The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Posts Tagged ‘Alternative Vote’

The Biggest Irony Of Election Night

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 6, 2011 @ 09:06

A very misleading photo of some guy

One quick thought for you.

Labour, in Scotland, suffered a “shellacking” at the hands of the SNP.

That defeat was magnified to a very large extent by none other than the First Past The Post electoral system.

You know, that system most of them came out and backed.

But wait!

Scotland doesn’t have just FPTP. It has the joyous Additional Member System, allowing additional MPs to be distributed in accordance with the PROPORTIONAL preference of the electorate. And, even better, taking into account seats already won under FPTP, thus correcting for its distortion.


To recap. Labour, facing meltdown at the hands of the First Past The Post electoral system in Scotland, are rescued from utter disaster by a fair voting system, enshrined in proportional representation.

“Lord” Reid, your boys took a hell of a beating.

How do you like them apples, Iain?


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Come The Revol… Referendum

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 3, 2010 @ 09:34

Stolen from the Electoral Reform Society's website. Not that it's anything interesting to look at...

For us young un’s, especially if we’re English, we’re not used to being consulted on things. Sure, we vote in local and general elections, but they’re about a huge ball of issues, entangled, intertwined, whatever. More often than not we base our votes on silly little things that don’t matter, like whether so-and-so “looks like a Prime Minister”. Wot?!

So with the good news that we’re going to be consulted on one very specific issue – voting reform – it makes me kind of excited. But then, I am a political nerd. Then again, perhaps you are too. You wouldn’t be here otherwise. Admit it.

The last, and first, all UK referendum was in 1975. Given that you had to be 18 to vote in it, that means that everyone born since 1958 has never once been consulted in a British referendum. Have there really been no issues of major national importance in all that time?

Of course, the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been slightly luckier, getting referendums for their new Parliaments and Assemblies. And more are on the horizon. London got one too, and though it was asking 6m people, it was still a “local” issue, regarding a mayor that has barely any powers to speak of.

Politicians generally don’t like referendums, because they don’t really want to have to get the backing of the public again after all that general election fuss. Opponents say they are only ever used when government or opposition is divided. There is some truth in that in Britain, but the worldwide story is far more mixed.

But this referendum is going to be very different. Yes, the government is divided, but so what? Once more we’re going to get, from the coalition, a remarkable demonstration of grown-up politics. People agreeing to disagree, and instead of bitching about it in Cabinet or in the corridors of Westminster, they’re going to take the argument to the public for a decision that will shut both sides up for at least a generation.

That idea is revolutionary for British politics. It worked over Europe for Harold Wilson (though maybe it’s time we were consulted again) and there’s no reason why it won’t work again.

And, in the worst nightmares of all strident anti-referendumistas, once you pop, the fun don’t stop.

It’s too long between elections anyway, and it’ll only get worse if we get five year fixed terms.

But maybe it’ll stem the endless legitimacy drain from a government if there are national referendums at least once a parliament.

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One Green MP, Sitting On The Wall

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 27, 2010 @ 09:49

Caroline Lucas MP

The election of Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion was one of my bright moments of the night. In fact, it was one of a very few for me, given the disastrous result for my party. It’s nice to have a different party in the mix, no matter how extremely unlikely it is her vote in the Commons will make any difference.

There are many amongst the Lib Dems who really dislike the Green Party. They consider their candidates to be spoilers. In 2005, it was argued that the Green vote cost the Lib Dems Oxford East because the Green vote was higher than the ultimate majority of the seat. Norwich South was in a similar boat, but there the Green vote was just short of the majority.

The assumption is that Green votes will transfer to the Lib Dems. Such an assumption will be testable if and when we get the Alternative Vote system. Until then, we go on a hunch…

My hunch is that not much of the Green vote will be heading to the Yellows. We Lib Dems may well be the most environmental of the three main parties, but that’s not saying much. On the other hand, the Greens are seriously radical when it comes to the environment. And by radical, I really do mean rip it up and start again. A severe dose of nationalisation, regulation, taxation and state funding is what the Green Party doctors order.

I read this manifesto and love it. OK, maybe I don’t love the idea of 55mph speed limits on the motorways. But broadly, it’s a much more exciting, ambitious agenda. It actually means something. You can see where they’re coming from. You can feel the values and the ideology behind their statements, even if you disagree with it.

Green Party voters are looking for something very different. They are not quite socialist in the classic sense, but they have a very specific agenda for what to do with the state in order to achieve their vision of society. It is almost agrarian. Local, and surprisingly conservative, with a small c. This is what differentiates them from the socialists.

Is that agenda on offer in any of the other parties?

Is it hell.

So what then of the protest voters – those people who are voting for outsiders because they feel their vote is not valued elsewhere. I strongly suspect they won’t be going to the Lib Dems any more. Not after our little dalliance with power. No longer are the Lib Dems a worthy champion of the protest voter. Now they’ve reached insider status, they simply cannot reflect the hundreds of thousands who want an outsider party.

So Lib Dems will not be “transfer friendly” to the ideologues, looking for a radically different agenda, or the protest voters.

And the more the Lib Dems get used to government, the more their programme will reflect a strategy to keep them there. Making them even more centrist, more normal, more boring than ever.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope my party can survive this period in office and continue to try to think outside the box. I want to see us brave and bold enough to stand up for policies like the earned path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

I just can’t see it happening.

Maybe I’ve enjoyed that Green manifesto a bit too much…

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PR In Last Chance Saloon

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 8, 2010 @ 11:45

WANTED: One algorithm for computing a Single Transferable Vote election in a timely and efficient manner. Enquire within.

Last night I vaguely discussed PR with a friend of mine, and how annoyed I was to be living in a non-marginal constituency, when a nasty thought suddenly dawned upon me.

No, it wasn’t a sudden realisation all along that my worship of the Meek method of counting STV is wrong, but something much more fundamental.

All this talk of constitutional reform is enough to make any true Lib Dem get just a little bit excited. Gordon Brown’s laundry list of changes yesterday, while totally insincere, still got my attention. Talk of fixed-term parliaments and referendums on House of Lords and electoral reform are enough to make political geeks like me wonder whether it could actually be possible.

All these years, we Lib Dems have been desperate for the opportunity to make our case for serious, long-term reform. People like me will probably never be satisfied, but politics is all about framing the issue. If we can make a serious land-grab on this ground, talking about huge, radical reform being the only thing that will satisfy public desire for a new, transparent politics, then the Overton window will be moved sufficiently to make the smaller changes, while still desirable, much more acceptable.

The change most of us Lib Dems would like to see above all is a proportional electoral system. Party policy is to push for Single Transferable Vote. It also seems that it’s party policy to accept the Alternative Vote as a step in the right direction (when it is anything but).

The Conservatives, naturally, are dead-set against any such change.

And that’s where my concern begins.

Opportunities to get PR on the agenda come round once in a generation… if we’re lucky. In 1983, the large SDP vote got the party nowhere, due to stacking up votes in unwinnable seats. A Tory landslide was the result, ensuring that any progress on the issue was stillborn.

Labour paid lip-service to electoral reform in the 90s, and Blair thought at one point that he may need it to ensure Lib Dem backing post-election. In the end, he didn’t, and suddenly Labour realised that they quite liked a system that was delivering them stonking great majorities on a minority of the vote. Into the long grass it went.

Now it’s back. Through scandal and the terrible behaviour of politicians, all of a sudden it might be good to change a system that ensures that those MPs with the safest majorities engaged in the biggest fiddles. That message needs to be drummed home loud and clear; the public will listen to it.

But not for long.

A Conservative win at the next election will finish the debate, and finish it for 20 years. The Tories plan no electoral reform. If the Tories get a comfortable majority, they will live with that. If they get more, they’ll be delighted, and we will despair.

And since the chances of it happening will be zero, the momentum for reform will evaporate.

This window of opportunity is tiny. It will only be achieved if there is a hung parliament, with Labour in the lead, or a tiny, tiny Labour majority. No other result will allow electoral reform to become an issue.

And it’s about to be slammed shut.

Electoral reform advocates need to be loud, prominent and vocal over the coming few weeks. It may be the last chance we get.

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Stick Your AV Up Your Arse

Posted by The Futility Monster on February 2, 2010 @ 09:45

Thanks, Wikipedia!

Yesterday, rumours emerged via BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson that the government is planning to slip an amendment into a current bill to give MPs the chance to vote for a referendum to bring in the Alternative Vote (AV).

Later on today, Gordon Brown will back up this proposal with a speech telling the world why he thinks now is a good time for some voting reform.

There are a few problems with this approach.

Number one is the obvious: why now? There is some doubt as to whether this bill will actually make it through Parliament in time for the dissolution. In which case, this is nothing other than spin.

But even if it did, its effect will not be felt till after the election. And, with the Tories so opposed to it, it’s entirely possible that an incoming Tory government could immediately re-legislate to get rid of the referendum. They could fly the populist flags of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and “it would lead to weak coalition government” and, of course, “scrapping this referendum will save the country money in these tough fiscal times”.

Number two, however, is my real problem with this; and, in truth, probably the reason why we’ll never get any electoral reform in this country.

AV is a waste of time. It is only marginally better than what we currently have now, in the sense that it will ensure the elected MP has a majority of support. But in terms of delivering genuine reform involving better proportionality and fairness, it fails the test. I recall surveys suggesting that it would have magnified Labour’s landslides in 1997 and 2001. I think we’ve got enough problems already with our present system exaggerating the number of MPs for the “winner”.

The problem is that this is purely a gimmick, done purely to ask questions of the Lib Dems. Brown has no history of interest in electoral reform, and there is only weak support on the Labour benches. It is only us Lib Dems who have made a big deal of it over the years. Consequently, Nick Clegg may be in a slight bind, because if he opposes this he’ll look like an opportunist, being a member of a party that has supported voting reform for so long.

So the message has to be simple. Brown’s proposals are not reform in the slightest. They will make the system even more unfair than it is now. And they are being done right now in a desperate and cynical attempt to make him look like a reformer with a vision for change.

Finally, let’s remind him of the fact that Labour first considered this idea 12 years ago and rejected it. What’s changed?

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So Far, So Good

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 22, 2009 @ 18:27

On the face: very embarrassing

On the face: very embarrassing

Barring a dramatic reversal in the second round, the feared victory of Margaret Beckett will not happen.

Rejoice! For perhaps we are going to be freed from possibly the worst candidate.

But – wait a moment… John Bercow leading the way?

I don’t particularly dislike the man, but at the same time there’s something about him that makes me feel uneasy. A little too… smooth for my liking. I like a bit of rough in my candidate.

Nevertheless, four hopefuls are gone (including Richard Shepherd, for shame), and we will now test just how this exhaustive ballot system works. Assuming everyone voted for who they wanted to is a very big mistake in this kind of voting system. It’s very unlikely that people voted for their first preference because everyone likes to think of silly reasons to vote for other candidates in order to stop X, rather than give Y a chance.

The consequence will be that some of the candidates will see their support drop, despite the sudden availability of preference votes from eliminated candidates. For instance, voters for Alan Beith or Alan Haselhurst may realise the game is up and desert him. Alternatively, voters for John Bercow may decide to “lend” their vote to another candidate in an attempt to force someone else to finish last.

Or perhaps some MPs were complacent, not voting for their real preference because they didn’t think they needed it? That might explain Margaret Beckett’s surprisingly poor showing.

And in any case, no one knows who each MPs second preference is. We barely know who their first preferences were, but no one really thought to ask those who would admit it who they’d vote for in the event their candidate didn’t make it.

Whatever, it’s a horrible system – too much room for strategies and tactics rather than just straightforward votes for who the MP actually wants. Would be much better to do it all in one vote with instant run-off. The Alternative Vote, in other words.

But now, we return to the waiting…

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