Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Electoral reform myths: Janet Daley gets it wrong

Since there will be a lot of nonsense talking about the subject, let's begin a short series pointing some of it out.

Janet Daley is quickly out of the blocks with an argument I expect many people will make, even though it is obviously incorrect.

What the "alternative vote" would mean is that it would be virtually impossible for the Conservatives ever to regain power. Labour and LibDem supporters could simply institutionalise their game of tactical voting: by always placing each other's party as their second choice, they would guarantee Left-liberal coalition governments forever.


Unless Janet thinks that Ken Livingstone is still Mayor of London - and that Boris Johnson lost.

In fact, under the supplementary vote system (a simpler cousin of AV), Ken Livingstone received 135,000 second preferences and Boris almost 125,000 second preference votes, meaning that Boris' first round lead was closed only marginally.

Before Janet opines further on the subject, I suggest that she might want to ask Mike Smithson of Political Betting for a briefing on how LibDem second preferences often divide quite equally between the major parties - though no doubt with some bias to the Tories in circumstances like those of last week's elections, in contrast to a strong bias to Labour in 1997 when the country was united in wanting to get the Conservatives out.


FloTom said...

Where is Browns democratic legitimacy for mangling the constitution of this country?

Thats right he hasnt got any.

Silent Hunter said...

Z A N U L A B O U R at it again.

Rigging the postal voting system not quite enough gerrymandering for you then?

Now you want to 'rig' the entire electoral process.

Venal scum.

The day we finally destroy Labour will be the day for street parties and rejoicing.

Sunder Katwala said...

The government will not necessarily propose a change. If they do, there will be a referendum.

And any change would be for the election after next, at the earliest.

The legitimacy of the government is based on the 2005 general election in our parliamentary democracy. Some people argue about the voting system being unfair but that is precisely what this proposal will deal with.

Newmania said...


Unless Janet thinks that Ken Livingstone is still Mayor of London - and that Boris Johnson lost.

Yes it is more staggering that a politician like Ken Livingstone was ever seriously in contention at all The system was designed to make it harder for the Conservative Party though the assumption being that Conservatives are the second choice of relatively few people.
This is why any voting system that includes second choices is bad for the Conservative Party or likely to be .I think this is going to back fire of Brown there has always been a fear he would change the rules before he would let go and I am not yet convinced this terrifying prospect is ruled out .

Never never never

Newmania said...

Am I right in thinking that should I want to vote Conservative , and I do , and for no-one else , and I don’t , I get one vote. If , on the other hand I do not care much and would be pretty happy to see either Liberals or Labour whoever is most likely to stop the Conservatives ,I get two votes ?
Is that what he is up to ? On top of the fact that with an equal number of votes the Labour Party gets 90 extra seats and counts Welsh and Scottish votes twice already. Is this what we are going to be given , and thats in addition to having whole areas of competency exported to the left leaning Euro land.

Why not simply take Conservatives to a quiet place and shoot them ?

If you try this there will be consequences and forget civilised discussion

Sunder Katwala said...


No - that is not how it works, and I don't think it is a sensible description.

If two candidates get 35% each, and then the other 30% is split between various candidates, then the question is which candidate has majority support among the entire electorate.

As candidates are eliminated, votes go to candidates still in who that voter prefers (or, in the event they have no preference, leave the pool of voters). At all times, every vote can count once.

It is possible for a vote to go Green, then LibDem, then Labour; or English Democrat then UKIP then Tory. Anybody whose first preference is for a winning or top two candidate will stay there.

But anybody whose vote is transferred can not be doing anything to get their first preference elected, so there is no question of the vote counting twice to get somebody elected. In this sense, it is a "single transferable vote". I just don't see why it discriminates against voters of major parties; it simply finds out which candidate has majority suport among all voters. All votes have equal weight in the final round of counting (while those which did not prefer either of these candidates to each other are out).

In the London election, roughly equal numbers of those voting for other candidates turned out to have a Labour or Tory preference - so those 250,000 voters got to count in the final outcome - though the result was unaffected by transfers. (Johnson was not elected with 50% because there was not an exhaustive system of preferences and transfers, but the result would have been broadly similar under AV rather than SV).

Newmania said...

If two candidates get 35% each, and then the other 30% is split between various candidates, then the question is which candidate has majority support among the entire electorate.

Two Candidates do not get 35% each so the question does not arise , if they do then it is not a safe seat so we do not have the problem this is ,(laughably), supposed to address. There is no call for this system at all, so again it does not arise. This leaves some perplexing loose ends .....

1Q: Why does the Labour Party suggest it ?
A: No mystery ;because the Conservative Party is traditionally the second choice of relatively few voters and they therefore wish to count weak second preferences as on a par with strong first preferences .
2 Q: Why should they be?
A: No reason except the calculated advantage to Labour.
3 Q: Why now ?
A: To put the Conservative Party on the back foot because Brown needs anything .
4 Q: How do we know?
A :There will be no referendum
5 Q :Why now?
A: New Labour achieved 16% of the popular vote under the almost as dreadful PR system having enjoyed a huge majority under the old system for ten years .
6 Q: Why was this momentous principle was forgotten for ten years?
A See above
7 Q Is the current system unfair ?
A: No .We all get one vote, we all see all the Parties and we all decide what to do.
8 Q :So whats Labour’s problem.
A :See above
9 Q: Why Does Sunder Quote London
A: It was held during a period when Labour were at what then seemed a historic low ebb. Labour’s candidate has an atypical history of far left authoritarianism and as such appealed little to Liberals
.10 Q So why quote this atypical election ?
A It is the only one and because you would like to make a misleading case for a gerrymandering measure designed to retain power for possible the most hatred administration of my life time .


If we like referendums how about the referendum we were promised ?Why not let the English decide their own voting system for the English Parliament that would have to follow ? Why not correct the boundary commission lag so as to hand the Conservative Party the 50 seats plus they are due and stop counting Scottish and Welsh votes twice .
If people feel so strongly that despite there wish to vote Lib Dem of Green they wish to support the Labour Party on the basis that they hate the Conservatives they are at liberty to do so( too much Liberty which a PR HOL would address). If they do not feel that strongly then a Conservatuve win is an accurate reflection of the feelings of the voters. Your idea is a distortion and I see no evidence here you have even understood why. Let us hope the rest of the defence is similarly weak and we are not obliged to take the streets to defend democracy from this assault.

I am rather glad overall this has arisen.It is such a naked and desperate attempt to rig the system that all future ones will be tarnished.