Category Archives: Alternative Vote (AV)

In Praise of Indirect Democracy

We like to think that we elect governments – and most parties encourage this view with national campaigning, leaders’ debates and an emphasis on party discipline.

But we actually elect representatives to form a Parliament. It is members of that Parliament that vote to support a government and they decide issues rather than us. In that respect our democracy is “indirect”.

We are being progressively encouraged to think that more “direct” democracy is “better”. Witness the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners and the push for directly elected mayors.

I think this is wrong and that, for reasons of coherence and accommodating diversity, indirect democracy has a lot going for it.

This is particularly so as we face a potentially complicated hung parliament. This means that we are unlikely to have a government with a clear parliamentary majority – we will not have “elected a government”. So it will be up to our MPs, as a Parliament, to decide who forms the executive. This requires them to act as parliamentarians not as party hacks wedded to a series of “red-line promises”, “manifesto pledges” and “policy millstones”.

Continue reading

STV as a tug-of-war

In a previous post having another go at the horse race analogy used by supporters of FPTP (First Past The Post) electoral systems, I tried to compare AV (The Alternative Vote) to a tug-of-war:

Initially the die-hard supporters of the two established foes (usually Labour and the Conservatives) take an end each. As they start pulling they scream out promises and threats to bystanders to try to persuade

  • their stay-at-home supporters to pick up their end of the rope and pull
  • supporters of minority parties to lend their weight (if only to stop the other side winning)
  • the apathetic to look at how things are going and if they don’t like what they see to also lend their weight.

As all of this happens you may find a few people changing ends, but the result is determined by who has the greatest weight of support and can pull themselves over the line at the close of polls.

Electoral Tug-of-War

Electoral Tug-of-War as an AV analogy

I also suggested that STV (the Single Transferable Vote – usually in multi-member constituencies) might be a multi-dimensional version of this tug-of-war with each candidate having a rope. I have since been trying to visualise this! Continue reading

Myth Busting: The winner should win (take 2: The Tug-of-War)

Julian Ware-Lane in his blog reflecting on the Conservatives reaction to losing control makes the point:

The Conservatives, it could be argued, won in the Borough [with 30.29%]. I think a more accurate telling of the story is to state that with 69.71% voting for other parties it was quite a rejection.

To be fair to them this would be consistent with their approach to AV. Remember their comparison to a horse race and the slogan “the winner should win“. It is written into their political DNA which means that a lot of the behaviour that he complains about is actually instinctive rather than rational.

The problem with their analogy is that they rig the race. Continue reading

Misleading Name for a Misleading System

“First Past the Post” is a lousy misleading name for a lousy misleading system. Under “first past the post” it is very rare for anyone to reach the “winning post”, so it should be better called something like “Best Failure” or “Least Worst Failure”.

Ironically, Continue reading

UKIP’s and the Conservative’s Pickle

It is interesting that the Conservatives are branding themselves as the “party that will give the people a choice” (through an in/out referendum) and UKIP are also promising to “give the country back to the people”. Yet both are worried about splitting the vote at the next general election. Hence the calls for pacts or coupon elections from worried conservatives; hence UKIP playing hard-ball. This is disingenuous. Continue reading

How the Cons could have avoided being ukippered

BBC News Website 29 September 2013 David Cameron wants leader debates before campaign begins:

Foreign Secretary William Hague has meanwhile ruled out an electoral pact with UKIP, after a BBC poll suggested nearly 25% of Conservative councillors were in favour of such a deal.

Some Conservative backbenchers have suggested a deal with UKIP is necessary to avoid splitting the right-wing vote and allowing Labour leader Ed Miliband into Number 10.

But Mr Hague said the Conservatives “don’t make pacts with other parties” and instead warned wavering Tory supporters they risked letting Labour into power.

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What makes an election system democratic?

How offended can you be before an election result is “not democratic”? Continue reading

UKIP Vote split

Nigel Farage stated today (BBC Today in Politics 1 March 2013)  in response to UKIP pushing the Tories into third place in the Eastleigh by-election (result):

The UKIP vote was split by the Tories

Daniel Hannan (Conservative MEP) blogging on the Daily Telegraph (The Eurosceptic Right wins more than half the vote, the Europhile Left gets in with less than a third) urged the Tories and UKIP to come to a pact.

Between them, the two Centre-Right parties secured 53 per cent; yet the Lib Dems got in with 32 per cent. This is worse than the SDP/Labour split of the early 1980s. It is more like the Conservative/Reform split in Canada in the 1990s, a split that gifted the Left vast parliamentary majorities on a minority of the vote for over a decade.

Imagine Eastleigh being replicated in 100 constituencies at the 2015 general election. Or in just 50. Yet again, the first-past-the-post system would see an essentially Eurosceptic electorate return an essentially Euro-integrationist House of Commons.

Oh dear, what to do? Continue reading

Eastleigh Cons

Oh what a pretty mess!

The Cons want to win the forthcoming Eastleigh By-election caused by the resignation of Chris Huhne (BBC News Website 4 February 2013 Chris Huhne quits as MP after guilty plea) but a number of obstacles stand in their way:

  • “Gay Marriage” is pissing off the Conservative grassroots and may cause conservative voters to stay at home – it may pay Clegg to get this election called early (if he can) whilst the issue is fresh in the blue rinse minds.
  • Nigel Farage stood for UKIP in Eastleigh in the 1994 by-election

On the other hand the Liberals may find that some of their voters (those sickened by some of the actions of this coalition) drift off to Labour or the Greens.  Will they also suffer from the claimed Conservative fury at the Lib Dems for voting against the “redrawing boundaries to help the conservatives” bill?

So will the by-election be a lottery?

Might Cameron be wishing that this election was to be run under AV?  What might happen? Continue reading