Boris makes the case for Labour to support AV


10:45 am - February 28th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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London’s occasional Mayor Boris Johnson in the Telegraph column today:

Remember Blair’s massive victory of 1997, when he got 419 seats with 43 per cent of the vote? Under the AV system he would have got 445 seats, and the Tories (who won 30 per cent of the vote) would have been reduced to 70 seats instead of 165. Indeed, if AV had been in force at the last election, the Tories would have got 281 rather than 306 seats – and Labour would have been up four, on 258. And that, of course, is why Gordon Brown announced his panic-stricken death-bed conversion – in the deluded hope of changing the odds and gerrymandering the system.

Nick Clegg himself was right to oppose AV before the election, and he should stick to his guns. First-past-the-post has served this country well, and served dozens of other countries well. We would be mad to go to a great deal of trouble and expense to adopt a system that is less fair than the one we have.

He is preaching to the converted of course, as Conservative voters are resolutely against AV.

But inadvertently he is helping to convince Labour supporters that AV will benefit their party – which is really useful since its Labour that is split over electoral reform not the Conservatives.

His analysis is flawed of course – trying to speculate how a previous election would have turned out if the electoral system was different is futile. It doesn’t take into account tactical voting at that time given FPTP’s own bias.

But thanks Boris!

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Conservative voters aren’t really resolutely against AV either. Polling shows that a good 10-20% are open to voting Yes in May, no doubt because they live in areas where they would actually see a benefit to such a change while currently not getting the wins that they probably do deserve.

Wasn’t Boris Johnson elected on some kind of AV system?

“trying to speculate how a previous election would have turned out if the electoral system was different is futile. It doesn’t take into account tactical voting at that time given FPTP’s own bias.”

More importantly, all of this retro-fitting results to systems business is based on an era when over 40% of Lib Dem voters had Labour as their second preference. That’s now under 20%.

Quite apart from the arguments of principle, AV would be electorally damaging for Labour for the foreseeable future.

“More importantly, all of this retro-fitting results to systems business is based on an era when over 40% of Lib Dem voters had Labour as their second preference. That’s now under 20%.”

This is also a terrible and misleading set of statistics to use. Around half of the Lib Dem support has vanished and turned up under Labour’s support statistics. It’s no good saying that Labour would now lose out, because the reality is more likely to be that seats that were marginal Lib Dem/Labour will now become Labour easy wins, and those seats where Labour were second behind the Tories will see Labour gaining first preference votes rather than the second that they would have go in 2010.

All in all, this kind of statistical manipulation ignores that local issues are what drives people to certain parties. If Labour are the largest party in their constituency, and the Lib Dems are third, then it’s more likely that the Lib Dems are more inclined to be Labour supporters in that area due to the local politics showing a preference towards Left type policies. Vice versa for the corresponding Tory situation.

Also, focusing on whether system X or Y benefits your own party is a stupidly tribal way of looking at things. You should make the argument that it is better for the country.

@5, what’s best for the country is what benefits my party.

“those seats where Labour were second behind the Tories will see Labour gaining first preference votes rather than the second that they would have go in 2010.”

Sure, so Labour is more likely to win them under a future First Past The Post election, but less likely to do so under AV, where those extra first preferences from former Lib Dems can be overwhelmed by the Tory second preferences of Coalition Liberals, and in many cased by bulk transfers from UKIP.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Nat Guest

    RT @libcon: Boris makes the case for Labour to support AV http://bit.ly/ebHNkD

  3. Steve Hynd

    RT @libcon: Boris makes the case for Labour to support AV http://bit.ly/ebHNkD

  4. Ben Leto

    RT @libcon: Boris makes the case for Labour to support AV http://bit.ly/ebHNkD

  5. Broken OfBritain

    RT @libcon: Boris makes the case for Labour to support AV http://bit.ly/ebHNkD

  6. Jane Phillips

    RT @libcon: Boris makes the case for Labour to support AV http://bit.ly/ebHNkD





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