Category Archives: Uncategorized

First Past the Post and Referenda

The EU Remain/Leave Referendum campaign has been very quiet in my area – no leaflets through my door apart from a very early Leave rag (possibly not official) and so far only five posters in windows on my routes into town (3 leave, 2 remain).

So I am wondering why? Continue reading

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Is AMS truly democratic?

Democratic Audit are carrying out an audit of democracy and ask:

What does democracy require for an electoral system?

  • It should accurately translate parties’ votes into seats in the legislature (e.g. Parliament)
  • In a way that is recognized as legitimate by most citizen (ideally almost all of them).
  • No substantial part of the population should regard the result as illegitimate, nor suffer a consistent bias of the system ‘working against them’.
  • If possible, the system should have beneficial effects for the good governance of the country.
  • If possible, the voting system should enhance the social representativeness of the legislature, and encourage high levels of voting across all types of citizens.

How democratic are the reformed electoral systems used in mayoral and devolved elections? Democratic Audit UK, 18 January 2016

It then applies these criteria to its audit of the AMS system used in the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and London Assemblies.

I take issue with two of these criteria – which are fundamental to the examination of the Additional Member System (AMS). Continue reading

Constituency Volatility?

Democratic Dashboard has published data showing the results of all four elections since 1997.

I have extracted the data for the North East of England (my region), showing the winner of the 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010 election (plus the incumbent from the 1992 election) Assumptions made by Democratic Dashboard where there were boundary changes and constituency renaming. I have added the History note mainly from Wikipedia records. Often the seats have been held by one party since they were created. Continue reading

Low Majority Dangers

Mark D’Arcy BBC Parliamentary correspondent writing about the prospects for the next Parliament and Government notes:

… the arithmetic of the next Parliament is only part of the reason why it will be so difficult to construct an administration capable of lasting even a couple of years.

The rise of UKIP, the Greens and the SNP means more MPs than ever before may be elected on an extremely narrow mandate.

Take a look at the 2010 result in Norwich South, where Lib Dem Simon Wright won on 29.4% of the vote, a hair ahead of the former Labour Home Secretary, Charles Clarke on 28.7%, with the Conservatives on 22.9%, the Greens on 14.9% and UKIP on 2.4%.

Many more seats will see three, four or even five party politics at the next election, so it’s not hard to imagine plenty of the next generation of MPs taking their seats on the basis of less than a third of the votes in their constituency.

They would have an acute sense of vulnerability. They would be under huge pressure to bring back the goods for their constituency, to deliver bypasses or new schools, fight local hospital closures, or fracking or whatever. And they could be vulnerable to constituency pressures on big votes.
BBC News Website 19 December 2014 : The next Parliament: Coalition 2.0 or confidence and supply?

This raises an interesting reflection on what we might mean by democracy. Continue reading

Achieving Political Fission

Ian Birrell in the Guardian (Monday 27th September 2014) ponders whether a Conservative split may be the catharsis the party needs, concluding:

Yet what really binds the many decent and tolerant conservatives to those misanthropes filled with fear and rage against modernity?

Fear.

To be “conservative” implies an element of holding on to the past – because it has to be better than an uncertain future. Too often this can overpower any search for change for the better.

Two problems stoke this fear.

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

Is Representative Democracy failing us?

Matthew Flinders on Democratic Audit (2 July 2014) ponders What is the problem with democracy?

Could it be that we need to give those politicians we elect just a little more leeway and ‘space’ in order to allow them to focus on delivering their promises? Could it be that politicians have become too sensitive to the immediate demands of the loudest sectional groups or the latest focus group or what’s trending on twitter?

I think we also need to get our minds back round what we mean by a “representative democracy” and whether it is still working (at least sufficiently for us to want to continue with it). 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