Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Pros & Cons of the Alternative Vote

Gordon has had a cracking idea of how to win an election, and the detail on LibDem Voice makes horrifying reading for any Conservative - or perhaps I should say horrifying reading for anyone who hates the idea of electoral gerrymandering. If LibDem Voice is right - and I have some doubts which I will explain in a moment - the result of the last election under the Alternative Vote system would have been...

Labour 365 (+16 on FPTP); Conservatives 172 (-38 on FPTP); Liberal Democrats 89 (+27 on FPTP); Plaid Cymru 5 (+2 on FPTP); Scottish National Party 7 (+1 on FPTP).

This is predicated on most Labour voters transferring their second preferences to the LibDems and vice versa. Of course, in reality it wouldn't be like that. Many Labour voters hate the LibDems more than they hate the Conservatives. Many LibDems would rather support a Conservative than a Labour candidate.

I don't pretend that our current electoral system is totally fair, but it's the best one anyone has come up with. On the face of it the AV system maintains the constituency link, which very few other forms of PR do, but do we really want to be governed by a whole raft of politicians who are the second choice of most but the first choice of few?

I am not philosophically opposed to electoral reform. I can certainly support it in local government, and probably for a reformed House of Lords. But I have yet to be convinced that any of the proposed systems for the House of Commons would either be fair or work. Convince me.


Noelinho said...

"do we really want to be governed by a whole raft of politicians who are the second choice of most but the first choice of few?"

Well, that's roughly what we have now, really, isn't it. I know it plays itself out slightly differently, but that's still pretty much what we've got.

simon said...

Anybody who advocates changing from FPTP to PR is a gerrymander of the worst order. FPTP deliveres stable government, a bastardised form of PR does not. Just look at Italy. A country formed in, i think,in 1929, has had virtually a different government every year! What we need at Westminster elections is a FAIR distribution of seats based on population on a FPTP system. A constituency of say 50,000 voters is more than enough for any MP to handle! Of course, living in Jockland, the system here got rid of Lying Labour- a definite plus!!!

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

It's too late for Gordon now. No proposal for electoral reform which is transparently intended to keep Labour in power will get through the House of Lords.

inamicus said...

Do you really believe that Labour voters hate the Lib Dems more than the Tories? It might be true of a small number of Labour activists but not of the majority of voters. Iain is whistling in the dark here.

Anonymous said...

The utter balls up at the Welsh Assembly election, and the election of Alex Salmond as First Minister in Scotland should give us serious pause for thought before tinkering with the electoral system.

If those censorious, anti-free-speech nitwits on Lib Dem Voice think this is a good idea, that tells you all you need to know about whether or not we should support it.

tory boys never grow up said...

I can see the arguments for the AV, but the fundamental point is that changing the voting system (and other constitutional reforms such as fixed term parliaments) should be put to the electorate at either a general elction or a referendum so that we (the electorate) can have the argument.

Tim said...

You have to be in the top 2 on first choices to be elected under the systems that are being discussed. There is no chance of someone who is first choice of only a few people being elected.

strapworld said...

First past the post IS the best system. But I would not put anything past this charlatan in charge at the moment.

I believe he would engineer a 'major incident' by which he would postpone any general election for any number of years so to keep power.

However, having said that, the Alternative Vote system may well have helped in the last election. BUT if the majority give their first vote to the Tory party in England. and the SNP in Scotland the labour party should still be in a pretty poor position. Or am I incorrect?

What these clowns overlook, though, is that the second vote may well go (in England especially) to the BNP or UKIP. Giving those parties their voice in Parliament!!

It would make for interesting times Iain. Not good for democracy but is this present government good for democracy!

Anonymous said...

At the very least they system would need to reflect that they are second or third choices and value them as half a vote.

Cassilis said...

The way you’ve phrased the question illustrates the problem with the whole PR debate.

“…I have yet to be convinced that any of the proposed systems for the House of Commons would either be fair or work. Convince me.”

If you excuse the huge generalisation the difficulty is those that are fair (i.e. produce an outcome as close as possible to the public mood) aren’t usually the same as those that ‘work’. Anti-PR argument nearly all revolves around the ‘firm-government’ line – FTPT is preferable since it nearly always produces strong central government. This is broadly true and it’s an argument that elevates outcome over process, which some would say is the right order.

For others, me included, this is the wrong order when it comes to democracy – what matters is that we have a parliament constituted as closely as we can with the wishes of the electorate. It that’s a muddle of first, second & third preferences and regional influences with no clear governing party so be it. We should never elevate the interests of the establishment / political classes (the ‘firm government’ line) above the wishes of the people, however misguided those wishes are.

Paul Linford said...

Electoral gerrymandering - or just a means of reflecting the centre-left, anti-conservative majority that exists in Britain and has existed since the late 60s.

Ross said...

Seeing as AV is the one voting reform that is less proportional that FPTP it will be interesting to see how the Lib Dems react to it. If they support a change then it shows that their concern with voting reform is based entirely on their party political interests rather than any principle.

The system that I'd quite like to see is the one they use in Ireland which leaves no safe seats and no party lists.

rob's uncle said...

The case for the Alternative Vote was well put in 1998 by Peter Kellner in his submission to the Jenkins 'Independent Commission on the Voting System' which is at:

Broon's Talking Bawgie said...

I have always been fascinated by the assumption that the losers from FPTP make, which is that "x% of the electorate voted against Party A so Party A should not get a majority". I first heard this argument in 1983 after Saint Margaret's glorious demolition of Labour, who IIRC scored 28% while the LibDhimms got 25% to her 43%. Labourites and LibDhimms alike whined that "53% of the electorate voted against Fatchaa" so she should not have won. Many were genuinely astounded when I pointed out that, on that reckoning, 72% had voted against Labour and 75% had voted against the LibDhimms, so Margaret had won either way. It had just never occurred to them that votes could equally well be construed as votes cast against them.

The point is that you do not know the intention behind any vote cast, and it is as facile as we expect of the LibDhimms to assume that we'll all vote for them as an alternative to Labour or the Conservatives. In Labour seats many people vote LibDhimm only because under FTPT they're the only party that stands a chance of winning, but with this AV lark then the BNP, Respeck, the Kashmiri People's Justice Party and the like - the grievance constituency so assiduously fanned by Labour - will score big time in Labour constituencies. We only have one fascist MP at the moment but we'll be sure to get more.

It is also facile in my view to force people to allocate two votes to two candidates. It assumes that people actually have a second preference. Well, I don't. I'd kill Bambi sooner than vote for any Labour or LibDhimm tapeworm, so why shouldn't I be allowed to cast both my votes for the same candidate, the Conservative?

I'd consider voting for the SNP, because I too want Scottish independence, as should every English taxpayer. Unfortunately they don't run candidates in north London.

asquith said...

Obviously I'd support the Lib Dem candidate first. Were I to have a second vote, I might end up giving it to Cameron. It would have been the Greens, but they've alienated me by their support for Leavingsoon.

Broon's Talking Bawgie said...

And there you go: in the time it took me to write that post, Paul Linford pops up with exactly the sloppy thinking I mentioned in my previous post.

Paul, mate, I have news for you: at every election in recent history, there has been an anti-Labour and and anti-LibDhimm majority. Your presumption of a centre-left majority relies on the assumption that only the Labour and LibDhimm voters were ever voting against anything. I voted LibDhimm so as to vote against Labour, not because I am of the centre-left, and you have no idea of how many people this is also true of.

In a three-party system, a dead heat would be if each party got 33.33% of the vote each. It would then be possible to argue that nobody had won. The closest we've ever got was in 2005, when Labour won with just over 35% versus the Tories' 33%.

Newmania said...

Anti-PR argument nearly all revolves around the ‘firm-government’ line – FTPT is preferable since it nearly always produces strong central government.

Cassilis that is not right . The problem with PR is that it hands power to tiny groups at the centre and removes the direct accountability of the MP. The voter would not elect the Government he would only affect the environment in which politicians did their deals . It is the lack of democracy that is the problem not the surfeit of it .

The case for transferring votes by any of the numerous equations some people like tiddle with is that it favours the centre Party over either of the main Parties , unreasonably. In other words it favours the Party that stands for the least identifiable set of Policies and has the least integrity. It is an absurd system for turning small Parties into big Party and the Liberal Party would drop it like a hot brick if they ever achieved any real importance.

This news was the front page of the Guardian on Saturday and discussed in the Independent yesterday I really believe Brown will try it .16% behind he will change the rules using the reform of the HOL as the excuse . It is a assumed by both Papers that the Liberals are merely Labour-lite and will support the minority Brown administration on almost any basis. Surely he must at least hold a referendum ? The Independent think he may force it through soon or perhaps as a minority Administration having done a deal with the Liberals

We are reaching the end of a macabre dance in which the un-equilibrium of devolved assemblies and the threat of a power grab dressed as Constitutional reform circle malevolently around each other. The Judas Liberals are going to sell out the country again just so they can have their stupid careers and their stupid articles in the Guardian. Sell us all out again !!

PS Cassilis the great absence in your thinking is that people`s chief democratic right is not to vote for a Party or even a poltical position , it is to kick the bastards out without guns and and that is what we will lose .
I f they are taking my vote away then I want my f----ing gun back !

Anonymous said...

Some good analysis of what is wrong with various voting systems here:

(it's a bit dry, but it does give some good examples of how the voters clear intentions don't quite work as expected)

Although the author's suggested improvement, so called PR squared would likely be much too complicated to explain to people:

Simon said...

It works in Ireland. We have had PR since the founding of the state. And have one of the most stable political climates in Europe.

The reason PR is more representative is in an extreme example. Say Labour had 51% of the vote in every constituency they would get 100% of the seats in parliament meaning 49% of the population would be unrepresented.

With PR with say 5 seat constituencies they would need about 83% of the vote in every seat to get 100%

archroy said...

Proportional systems may be good for electing governments, but FPTP is the only sure way of kicking them out!

Broon's Talking Bawgie said...

The flaw in your 51% argument, Simon, is that if one party got 51% of the votes and also 51% of the seats, the other 49% would still be just as unrepresented. With a 2-seat majority, the 51% party could win every vote just as surely as if it had all the seats. So in your example PR makes no difference.

Tristan said...

Repeat after me: AV is NOT PR.

AV+ is proportional, but has the problem of two classes of MP.

STV is PR and has a constituency link, it just has multiple members per constituency, which we have had before (and we've even used STV a couple of times in the UK).
STV also means you have the option to vote for particular candidate which raises the potential of having different factions in a party competing for public support, not for support in the party (so you could have had a Brownite vs a Blairite vs an Old Labour style candidate for example).

Closed list systems however should never be supported by anyone who believes in democracy. They may be proportional, but they give control to the party hierarchy.

Simon said...

Broon's Talking Bawgie there is a massive difference between a government with a 2 seat majority and a total majority. Imagine if Labour had a 2 seat majority how different that would be in todays Parliament with only 2 labour MPs needing to vote against the government.

Malcolm Clark said...

We are already "governed by a whole raft of politicians who are .. the first choice of few." Only 34% of MPs gained over half of the votes in their constituencies in 2005.

Iain is right that the assumptions that the LibDemVoice blogger used aren't accurate. Many commentators are acknowledging we are now back to somewhere near a 50:50 split of LibDems second preferences to Labour and the Tories. Perhaps the London Mayoral elections may tell us more whether that is indeed the case. But I think the days of AV massively favouring Labour are long gone. Indeed, increasing anti-Labour tactical voting (there is evidence for this from the 2006 and 2007 local elections) and AV’s anti-incumbency tendencies may in fact help the Tories.

Electoral reform for the Commons is being talked about now is actually less due to Labour's electoral predicament (though that is likely to be one factor), but the increasing consensus behind some form of PR for electing the Lords. The time could approach when the Lords will be able to argue with some justification that they are the more legitimate and representative House. A change away from First-Past-the-Post will be necessary to protect the primacy of the Commons.

neil craig said...

If virtually all LibDem & Labour voters wanted a Labour government in preference to the Tories it is not at all unreasonable that they (the clear majority) should get it. Personally, except as part of an electoral deal with a democratic electoral system on the table I very much doubt if labour could hope for such support.

Indeed because Labour promised a referendum on PR in 1997 & broke it, the Tories would actually be in a stronger position to make such a promise but if they decide to drive the Libs into Labour's arms whose fault would that be?

The idea that FPTP gives us all the smack of stable & firm government is wrong. It isn't stable because the only way of changing things is to entirely throw out the current rascals & put the new lot in, who are bound to have precisely opposite policies on many things - that is not stability.

Regarding strength, whatever the legal position, a governemnt which everybody knows represents an ever smaller minority of us can have little respect & severe practical limits on what it can do.

FPTP also tends to increase geographical differences (seats in the south of England being Tory & elsewhere Labour when the popular vote is much more even). It creates large parties where debate is stifled in the need to appear monolithic (eg Mr Flight & the general lack of debate about tax cuts).

The bottom line is that FPTP gives voters a very limited choice & monopolistic power to owners of parties - that is neither democratic nor likely to allow wide political debate &/or progress & is, I think, a significant cause of our decline as a free & propserous nation.

Southpaw Grammar said...

FPTP is simply an archaic, undemocratic and too blunt a system to be suitable for what are far more politically pluralistic and ideological neutral times.

I think as Tristan highlighted, AV+ or indeed a fully STV system would bring a far more accurate expression of the electorates will. Thousands and thousands of votes are wasted and simply irrelevant to the outcome- that includes Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and Nationalist votes.

I am sure we all agree that participatory democracy is on the wane, to the point where the government’s mandate is provided by fewer and fewer of the public they serve, and things need to be done. One of the biggest reasons for political apathy is that even the people who do vote feel their votes simply do not count. If we are to at least entice people back to vote, we need to at least offer them the ability to ‘make their vote count’. The general public are actually fed up of political squabbling over often non-existent differences, and would often WELCOME co-operation and compromise between parties.

Of course this whole debate is mired in the prism of party political sniping, is there ever a time for a government of the day to implement electoral reform without being accused of political opportunism? We can argue until we are blue in the face about motive, but its actions that count. I will support any government committed to offer a more democratic voting system- any colour or viewpoint. Indeed I am committed supporter to introducing STV in the Welsh Assembly Elections even though my own party of Labour will more than likely lose out by this change.

Why should be satisfied with a voting system that swings on a few thousand votes in a few ‘target’ seats, and the cynical microcosm of politics that fosters itself around that electoral reality. I do not blame parties for focusing their agenda on the target seat microcosm because they are there to attempt to get into government and enact their policies- but it is the reason so many people, particularly people who do not vote are so uninterested because their vote on the whole counts for nothing. Whether you vote Labour in Henley, or Conservative in my seat of Torfaen, you are essentially disenfranchised from the process.

As someone who is 24, I want to be able to have a politics that by the time I reach middle age isn’t derelict and irrelevant, our current political culture, which includes the outdated electoral system is make sure that nightmare will be realised.

floating voter said...

You also get voting for second choice candidates in the FPTP system where people vote tactically.

At least with the AV system there would be a point to voting in a lot more than the 200 odd marginal constituencies. The pool of marginals would increase considerably as the Tory or Labour "donkey" candidate with a blue or red rosette would not be so certain of getting elected. The parties would have to work a lot harder as more constituencies mattered and this would benefit those parties that had genuine grass roots support.

I don't think numerical proportionality should be the "be all and end all" of the electoral system. What is far more important is that the voters feel they have a stake in the system. A system which is full of so called "safe seats" provides no incentive for voters to turn out as they know the parties will take them for granted.

Newmania said...

Electoral reform for the Commons is being talked about now is actually less due to Labour's electoral predicament (though that is likely to be one factor), but the increasing consensus behind some form of PR for electing the Lords

What a load of rubbish. Electoral reform/vote rigging has cropped up every time the Labour Party have been in trouble going back to Blair, as has a Liberal Labour pact based on power sharing. The Liberal Party are not neutral they are only pretending to be in marginal seats where they face Conservatives so as to mislead voters. This makes a dogs breakfast of Neil Craigs musings in the clouds

They should fight these marginals on the basis they are going to conspire with Labour to prop up the Brown administration and disenfranchise the largest party in England while Scotland and Wales have their own Parliaments .This has been the plan from day one and there is nothing disinterested about it.

Anonymous said...

PR is a solution to the wrong problem.

Most people's problem with politics is not that the party balance in the Commons doesn't reflect the country's views fairly - which of course it doesn't. But the real thing most people hate is that individual MPs don't vote their conscience, or the views of their constituents, but just follow the whip.

PR makes that problem worse. MPs would be even less reliant on their constituents' support, and party discipline would need to be even higher when no party has a majority.

I see two plausible solutions. The first is letting the public directly elect a Prime Minister. that way, it wouldn't matter so much if the governing party lost a vote in the Commons, because it wouldn't bring the government down, and that might free up MPs to vote their consciences more.

The second is local primaries for MPs. That way, candidates would have to convince local areas that they would represent them better than other candidates from the same party. The electorate would, I'm sure, reward independence of thought and action.

And one final thought - two houses of parliament should definitely have two different electoral systems: so if you must have PR in one, then you must have straightforward FPTP (ideally with primaries) in the other.

Baldwin said...

Changing the voting system fills me with horror too.

I can see why the fantasy land LibDems want it. Hopefully Brown won't be tempted for short term reasons because it could end up harming Labour as much the Tories.

The LibDem Voice figures they look dodgy given that the Tories won more English votes last time than Labour.

Anonymous said...

This would be the last straw,would the last one out please turn off the light.


FPTP is currently working against the conservatives. The Irish system of STV would retain a constituency link, and be roughly proportional. It would allow the voter to choose candidates within specific parties e.g a libertarian versus authoritarian conservative.

Old Codger said...

"... do we really want to be governed by a whole raft of politicians who are the second choice of most but the first choice of few?"

Could it be any worse than the last few results?

How about making elections compulsory but adding a "None of the above" box. If "None of the above" gets more than 50% of the vote the election in that constituency is re-run with new candidates. A recipe for chaos perhaps but it would be a very interesting experiment.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Lib Dem and I think you need to distinguish between LD activists (a small majority of which would certainly favour Labour over the Tories) with the party and then its millions of voters at large. Anecdotally, once you zoom out from the activists, the party would incline generally to the Tories.

I don't think you can predict how the last election would have looked under AV though because the results that any predication is being based on are skewed by tactical voting.

Ralph Perkins said...

Although without a proportional system the Tories would be nowhere in Scotland or Wales. Is that what you want?
I cannot think of a fairer, more democratic system than one based on proportion of votes. PR works extremely well in many countries but "England" always has the attitude that it needs a different solution. That difference creates inequality, political isolation and an electorate rightly believing that their vote counts for nothing.

wonkotsane said...

The only change that needs to be made for general elections is a separate vote for Prime Minister. Why should independents be banned from running the country? Why must we be forced to have the leader of a party as Prime Minister? We don't have elections for the head of state (I'm quite happy with that arrangement) so we should have elections for the head of the government.

p johns said...

Well done Mr Strapworld for being the only one to notice that if you change the electoral rules you also change the electoral ecology.
Of course the numbers come out like that if you only look at three English parties. But that isn't the world that people would be voting in. They'd be voting in a world where a vote for one of the smaller parties wasn't a waste of time. How many of the missing millions who abstained last time might be enticed down to the Polling Station with the choice of parties actually representing their views?

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a lot of panic over the mere suggestion that our glorious poilitical parties might not be totally free to impose their fetid wills upon the British people.

Look on the bright side chaps. This country is falling to pieces. Likelyhood is that the civil war will relieve all you hacks of these scary thoughts.

neil craig said...

PR does strengthen the individual MP because it makes it possible for them to stand as an independent & win. Under FPTP the best, or worst, a deselected MP can do is to split the vote & let the other side in.

This is not theory - in Scotland Margo MacDonald was effectively deselested for asking akward questions, stood as herself, won & is in a very strong position. She is also one of the best MSPs, pushing a number of politically incorrect causes.

Neil Harding said...

I'm a Labour supporter, but I couldn't care less which parties are running the country, as long as the government more closely represents the majority's wishes (the more people that are represented, the more likely minorities will be respected, because everyone of us is in a minority in some aspect or other).

The Tories certainly didn't represent the majority's wishes in the 80s and 90s and Labour hasn't managed it either over the last ten years.

The reason for this is simple. They were not elected by the majority - but by a small minority - 42% of actual voters and 33% of eligible voters in the Tories case. And this last Labour administration, got 55% of the seats with just 35% of the vote and barely 22% of eligible voters (and this is before we get on to the geographic acrobatics of FPTP).

Contrary to what archroy said, FPTP does not make it easier to 'kick them out'. As long as a party can keep it's 22% or so happy and split the opposition vote, they can stay in power forever - whatever the majority think about it.

It took opposition to the Tories to reach nearly 70% of voters and 85% of the electorate before they were finally 'kicked out' last time.

While not perfect, PR would improve this situation considerably. It would at least mean a government that is voted for by a majority of the vote. But more than this, it would mean more diverse views, more women and more people from lower socio-economic backgrounds(including ethnic minorities) in parliament.

Democracy would be healthier and Iraq Wars and Poll Taxes would be much less likely to occur. Here is an example of what I mean;

PARTY A, to cut taxes by 10%; invade Iran; ban abortion.
PARTY B, to increase taxes by 5%; against invasion; abortion cut to 22 weeks.
PARTY C, to increase taxes by 10%; against invasion; abortion left at 24 weeks.

PARTY A, 40% of the vote
PARTY B, 25% of the vote
PARTY C, 35% of the vote

Under FPTP, Party A wins the election, cuts taxes by 10%, invades Iran and bans abortion, despite 60% of the electorate voting against all these policies. How can this be justified?

Under PR, parties B and C forms coalition, negotiates tax increase between 5% and 10%, compromises at 23 weeks on abortion, and doesn't invade Iran. This is much much closer to what the majority wanted.
Try the model yourself changing th policies and percentages - PR always comes out best.

To those who rubbish the efficiency of PR government, I refer them to German, Scandanavian and even Italian, levels of post-war economic growth, lower inequality and better public services.

Overall PR government beats us hands down on all these factors and also delivers higher political engagement and environemntal protection. Germany and Scandanavia have also had less post-war elections and leaders, compare that to the instability that FPTP has brought to Canada.

Long term decisions are just easier to make when the parties have to work together and when the best of all parties come together, it is little surprise that better decisions are made.

Coalitions under FPTP usually are weak and indecisive, because firstly, the parties are not used to working together and secondly, FPTP produces coalitions that do not reflect what the voters voted for.

Which brings me on to which system of PR is best. First of all it needs to be said that AV is not PR and the government are actually only proposing SV (a second preference option added to FPTP), which is not even as good as AV. Saying that, at least it has prompted a debate about electoral reform on Tory websites.

Whatever the government's motives, this is a welcome debate and I think that any move that gives more choice to voters should be welcomed even if it doesn't give proportionality. We shouldn't make 'the best' the enemy of improvement.

Personally I like open-list PR best, but the system used in Baden-Wurtemberg in Germany would be an ideal transition for Westminster. You vote exactly the same as FPTP, putting an X against your candidate in your constituency. All these winning constituency candidates are elected, but then your vote is counted again towards the party you voted for and their best placed candidates not already elected are also elected to make the result proportional. This way the electorate decide everyone who is elected. This was the system proposed for Westmister by the Hansard society in 1976. I think this system combines the proportionality of PR and the 'constituency link' of FPTP in a simple and fair way.

We still have a problem electing disadvantaged groups under this system, but at least it is easy to understand (vote in and count) and avoids party lists.

I am a bit of an anorak, as the above post probably demonstrates. I am always interested in electoral system ideas. I looked at the PR squared idea and wasn't impressed - it was more like FPTP squared - there was no proportionality! Anyway, hope I have made some of you die-hard Tories think.

Buckley said...

I see the usual sophistry from the defenders of FPTP - in particular Italy is dragged up again and we constantly see reference to firm, stable government. .

AV seems to be the only "semi-reform" on the horizon and the only reason that it should be supported is that it could possibly keep Labour in power with at least the possibility that a Labour government may be persuaded to progress from AV (STV in single-member constituencies) to STV in multi-member consituencies. If the Tories get back in power we could say goodbye to reform of any kind indefinitely.

In the latter regard perhaps we should remind ourselves of the sheer hypocrisy that reigns in Westminster in the matter of the electoral system. Here are a couple of extracts from a pamphlet issued in the early seventies by a Tory government to the citizens of Northern Ireland regarding the reintroduction of STV for Stormont :-

"What is PR (in this case STV) ? It is an electoral system designed to make sure that the candidates elected represent accurately the opinions of the voters ie that the strength of each party is in proportion to its support among the people."

"Why multi-member constituencies? In a single-member constituency, all the votes not cast for the winng candidate are wasted since they have not been able to elect anyone. And so are all the votes in excess of a bare majority cast for the winner, in the sense that they have had no effect on the result"

We can hear Tory (and Labour) MP’s saying "STV is splendid for the provinces - but we are going to hang onto FPTP because that’s the system under which WE were elected"

peezedtee said...

"On the face of it the AV system maintains the constituency link, which very few other forms of PR do" (Iain Dale)

Oh dear.
(1) AV is not a proportional system.
(2) The system that IS proportional and DOES maintain the constituency link is STV (the single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies), which (in a somewhat corrupted version) is used in Ireland.

Unfortunately most people who pontificate about election systems don't actually understand much about them, and that includes nearly all politicians. (I declare an interest as a former member of the Council of the Electoral Reform Society.)

Buckley said...


"Unfortunately most people who pontificate about election systems don't actually understand much about them, and that includes nearly all politicians"

Dead right. Not so long ago I had an e-mail exchange with a very well known politician who is no longer a minister or MP (to spare his blushes I won't name him) who said he did not support STV since he abhorred list systems. He did not seem to know that STV is a quota system not a list system. His favourite system was AV! Here again he did not seem to realise that AV is in fact STV in single-member constituencies - or to put it the other way round, STV is AV in multi-member constituencies.

And that is not the only example of complete ignorance on the part of MP's that I have come across. Ultimately all they seem to know is that they were elected under FPTP and they are jolly well going to hang onto that system at all costs.

peezedtee said...

"Ultimately all they seem to know is that they were elected under FPTP and they are jolly well going to hang onto that system at all costs" (Buckley)

Indeed, but there is a more specific problem about achieving STV. It is that STV takes power away from the party machine and places it where it belongs, in the hands of the voter.

With FPTP or AV, or list systems of PR, the party decides who can stand. STV allows the voter to choose both between parties and/or between different candidates of the same party, giving the voter the final say. And if all the parties put up candidates the voters don't like, STV also makes it easier than with other systems for an independent with wide popular support to win a seat (this sometimes happens in Ireland). In practice, this encourages parties to present a diverse slate of candidates in each multi-member seat.

STV can therefore be perceived as to some degree an "Anti-party system", which is why the parties will probably never agree to adopt it.

Anonymous said...

Newmania: "The problem with PR is that it hands power to tiny groups at the centre and removes the direct accountability of the MP." How unlike the home life of our own whipped democracy!

Tristan: "Closed list systems ... should never be supported by anyone who believes in democracy. They may be proportional, but they give control to the party hierarchy." FPTP offers a closed list of one for each party.

AJUK said...

You have to remember that it maybe the second choice because they wanted someone else to win who didn't have enough support to win it, and if that person hadn't been running their second choice would have been there second choice. And remember the reason the vote get transferred is because their first choice is out of it they're gone, can't win.

AJUK said...
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