist, etc.) 1st preference voters who quite deliberately do not put the LibDems down as their 2nd or 3rd or even 4th preference…because they are so disgusted with the LibDems’betrayals.

People looking to give Nick Clegg one in the eye at the next General Election will have ample opportunity to do so, under AV. They can deliberately put the LibDems bottom of their preference-list (or leave them off it altogether).

Studies
But what of the academic studies that tell us that AV will benefit the LibDems?

These studies, very rashly, and unprofessionally, work on the basis of what voters’ second preferences were last May – thus ignoring that the LibDems will now very likely garner less second preferences than in the past.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
This is a guest post. Rupert Read is a Green Party councillor and ran as a MEP candidate in Eastern region in 2009. He blogs at Rupert's Read and Comment is free
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Libdems ,Our democracy ,Westminster

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


Yes this is quite likely. It is a democratic reform first and foremost, to the point that it is even supported by some in Labour and the Tories, to their great credit.

And if Labour and Green voters choose to rank Conservatives above Lib Dems, it is only right that this will be reflected in the election results.

Similarly, left-leaning Lib Dems disgusted that Labour did not make a serious centre-left counter-offer in May, can put Labour last for the same sort of reasons.

But FWIW, I think I’ll look at the manifestos.

2. Chaise Guevara

I remember reading about a survey that said, contrary to Lib Dem assumptions, fewer people would vote for them if they thought they could win the general election. This was well before the 2010 vote.

In addition to the above, on rather a more long-term scale: it’s entirely possible that, even if AV had been brought in by the previous government and the Lib Dems had never taken the PR hit of backing the Tories, their vote share would still have dwindled as people decided to vote for smaller parties, like the Greens. It’s worth noting that, in many constituencies, the Lib Dems have for a long time been the only minor party with a chance of beating their Tory/Labour opponents.

While the analysis here is interesting, really the key question should be whether the proposed system is more representative of people’s choices than the existing one. If everyone decides to judge voting systems purely on whether they provide their favourite faction with maximum seats, then it’s bound to be impossible ever to agree on any new voting system of any sort.

@CG (2) – agree entirely.

The Lib Dems have long occupied the ‘protest vote’ box in many constituencies. You could even argue their existence is owed to the FPP system obliging everyone outside the two main parties to unite under one (necessarily vague) banner to have a decent chance of getting MPs into parliament.

Clegg is an idiot. He has given the tories what they really wanted on a silver platter.. Namely the gerrymandering of the first past the post system by removing about 30 – 40 odd Labour seats. No referendum for what the tories wanted. Waved Straight through with idiot Clegg’s blessing.

Now he will find the full force of the tory machine against him. With their friends in the media to attack a change in the voting system his dreams will be toast. By the time this is finished , Britain will still have first past the post, but with a stacked system that allows the tories to win every time.

Only an idiot could not see this. Unless of course he is a tory agent!

I don’t think this is a very sound analysis.

No one is assuming that the LDs will benefit because of the false first choice issue – they’re assuming that they will benefit because regardless of how many first prefs they get, in seats where they are in a run off against either Labour or the Tories, supporters of the other main party will vote for the LDs in preference.

So long as Labour voters would still prefer the Lib Dem to the Tory, and Tory voters would prefer the Lib Dem to Labour, they will win many more seats EVEN IF their first preference vote is significantly down on what it was under FPTP.

Nor does it matter if angry Labour voters transfer to the Greens, Socialist, Monster Raving Loonies, or anyone, so long as they do not prefer to vote Tory to the Lib Dem.

The ONLY circumstance in which AV would not improve the LDs’ prospects (in England at least) is if Labour voters are so angry that more of them actually transfer to a Tory than to a Lib Dem; and even then, they must do so by a margin that exceeds the effect of Tory voters transferring to a Lib Dem rather than Labour. Which I think is staggeringly unlikely.

Probably the one exception to all this is your seat, Norwich South, or whatever is created by the boundary change. In that seat, Green and Labour voters may transfer to each other in a way that one or other beats the Lib Dem – though equally Tories might keep the LD MP in office if they transfer that way.

“These studies, very rashly, and unprofessionally, work on the basis of what voters’ second preferences were last May”

This is just factually wrong – YouGov for example have conducted a large scale exercise in research on how people would vote under AV since the election and found, unsurprisingly really, that it would hugely benefit the Lib Dems, not least because Tory supporters were now much, much more willing to transfer to them, which would enable them to take a swathe of Labour seats even if they lost a chunk of their first preference vote straight to Labour.

A more recent polling exercise in December showed that the remaining Lib Dem voters currently prefer a Tory-led government to a Labour-led government by a margin of 60% to 24% so it would also enable the Tories to win a swathe of Labour seats off the back of Lib Dem transfers as well.

That’s not to say that AV wouldn’t help the Greens of course – I suspect that it would – but I doubt you’d take more than 1/2 seats whereas the LDs will gain an extra couple of dozen.

Indeed, I anticipate the Lib Dem leadership deciding that STV is a long term aspiration if they get AV, it’s prob the ideal system for them in the current political climate.

An interesting article. I support AV primarily because I’ve previously been in the invidious position of being a Labour supporter in a Tory-LibDem marginal. Fortunately, not at the last election or I’d be feeling too sick type this if I’d tactically voted LibDem.

If I was in this position under AV, would I give my second preference to the LDs? Despite Clegg’s betrayal, probably Yes. But at least I’d be able to take comfort from the fact that I’d given my first preference to the party I support and – should the LD in such a constituency get elected – feel that he/she is still preferable to a Tory. Just.

Slightly off topic but worth reporting since so many tory trolls get all upset about my brown shirt comments.. Sky is reporting……..

“A serving Conservative councillor has been exposed as having a double life as a member of one of Europe’s most notorious biker gangs.
Councillor Jim Mason is a cabinet member on Tewkesbury Council and a former mayor. He is also a full patch member of the Outlaws, which is classed as an organised crime group by police forces all over the world.
Members of the Outlaws have been convicted of a number of high profile offences; they gunned down a Hells Angel on the M40, they were part of a mass brawl at Birmingham Airport, and the group’s main leaders – including the European and UK president, Dink – are currently in prison for drugs offences.
Sky News has also discovered a picture of Mr Mason in his biker colours where he seems to have a Nazi SS badge on his jacket, underneath is a well-known Outlaws patch, reading “God forgives, Outlaws don’t”.

Earlier this week, Sky News confronted Mr Mason about his double life.
Initially, he denied he was a member of the Outlaws and then walked away from our cameras.
Later he told Sky News he “is not a member of the Outlaws and hasn’t been for some time”.
However, it is very rare for someone to be allowed to leave a biker gang.
The Conservative Party declined to comment.”

Ha Ha Ha. I bet they declined to comment. How do you defend brownshirts.?

Our poll ratings are at 10% at the moment. If things don’t improve it will be an almighty struggle getting over the 50% mark anywhere.

I’m really worried about how AV could harm the Lib Dems permanently and take us back to long term two party politics.

But it isn’t about how it benefits us. It’s about what is fairer. I think AV is fairer than FPTP, so I’m campaigning for it, regardless of what it may or may not do to any one party.

Not at all convinced by this analysis. All parties are subject to the effect you describe under FPTP – in which support is inflated where parties are strong, and suppressed where they’re weak – but the point is that the Lib Dems suffer disproportionately from the negative side of this equation, because they’re uncompetitive in more areas. To put it another way, we know that the Lib Dems suffer because their support is more evenly spread than that of the other parties – an effect most notable in the 1983 general election, where the SDP/Liberal Alliance won 25% of the vote but only 3.5% of seats. This is a pattern repeated at subsequent general elections: in 2010 the party won 23% of the vote but only 9% of seats. In seats where the Lib Dems are uncompetitive – the vast majority – there’s a big incentive for supporters to give their vote to other parties. That will be taken away under AV, allowing supporters to vote Lib Dem first and a competitive party second, reducing the vote-suppression effect that you describe in a large number of seats.

As for your point about the inaccuracy of academic studies: they are bound to calculate the effects of AV on the basis of previous elections, rather than trying to predict the extent of the Lib Dems’ loss of support. The Lib Dems will likely lose support whatever voting system is used, but for the reasons outlined above the effect will probably be less dramatic under AV.

What many people may not realise is that the major effects of AV will become most noticeable over the course of several elections. In the medium-term it could be a quiet revolution in voting behaviour. Voting patterns may not change all that much in the next general election, but gradually smaller parties will become more competitive as voters discover the extent of their real support in seats which have been subject to a Lab/Con stranglehold for many years.

Take an ordinary Lab/Con marginal where other parties poll badly. For many years the natural supporters of smaller parties will have been drawn to Labour or the Conservatives in order not to waste their vote. In the next election, the seat is likely to remain a Lab/Con marginal, but under AV voters will be aware that smaller parties have serious hidden support in the area, which will have the effect of shifting first-preferences away from the two main parties in the following election. Smaller parties’ campaigns will be invigorated as they are able to compete for first-preference votes. Over time the stranglehold of the two main parties will be broken as it becomes clear other parties can win the seat. Smaller parties will benefit and become competitive in all kinds of areas where they had no chance in previous years.

“A serving Conservative councillor has been exposed as having a double life as a member of one of Europe’s most notorious biker gangs.
Councillor Jim Mason is a cabinet member on Tewkesbury Council and a former mayor. He is also a full patch member of the Outlaws”

Oh FFS, I’m going to have to consider voting for him now 😉

This is a good post, but doesn’t go far enough. I have always thought the LDs would end up disbanding in the event of a better system being introduced. (not necessarily AV) They’d split between the orange group and the traditional social democrats who would merge with the blairites, and space would open up for a trad labour party. They’ve always been a party formed and kept together by FPTP and the fact there is no room for a 4th party.

sally,

Slightly off topic? Gone miles off on a motorbike.

Still, actual membership of the Outlaws or wearing Nazi paraphanalia is not illegal. Just bloody stupid, and if it can be shown he was doing either whilst an elected representative, I would suggest there was a case for suspending him from the Conservative party.

Does that suit you?

P.S. Please don’t get the SS and the Brownshirts (SA) mixed up – the SS were responsible for the obliteration of the SA’s leadership and took over their leading role in the Nazi movement. Historical accuracy is quite important.

I think in their naivete, Clegg and cronies truly believe that somehow AV will stave off political disaster at the polls. They know they won’t get that many first votes, but maybe they can secure just enough second preferences to ensure they retain some kind of credibility

Nick (6) – you’re right about marginals where the Lib Dems are the alternative to either the Tories or Labour: AV will be a significant boost to the Lib Dems in these seats. But in the much higher number of seats where the Lib Dems are third, AV should boost their first preference votes (or mitigate their likely loss of support), allowing them to become competitive in more seats at the next election, and in many more seats at the next election but one.

@ 5 Sally

“Namely the gerrymandering of the first past the post system by removing about 30 – 40 odd Labour seats.”

I think it is fairly widely accepted that the current boundaries give Labour an unfair advantage by being weighted in favour of metropolitan areas at the expense of rural ones. I dare you to accuse me of being a brownshirt 😉

@ 11 planetshift

“…and the traditional social democrats who would merge with the blairites,…”

The hell they would! Blairism and New Labour is far too illiberal, authoritarian and statist to appeal to many social democrats.

Galen,

The main reason Labour get more seats for fewer votes is that turnout in Labour seats tends to be lower, and Labour supporters on the whole are less likely to turn out. This hurts Labour far more than it helps them.

It is true that Labour seats also have slightly smaller electorates, on average, than Tory or Lib Dem seats, but this is only a minor factor compared to turnout. Having equal-sized constituencies will not magically cure the “bias” in favour of Labour (even with 1x safe Lib Dem seat and 2x safe Tory seats being granted “rotten borough” status). Besides, if the Tories are so concerned about every vote having equal weight, shouldn’t they be pushing for PR?

First point: and decrease their 1st preference vote in places where they are strong – where at present they benefit from tactical votes.

…but as long as it didn’t decrease it so much they didn’t even make second place, they could then win it back on transfers. The people they’re currently getting from tactical voting are those whom they’d get a preference above their main rival from under AV. On average I think they’d end up lower on first prefs than they get FPTP votes, yes, but higher on first+second prefs than they get FPTP votes. (In whatever seats they can still win, anyway)

Second point: They can deliberately put the LibDems bottom of their preference-list (or leave them off it altogether).

The Lib Dem’s “betrayal”, don’t forget, is that they dealt with the Tories. The Lib Dems may be bad, but the Tories are worse, to a voter of that mindset. (Otherwise, it would be a betrayal by the Tories who went into power with the evil Lib Dems). They might not give the Lib Dems a great preference, but they’ll either give them no preference (no worse than FPTP) or a better preference than the Tories (better than they’d get under FPTP).

The more important problem is the (former) Lib Dem first preference voters who don’t put them first, and so move them out of the top two in a seat. But they’d be really bad for the Lib Dems under FPTP too.

Studies: thus ignoring that the LibDems will now very likely garner less second preferences than in the past.

Handily, I have an Alternative Vote Swingometer (for England) into which you can put whatever numbers you like 🙂 So no need to rely on outdated studies.

I haven’t seen a decent second-preferences poll from anyone for ages. Still, let’s say that the YouGov/Spectator July 2010 poll, the most recent one I have – which had Labour->Lib Dem second preferences halved(ish) since the election, and Conservative->Lib Dem prefs slightly up, is accurate, but put in the current polling averages for the first preference votes… Well, the Lib Dems lose, alright, but that’s because their first preference vote share is utterly terrible – 10% in the polls – and so the transfer rate doesn’t really matter.

If the Lib Dems manage to get back up to 20% of the votes, then on those transfer patterns (i.e. Labour reluctantly, Conservatives less so), what they lose on first prefs they approximately get back on transfers).

In the absence of any actual useful polling, feel free to make up your own scenarios. It’s really difficult to find a remotely plausible one in which the Lib Dems actually lose out from AV, though, though there are plenty in which they don’t gain much either.

(and, of course, the constituency boundaries will be different, but until the new ones are decided and the notional figures calculated, there’s not much I or anyone else can do about that…)

Andy@16 “The main reason Labour get more seats for fewer votes is that turnout in Labour seats tends to be lower, and Labour supporters on the whole are less likely to turn out. This hurts Labour far more than it helps them.”

How can something that hurts Labour far more than it helps them be the reason they have an inbuilt advantage over the other parties in terms ot seats per vote?

(Answer: it doesn’t hurt them.)

Patrick Dunleavy is a highly respected academic writer on the British constitution. You aren’t (unless Vernon Bogdanor is reading – hi Vern!). His point is worth reading.

@10 Matt, you are absolutely right that the key effect of AV is actually its long-term effect (and I agree with what you say about the content of that effect here, in terms of how AV can help what are currently ‘minor’ Parties). That wasn’t my topic in this post; I address it here: http://oneworldcolumn.blogspot.com/2011/01/from-alternative-media-to-alternative.html

@10 In terms of how much AV will hurt the LibDems, I think that you may underestimate, Matt, the number of seats in which, even in the relatively short term (let alone the longer term, in which AV may well result in the LibDems declining further or in them splitting), AV will leave the LibDems 3rd or lower on first preferences. It is going to be easier suddenly for Independents to be taken seriously, as well as the Green Party, Respect (and UKIP) etc. And in Scotland and Wales – where a disproportionate number of the LibDem seats are to be found – they are probably going to overtaken more frequently by SNP and Plaid candidates. I think that, if we get AV through, there will be quite a number of seats at the next election where the LibDems will end up 4th, 5th, even 6th, on first prefs.

Joe, it hurts Labour because they struggle more than the other parties in getting out their vote in marginal constituencies, making them less likely to win these.

I think that the assumption made by several commenters that the LibDems are still going to be able to claw back 2nd or 3rd preferences is wrong. It isn’t (contra cim (@17)) just that the LibDems have betrayed voters by going in with the Tories – it is also that, on totemic issues such as Tuition Fees, they have appeared to have utterly junked their own principles and promises. This makes them worse than Tories, in the eyes of many. There _are_ many rank and file Tory or Labour voters who happily transfer from one Party straight to the other. One can get a sense of this by looking for example at Council election split votes in multiple-member wards, on election nights: there are loads of voters who will vote for (say) one Tory and two Labour, or vice versa.

@6 Thanks Nick – maybe I have missed some of the studies; apologies, if so. The best of the studies that I have read (using British Election Survey data: dubious reporting of it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/markdarcy/2010/10/av_study_reveals_some_surprise.html ; the study itself here: http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/parlij/gsq042.pdf), which ostensibly takes into account my point (1), still does not go far enough in undermining the assumption that those who voted (say) LibDem at the recent General Election actually do have LibDem as their 1st preference, that those who voted Labour actually do have Labour as their 1st preference, etc. etc. . Because they do not take into account that voters who are taking part in an FPTP election will in effect have been primed by the circumstances in which they are answering the survey questions in most cases into thinking that their first preference should remain the same, and that AV will only affect their lower preferences. That assumption, as we have seen, is much worse than rash — it is manifestly false. It is falsified by the existence of large-scale tactical voting, under FPTP. When people actually get to understand AV and to think of it as their actual voting system, then first-preference-votes change more, and continue to change over time (as per Matt’s point).

25. An Duine Gruamach

Andy:
“The main reason Labour get more seats for fewer votes is that turnout in Labour seats tends to be lower, and Labour supporters on the whole are less likely to turn out. This hurts Labour far more than it helps them.”

So? If Labour struggle to get their supporters to vote, then that’s their problem. Maybe they could target their campaigns and policies at… I don’t know… the urban working class or something, rather than pauchling the boundaries.

26. George McLean

@ OP “ceteris paribus”?

Do you mean “All things being equal”? Why not say so?

From an old fashioned Liberals point of view, AV is a sensible first step towards greater EU integration. In all fairness to the Lib-Dems, they at least haven’t completely sold their souls on this issue. Even Labour are moving more towards a Yes to AV position.

Gaelon @ 10

I think it is fairly widely accepted that the current boundaries give Labour an unfair advantage by being weighted in favour of metropolitan areas at the expense of rural ones. I dare you to accuse me of being a brownshirt

How do the boundaries give anyone an ‘unfair’ advantage? Every seat in the Country is up for grabs and everyone needs to win more votes than anyone else. That goes for Labour, Tory, Lib Dem. At the start of every election, each candidate starts at zero votes. Where is the unfairness?

The Tory vermin cannot stand the fact that outside the inbred rural seats people reject them and call ‘having a different point of view’ an ‘unfair advantage’. They hate democracy because outwith their vile little circles they are hated. Rather than change their outlook to appeal to urban voters, they want to marginalise the urban voters.

Nasty scum that they are.

29. Chaise Guevara

@ 28 Jim

“How do the boundaries give anyone an ‘unfair’ advantage?”

Because both Labour and the Tories (but especially Labour) get a substantially larger number of seats than an even proportion of votes cast would give them. Look at the Lib Dem’s vote share and number of seats from the last election if you don’t believe me. And that’s before you take into account the fact that most people can only vote for one of two candidates if they want the person they vote for to stand a chance of getting in – and at least one of those candidates will be representing one of the two big parties.

“The Tory vermin cannot stand the fact that outside the inbred rural seats people reject them and call ‘having a different point of view’ an ‘unfair advantage’.”

I just got a phone call from The Countryside. Yeah, they think you’re a nasty little bigot.

During the 1980s the Conservatives had this same inbuilt advantage that Labour now enjoys – it probably accounted for half of Thatcher’s big majorities.

And it could happen again. Something to reflect on if you think warped electoral systems are a good idea.

29/Chaise: That’s true, but it’s not possible to sensibly reform the boundaries so that this doesn’t happen while maintaining single-seat constituencies [1]. It’s a consequence of most UK parties not having strongly geographically-concentrated support, not of minor variations in constituency size.

Where the boundaries are drawn can make a difference – York Central and York Outer are safe Labour and Con/Lib marginal respectively, but on the alternative York West and York East boundary proposal it would have been a safe-ish Conservative seat and a Con/Lib marginal – but that’s not to do with the constituency sizes.

[1] Actually, this isn’t quite true. Under the Vote From Hat electoral system, single-seat constituencies should be as close as possible to equal in size for the result to be fair. For all other single-seat electoral systems it’s far more to do with boundary details than constituency sizes. But no-one uses Vote From Hat.

@28 Jim

It’s not rocket science; many safe Labour seats in metropolitan areas had relatively small electorates, especially as people moved out of towns. This led to a situation where on average it took less people to elect a Labour MP than a Tory one, as their support tended to be in rural and suburban areas.

It is widely accepted that this advantage hands Labour a dozen or two seat advantage. Of course, there have been periods in our history when it worked the other way, and trying to “balance” things is why some constituency boundaries are changed over the years.

All of the above easily solved by using a truly proportional system, or the Jenkins system which gives both proportionality and retains a link with constituency MP’s.

Of course, the deeply illiberal authoritarians in both Labour and the Tories will never accept it; they want to retain their tawdry duopoly for ever if possible.

I don’t like AV, but it’s better than FPTP; hopefully more and more people will think the same by May. It’s about time we gave the political elites in this country a good kick in the arse!

33. Chaise Guevara

@ 31 Cim

Even if it were possible to redraw boundaries to that end, it would be farcical to do so. You’d essentially be trying to recreate constituencies every 4/5 years to make sure each one saw the candidate win by a handful of votes.

PR might be better here. AV doesn’t address the boundary problem directly (and I have to say the Yes To Fairer Votes campaign’s claim that AV would get rid of safe seats is absolute bollocks), but it at least would make it reasonably likely for each constituency to elect a candidate that most of the population were happy with.

Rupert, I see you’re concerned that association with the lib dems will sink the yes campaign.
Please though, I don’t think supporters of AV should be engaged in this sort of argument. Our case is that AV is an improvement on FPTP and it is a strong case. Speculation on who will benefit, and who won’t, is everywhere and only turns people off reform. Our argument should be conducted on principle – leave the narrow politicking to the nays.

CG @ 29

Yes, I agree that perhaps a proportional system would be fairer, but that is not the point regarding reducing and redrawing the constituency boundaries in a FPTP system, does it? If we are talking about boundary changes in the context of the FPTP, then no-one has so far explained the ‘unfairness’ of the current constituencies.

BTW the next time ‘The Countryside’ phone, tell them that the feeling is mutual.

Galen @ 32

Well whether or not it is an ‘advantage’ is debateable and is not the point. The point is whether or not it is an ‘unfair’ advantage to any Party. Even if an urban constituency does have a smaller electorate, then it is smaller for everyone who stands in that constituency. It is not like the ‘Labour’ candidate has to get thirty thousand votes to win hat seat, but a Tory needs to win by thirty five thousand or anything like that. The point is that the Tories cannot win seats in these types of constituencies, but that is not the fault of the ‘electoral boundaries’; that is squarely down to the fact that the Tories could not give a fuck about the people that vote there. Labour may indeed have an ‘advantage’ in poorer, urban seats, but it is entirely down the Tories complete lack of empathy for the plight of our fellow citizens.

The fact that they want to deliberately gerrymander the boundaries so that they do not have to appeal to these people, shows them up for the undemocratic scum that I have always believed them to be.

@35 Jim

“Well whether or not it is an ‘advantage’ is debateable and is not the point. The point is whether or not it is an ‘unfair’ advantage to any Party. Even if an urban constituency does have a smaller electorate, then it is smaller for everyone who stands in that constituency.”

Yes, it is the point and it isn’t even debateable! You are making my point for by showing that the current system is in effect gerrymandered in favour of Labour, because on average it takes fewer votes to elect a Labour MP than a Tory one. You can hardly claim to be holier than thou and go on about Tory scum when the Labour party have been quite happt to benefit from a crooked system when it was in their favour!

I have no love for the Tories, but your rant is factually inaccurate as well as hyperbolic. A reformed electoral system has more chance of excluding the Tories from power than sticking with FPTP, or than continuinf to support the existing gerrymandered pro-Labour set up.

@16 Andy

“The main reason Labour get more seats for fewer votes is that turnout in Labour seats tends to be lower, and Labour supporters on the whole are less likely to turn out. This hurts Labour far more than it helps them.”

Way to miss the point andy! Labour’s ability (or otherwise) has nothing to do with it. The fact remains that the current FPTP system is effectively gerrymandered in favour of Labour; there isn’t any point Labour supporters getting all bent out of shape about the planned reduction in the total number of MP’s, or redrawing of boundaries, because all it is doing is addressing that inbuilt Labour advantage.

You can have a meaningful debate about the scale of the reduction, or the size, shape and population of re-drawn constituencies, but the only sure way of avoiding this kind of issue altogether is either to introduce STV or AV+ as envisaged by the Jenkins Report.

Of course, there is zero chance of the Tories, or the more authoritarian parts of the Labour party doing so, because it will result in a reduction of power for them…. stun us with another.

For the first time ever, there will be large-scale deliberate anti-LibDem voting, at the next General Election

I hope this happens in Sheffield Hallam!

Galen10 @ 36

You can hardly claim to be holier than thou and go on about Tory scum when the Labour party have been quite happt to benefit from a crooked system when it was in their favour!

I have never voted Labour in my life. Not once. Not even by mistake. Not even when…well you get the picture.

You miss the obvious point, though. You call the system ‘crooked’, yet is that necessarily the case? Surely the boundaries commission have a duty to at least broadly represent the Nation within the relevant constituencies? Okay, so a turnout in our urban constituencies are significantly lower than in rural/suburban ones, is that the fault of the boundary commission, or does it reflect a deeper malaise in our society? If it is the latter (and I think it is), then surely to Christ the answer is not simply to gerrymander consistencies, to skew it favour of people who cannot win in these constituencies? Just because one Party has an ‘advantage’ (real or perceived) it does not follow that it is an ‘unfair’ advantage.

I think you fall into the trap of assuming that the electoral system is there to work in the best interests of the various Parties. I tend to think that it is the boundaries commission’s job to ensure electoral system should be reflecting the interests of the electorate. There is no such thing as a ‘Labour’ or even ‘Tory’ seat, even if there are seats that rarely change hands. If some people choose not to vote, then that is their lookout and if a party cannot appeal to that electorate that is their problem and they should rightly suffer in the election. To simply say to the ‘x’ Party: ‘hey, sorry you cannot attract enough votes in urban seats, therefore we need to change the boundaries in these type of seats and marginalize the urban voters’. Why punish people just because they will not vote Tory? There are seats that Labour/Libs/SNP et al haven’t a hope of hell of wining, but for some reason, you have not explained what we should do about those seats? Or is it just the Tory that needs a leg up?

BTW, if two football teams take to field and one is made up guys around the six foot two mark and the other is an average of five feet four, does that constitute an ‘unfair’ advantage? If so, should we play the game via the same rules we have always played in every circumstance or should we lower the goals at one end per half to make it ‘fairer’?

40. Chaise Guevara

@ Jim

“Yes, I agree that perhaps a proportional system would be fairer, but that is not the point regarding reducing and redrawing the constituency boundaries in a FPTP system, does it? If we are talking about boundary changes in the context of the FPTP, then no-one has so far explained the ‘unfairness’ of the current constituencies.”

The lack of proportionality is the unfairness. Even though that problem is endemic in FPTP, it should at least be addressed where possible.

“BTW the next time ‘The Countryside’ phone, tell them that the feeling is mutual”

I will. Although as someone who was raised in a semi-rural Tory seat, I would really like to see your evidence for calling me inbred.

Chaise @ 40

Whether or not we go to a full PR system is a quite different argument. You may or may not know that we elect MSP via an additional member system.

The general point I was making is just because a Party gets or appears to get an advantage from the electoral system, it is not fair to assume that the advantage they get is an ‘unfair’ one.

I have heard it said that Labour Party vote suffers if the weather is bad, because labour voters are not as comitted as Tories. If that is true would heavy rain constitute an ‘unfair’ advantage during an election? Hardly! Surely the onus should be on the political Party to energise its supporters to get out in all kinds of weather?

If one Party requires less votes in their ‘heartlands’ that does not mean that the system is ‘unfair’ but perhaps shows that there is a disconnect with politics in our urban seats.

To bleat about ‘unfairness’ because 70% of the electorate in some seats completely misses the point.

42. Chaise Guevara

@ 41 Jim

“The general point I was making is just because a Party gets or appears to get an advantage from the electoral system, it is not fair to assume that the advantage they get is an ‘unfair’ one.”

OK. This is almost semantic, though: do you class the actual state of affairs (i.e. the system makes it easier for some parties to get MPs elected than others) as “unfair” or “just how the system works”? I’d say that’s pretty much subjective. From the POV of people who know their votes never really count (or have to settle for voting for the least-worst of two options because their preferred party is a local no-go), that could well be considered unfair.

“I have heard it said that Labour Party vote suffers if the weather is bad, because labour voters are not as comitted as Tories.”

True fact, uncertain attribution. You could argue that Labour voters are more likely to be poor and/or to live in cities, which means that they are less likely to have access to a car that could get them to the polling station comfortably. Or even that bad weather puts people in a bad mood, and thus might make floating voters more likely to vote for a generally less altruistic party.

Or not. But I reckon it’s a mix of factors. It’s probably isn’t just that Labour supporters are less commited – although that probably is one of the causes.

“If that is true would heavy rain constitute an ‘unfair’ advantage during an election? Hardly! Surely the onus should be on the political Party to energise its supporters to get out in all kinds of weather?”

I agree with you here to an extent. But you can mobilise your supporters all you want; if they’re outnumbered by your opposition’s supporters in the constituency, you won’t get in. And that can mean thousands of “wasted” votes, where in the neighbouring constituency less than a hundred would have bought you victory.

Also: if, hypothetically, it turned out that the weather thing was caused by lots of poor and infirm would-be Labour voters not wanting to go out in the rain, you could argue that it would be more democratic to provide a shuttle service for these people, or something like that. Likewise, the bias caused by FPTP can be addressed by bringing in PR or, to a lesser extent, AV.

CG @ 42

I agree with you here to an extent. But you can mobilise your supporters all you want; if they’re outnumbered by your opposition’s supporters in the constituency, you won’t get in. And that can mean thousands of “wasted” votes, where in the neighbouring constituency less than a hundred would have bought you victory.
Had the Tories been using the argument for a PR system then we would be as one. I would entirely agree with you and them. However, they are not arguing about replacing FPTP (or ‘winner takes all’) to PR system, they are using that argument to swindle the VERY thing they support winner take takes all elections for into their own advantage. They dislike the fact that they cannot win in urban seats so they want to redraw those seats for their own ends. They cannot or will not address the issues that make these seats no go areas for the Tories, instead they just marginalize the people that live there.
Perhaps, instead of bleating about how many votes it takes to elect a Labour MP, perhaps they should ask WHY they are unable to win these smaller seats, given the threshold to win must surely be lower.
To my mind, this highlights the Tory mindset. They see themselves, not as a ‘One Nation’ Party, who represent everyone, but a Party who are only really loved by a small elite who live in rural and suburbs. They win what they see as their own areas with huge turnouts, but then they cannot accept that other constituencies hate them. It is that ‘entitlement’ mentality that annoys me. If they think we need less MPs, then why not cut the number of their ‘own’ constituencies? Oh, but that is not the fucking point is it? No, they want to reduce the representation of the oiks.

That makes them dirty scum in my book…
…Oh and a nasty little bigot.

Why should I have to vote (as a second, third choice etc) for someone I do NOT want to vote for at all?

C Pettman/44: You wouldn’t. The version of AV being proposed is the “optional preference” variant, in which you only specify as many preferences as you want. So, if there are five candidates A, B, C, D and E, and you think A would be great, D okay, and the rest uniformly rubbish, you could give A your first preference, D your second, and leave the rest of the paper blank.

… as an aside, I think the rhetoric from the ‘Yes’ campaign about AV ensuring that all candidates have 50% support is very harmful, precisely because of this. It’s not actually true, and it’s very misleading.

Giving someone a preference does not imply any particular level of support for them beyond “less support than those with a better preference”. So in the situation above, I personally would also put a preference for B, C and E [1]: not because I want them elected, but because in the unpleasant situation where A and D are eliminated from the election in an early round, I still have an opinion on which of B, C and E would be least bad, and so putting a preference order for those makes sense.

[1] But I can certainly understand why not everyone would want to do that, and I would oppose compulsory-preference AV if that was what was being suggested.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Colleen Wiltse

    Two reasons why Libdems might not benefit from AV | Liberal Conspiracy: And if Labour and Green voters choose to… http://bit.ly/evgiLe

  2. liberalideals

    Two reasons why Libdems might not benefit from AV | Liberal Conspiracy: I think in their naivete, Clegg and cron… http://bit.ly/dKVHhE

  3. curmudgeon 1

    Two reasons why Libdems might not benefit from AV | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/bEuItWg via @libcon

  4. Tory lies: AV & The BNP « Broad Left Blogging

    […] 5 referendum. For the truth is the very opposite of his big lie. As I’ve shown in detail (See here & here & here & here) AV is the worst of all possible systems for the BNP. Which is […]





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.