Monday, August 23, 2010

The LibDems And AV

So this is how it's going to be, then - the LibDems wilfully misinterpreting every single argument put against AV. Various of them went off on one last night after my post BELOW, alleging that I couldn't tell the difference between AV and STV. Any fool reading the post could see that was clearly not the case. I'd have thought this sentence would have given even the thickest of LibDems a clue...

There's a reason only one other country in the world uses AV. It's a half way
house. It tries to be a PR equivalent of the First Past the Post system, but in
reality it is no more proportionate than straight out FPTP, and in some cases
can be less so.

They then picked on the fact that I had said only one other country uses AV. I meant, of course, Australia. Oh no, they cry, Fiji and Papua New Guinea use it too. Oh, well, that makes it better then. Apologies for missing out the word 'major' before country.

I raised STV was because we all know that's what the LibDems want. At the moment they're happy to replace one flawed electoral system with another one. An unproportionate system with an, er, a potentially even more unproportionate one.

If I had asked any LibDem a year ago whether they would campaign for AV, I doubt a single LibDem would have replied in the affirmative. Which is why I have no respect for their stance on AV. It's a system that they don't want, they don't like and think is wrong, and yet they're prepared to waste millions of pounds having a referendum on it. All because they regard it as a stepping stone to STV.

I am not ideologically opposed to electoral reform. Indeed, I favour PR for the House of Lords and local government elections. But I do not favour STV for Westminster elections for reasons I have already outlined below, and the arguments in favour of AV are just not conclusive enough to make a change.

AV may result in even less proportionate results than now. Landslide results would be even bigger for either of the two main parties, academics have suggested. But the one thing we do know from academics is that AV would invariably result in more seats for the LibDems.

Funny that.

42 comments:

gregblogs said...

Ireland uses AV for the Presidential elections. If you look at http://www.idea.int/esd/world.cfm you will see that 'major' countries use a wide range of voting systems

I'm a Conservative and will be voting for AV because I think it gives me more choice and as a Conservative I think that is a pretty good thing in itself.

I also find it ironic that many of those in favour of FPTP (a system that is increasingly unproportional) state they don't like AV because it could be more disproportional in some circumstances. I bet if AV was more proportional you would be arguing that it would lead to weak government and should be rejected.

nickthornsby said...

I can only speak for myself, Iain, but I think AV is an improvement on FPTP - and if you'd asked me that a year ago I'd have said the same thing. Indeed that's why the Lib Dems supported the bill for a referendum in the Commons in the dying days of the Brown government.

AV is, you're right, not necessarily more proportional. But proportionality is not the be all and end all. I have a sliding scale of what are the best and worst electoral systems. FPTP is at the end marked 'worst' and STV is at the end marked 'best' (though not perfect, of course).

AV is somewhere in the middle. Why? Because for one it allows preferential voting, doing away with the need to vote negatively, allowing parties (including the Lib Dems) to fill more of the campaign with stuff that matters rather than trying to convince people to vote tactically to get rid of a certain party.

FPTP is the worst of all worlds. AV is somewhat better.

john in cheshire said...

Iain, is it possible that UKIP would win seats in Parliament, if AV is adopted? In which case, I suppose I would be in favour. I don't really like PR as such; I think the adversarial approach of representation is much better for the electorate - it should stop all the parties cosying up to each other against us their employers. But in recent times our system has failed; my belief is that the failure is due the kinds of people we are electing - there are no honourable men and women in politics these day - and not the system per se. If there were people of honour, we would be out of the EU, immigration would not be the problem in surely is and we would be giving proper training to our children to ensure we can continue with our way of life into the future. Parties like UKIP in Parliament, may just force these issues to be recognised and dealt with.

Sean Haffey said...

These two blog entries are good in that they have generated debate.

FPTP, like AV, is generally used in single member constituencies. In council elections in England, however, FPTP is also used in multi-member constituencies.

STV is normally used in multi-member constituencies.

The process by which the Tories choose their leader is inherently an AV one, except the run of is done in a number of rounds if needed.

Criticisms of AV include "What if I don't like any of the candidates other than my favourite?" This is no different from the situation in the present system if there are no candidates you like: you have the choice of voting for none or voting for the "least worst" alternative.

While I haven't yet decided, I'm inclined towards AV. I think it will increase voter turnout, as voters will think there is a better chance that their votes will count.

I suspect those academics who say it would favour the LibDems are the same who said the LibDems would gain dozens of seats in the election we've just had.

DeeDee99 said...

As I posted yesterday, Cameron is extremely relaxed about AV because he knows the Conservative vote will not be harmed by it - in fact it may help him recover the 'lost' Conservatives who have defected to UKIP because of his pro-EU policy and failure to agree to a Referendum on the LisbonCon.

Clegg accepted it as part of the Coalition deal because STV or any form of PR was not on the table and would not go on the table at any price.

I will be voting against AV because all it will do is perpetuate the current arrangement with either Labour or the Conservatives winning with the LibDems coming third and if they are very lucky just possibly holding the balance of power.

AV will ensure that the minority parties who cannot win a seat under FPTP will continue to be unable to win a seat. With very occasional exceptions, their candidates will be voted out in the first round and the 2nd preference of people who voted for them will then be allocated.

It can be assumed that most UKIP voters would put the Tory candidate as their second preference (and most BNP voters would nominate Labour). Thus the two main parties will recover the votes they have lost to the minority party but without having to make any concessions whatsoever.

That is why Cameron isn't too bothered by AV. What both he and Labour are very concerned about is to prevent any form of PR because THAT would give the minorities a foothold in Parliament - and once they're in, their support will grow very quickly.

This is a heads I win/tails you lose situation. If we vote for FPTP to continue, we will be told the electorate had the opportunity to vote for reform and rejected it - so no need to consider any other electoral system. If we vote for AV, we will be told that no further electoral reform (ie PR) is justified.

The main concern of both Labour and the Conservatives is to keep UKIP out of Westminster.

Morda said...

Iain - read your original post again. You must realise that you spoke about AV for all of five seconds - making an unqualified statement about proportionality and a quite frankly irrelevant statement about how much the system is used - before going on some tangent against STV. Which, I have to say, is not very convincing given how completely theoretical the constituency link is under FPTP.

I dislike the straw man arguments in this post. You've said AV is more disproportionate than FPTP and would result in more landslide wins for the big parties yet you say that it would favour the Lib Dems.

I have to question those statements - they can't both be true but they can both be false. If AV massively favours the LDs then surely it's liable to make results more proportional in effect (seeing how the LDs always have so many fewer seats than they would under a purely proportional system) and result in more hung parliaments and less landslides.

If it doesn't significantly benefit the LDs then why on earth do you make the (implicit) accusation at the end of the post that the LDs support AV purely to benefit their party?

The fact is that the Lib Dem party seems to just be being pragmatic. Exchanging a terrible voting system for a merely bad one is still a step up.

Morda said...

Iain - please read your original post again. You must realise that you spoke about AV for hardly any time and only made two points - an unqualified statement about proportionality and an irrelevant and factually incorrect statement about how much AV is used worldwide. The rest of the post was a not very convincing rant against STV, which is not what is being discussed.

I dislike the straw man arguments in this post. You've said AV is more disproportionate than FPTP and would result in more landslide wins for the big parties yet you also say that it would favour the Lib Dems.

I have to question those statements - they can't both be true but they can both be false. If AV significantly benefits the LDs then surely it would be likely to be in effect more proportional - given that the LDs are probably the party in parliament where the seat count is most disproportionate to the percentage of votes cast nationwide at the moment. As such, it would surely give more hung parliaments and less landslide majorities than FPTP.

If it doesn't significantly benefit the LDs then why on earth do you make the (implicit) accusation at the end of the post that the LDs support AV purely to benefit their party?

The fact is that the Lib Dem party seems to just be being pragmatic. Exchanging a terrible voting system for a merely bad one is still a step up.

nationalconversationforengland said...

Iain, you were absolutely right to say AV doesn't do what it says on the tin. It doesn't, for instance, guarantee that the winning candidate obtains more than 50% of the vote (for a recent example of where it failed to do so, see the Elections Ireland website.

AV does always produce a 'majority' in Australia, but that's because voters have to rank all the candidates, ensuring that eventually one of them will win over 50% of the votes in play. However, we're not going to make it compulsory for voters to do that in Britain, which means that a certain percentage of votes will not be transferred to the last two parties in the race, creating the possibility that the winner won't gain an overall majority. And by the way, that's also an answer to the question raised by one of the people commenting on your post yesterday: if you just put down one preference in an AV poll, you ballot paper won't be regarded as spoiled in the UK.

Plus AV is prone to tactical voting of a rather perverse kind, which I allude to in an analysis of this weekend's election results in Australia: [Labour] voters tactically indicating as their first preference the party [Lib Dems] that would otherwise come third under FPTP, in order to ensure the defeat of the party that would come second under FPTP [Conservatives] but could be in a position to win under AV thanks to the second preferences of voters for the third-placed party [Lib Dems] that would come into play only if they were not in the final pairing in the AV count. (Yes, it's bonkers, but AV is perverse in its unintended consequences.)

There is a much better alternative, which is a perfect blend of the best features of FPTP, AV and STV, which I outline here.

LibCync said...

Sorry Iain, I'm a LibDem and would have happily campaigned for AV as I think it's a good reform.

I still haven't seen you make any arguments against AV...do you have any?

WriterPaulB said...

How comes AV is being decided by a FTPT vote? Shouldn't the Lb Dems be against that?

Thorpe said...

I largely agree, but consider the possibility that the Lib Dems are taking a longer view.

If AV replaces FPTP, and as you say this produces more Lib Dems at the next election, the chances of there being another hung Parliament increase. Should another hung Parliament occur, the Lib Dem price could be a move from AV to STV at the next election. Stepping stones.

From another perspective, campaigning now for AV is better than simply sitting back because AV is not the Lib Dem perfect solution. They should be able to see that at the next election they will struggle to get the same proportion of the vote as they got in May 2010 - too many supporters are horrified at what Clegg did. If 2015 is run under FPTP they'll be slaughtered. Following that reasoning, AV is a lifeline for them.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

gregblogs @ 10.09 AM claims Ireland uses AV for the Presidential elections. That comes as news to many of us, we thought the vote in October 2011 would be, as it says here, based on proportional representation by the single transferable vote.

No: for once Iain Dale is absolutely correct (it had to happen one day). AV is not a "reform", merely a change. AV+ might be a bit better. Eventually the penny will drop, and we'll get STV. Don't say it's revolutionary and unBritish: the Commons voted for it as long ago as 1917. Only five Lords divisions stopped it being applied. We actually had it between 1918 and 1950 for the University seats.

Meanwhile, anyone of sanity will vote for FPTP and against AV, either "for fear of meeting something worse" or, like me, in eventual hope of better.

Ann said...

Iain you can't blame the lib dems for wanting a system that favours them, any more than you can blame Tories like you and me for wanting to keep the FPTP system that favours Conservatives.
A
Speaking personally I would much rather have STV than AV because it would give a voice to radical right wingers like the libertarians and UKIP. We would be far better ggoing into coalition with them rather than the limp dems. I doubt the Lib Dems would do well under STV as there would be plenty of other receptacles for the dust bin vote.

Mr Osato said...

But the point is, the Lib Dems didn't pick AV as the alternative at the referendum, the Tories did - so while AV is poor, the reason we're lumbered with AV as the only alternative is that the Tories don't believe in giving the British public a fair choice. It's your own party's fault that this false choice is being presented, so why not have a go at them?

trevorsden said...

I think you protest too Much Mr D. In a post on AV you witter on about STV.

AV clearly does NOT break the single MP/constituency link.

Otherwise ... well I see little real difference.
A recent study says that the last election would have given fewer seats to conservatives and labour and made it more plausible for a lib/Lab coalition, though the tories would have still had the most seats.

I am not totally convinced about this since the knowledge of AV would have coloured this theoretical vote perhaps differently.

Under AV a party still has to go out and convince the electorate; the 'floating' part become even more important, extremes less so.

The reality is that Conservatives are not foaming at the mouth baby eaters as the labour and LD lefty propaganda would have us believe. Cameron is a broad mainstream one nationish tory. The coalition has changed the rules of the game, over the next years we will see bay how much. AV would favour even more a party of the centre. The coalition is just that.

Peter said...

Iain AV will not inevitably produce more Lib Dem MPs, you only have to look at the work done by Lord Ashcroft.

AV is a electoral system that punishes unpopular candidates and parties.

What it would do is increase the number of marginal seats and mean that MPs who were actively disliked by a majority of their voters would not get elected.

nationalconversationforengland said...

Thorpe said: "If AV replaces FPTP, and as you say this produces more Lib Dems at the next election, the chances of there being another hung Parliament increase. Should another hung Parliament occur, the Lib Dem price could be a move from AV to STV at the next election. Stepping stones."

I think this is rather hopeful and tenuous reasoning, with a lot of 'ifs'. Let me suggest some 'ifs' of my own. If AV works very well to the Lib Dems' advantage, will they honestly insist on STV for the following election? If it works very badly for them, will they be in a bargaining position to insist on STV next time? If it produces only a mildly better result for the Lib Dems, will any prospective coalition partner (Conservative or Labour) agree to STV, and will the Lib Dems have a strong enough hand to insist on it?

The time to have insisted on STV was in the negotiations for the present coalition: this is the new politics, and it was always stated that if the Lib Dems were in strong bargaining position in a hung parliament, they would make their support conditional on PR. Clearly, that would have been a deal breaker for the Tories; but then wouldn't it have been more principled for the Lib Dems not to have entered a coalition at such a high price?

There are so many uncertainties around the 'strategy' - if that's what it is - to use AV as a stepping stone to STV that the best way to advance the cause of PR is to vote down the AV proposal (although I'm pretty sure the 'no' campaigners wouldn't see it that way!). Then the Lib Dems can definitely put STV in their next manifesto. They couldn't even do that if the next election is held using AV: how could they stand using a system they'd pushed through while promising to replace it with something else without even giving it a try?

P. Stable said...

"Oh no, they cry, Fiji and Papua New Guinea use it too. Oh, well, that makes it better then. Apologies for missing out the word 'major' before country."

It doesn't make AV better (IMHO it's a dog's dinner that serves neither the FPTP or PR camps well), but it does mean you were wrong.

If, back in March, Gordon Brown had announced at PMQs that "Australia is the only country that does XYZ" you'd have been the first person berating him for not knowing that Fiji and Papua New Guinea do it too.

Roger Thornhill said...

"and yet they're prepared to waste millions of pounds having a referendum on it. All because they regard it as a stepping stone to STV."


Iain, you forget. These people are Fabians, and EVERYTHING they do is a stepping stone to a Socialist Dictatorship, with themselves as part of the Nomenklatura. No waste is too great. No half truth too shameful. No Grandmother too precious not to be sold, leased back, locked in an attic and finally harvested for organs while still conscious.

Roger Thornhill said...

"and yet they're prepared to waste millions of pounds having a referendum on it. All because they regard it as a stepping stone to STV."


Iain, you forget. These people are Fabians, and EVERYTHING they do is a stepping stone to a Socialist Dictatorship, with themselves as part of the Nomenklatura. No waste is too great. No half truth too shameful. No Grandmother too precious not to be sold, leased back, locked in an attic and finally harvested for organs while still conscious.

Dr Evan Harris said...

The main problem with that earlier post was that it attacked (badly, as above) STV on the basis of alleged weakening of constituency links and then concluded that therefore AV was a bad idea, when of course AV actually retains constituency links.

Iain's main criticism of AV is that it “it tries to be a PR equivalent of the First Past the Post system, but in reality it is no more proportionate than straight out FPTP, and in some cases can be less so.”.

The main reason for backing AV is rather that it provides for preferential (1,2,3..) voting. This increases the choice of voters since under FPTP they are presented with a closed list of one and asked to put a cross in that one box. Preferential voting abolishes the need for tactical voting. This not only provides for a better measure of the true level of support of the parties; but it also prevents the splitting of votes by the presence of “similar” parties handing victory to less popular party who has fewer similar competitors. For example a Tory/Labour marginal can be delivered to Labour by the intervention of a UKIP-type candidate or a popular conservative Independent. It makes such results a lottery based on the presence of other candidates.

On the question of proportionality, Iain’s comments are confused. Academics are agreed that on occasions (especially those with large swings against an incumbent single party) it would lead even more disproportionate results but those same academics agree that in most circumstances the results are rather more proportional, albeit not as proportional as STV delivers.

Dr Evan Harris said...

Also, Iain then says “If I had asked any LibDem a year ago whether they would campaign for AV, I doubt a single LibDem would have replied in the affirmative. Which is why I have no respect for their stance on AV.”. Well he can be put right on that. The Lib Dems debated this in the Parliamentary Party last year when the prospect of AV was offered by Labour in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill and it was overwhelmingly agreed to support it on a three line whip, since STV was not on offer.

There is as much shame to be had for Lib Dems supporting a second choice option on Electoral Reform when the best option is not yet on offer, as there is for ..say …the Conservatives supporting forming a coalition when an outright majority is not available.

So electoral reformers will support AV because it is increases voter choice, is a stepping stone (we hope) to STV, and because it provides in most circumstances for a somewhat more proportional (fairer) outcome – in that order.

James D said...

AV is a fundamentally unfair and innumerate way of counting. And here's an example that demonstrates it:

Imagine a constituency where the votes cast were as follows:

20,000: (1) Jones, (2) Clark, (3) Smith, (4) Davies
12,500: (1) Clark, (2) Smith, (3) Davies, (4) Jones
10,000: (1) Davies, (2) Smith, (3) Clark, (4) Jones
7,500: (1) Smith, (2) Davies, (3) Clark, (4) Jones

In FPTP, Jones would win; indeed, it would be considered a safe seat, as he had 40% of the vote and a majority of 15 percentage points.

AV sets a threshold of 50% plus one, which in this case is 25,001. So it starts eliminating candidates. First Smith gets knocked out, with his 7,500 votes transferring to Davies. This takes Davies up to 17,500, meaning that Clark is knocked out next, with his 12,500 votes transferring to their third preference, Davies, who with 30,000 votes is the AV winner.

This is really unsatisfactory on several levels. The trivial FPTP accusation of winning the election by finishing third has some truth to it. And it looks and feels wrong that the third preferences of earlier losing candidates are worth infinitely more than the second preferences of voters whose first preference for the candidate with a plurality.

Possibly worst of all is if you consider who in the real world all those losing candidates screwing the results up for the others are likely to be: yes, this is the realm of so-called Independents, Literal Democrats, and the like.

But although AV is a dreadful way of counting from the data provided by the voters, this doesn't mean that a preference ballot can't work. The key is to count everyone's preferences equally: rather than selecting a few run-offs and prematurely selecting a "winner" as AV does, every possible run-off should be considered, with the winner being the candidate who beats every other one pairwise (the Condorcet criterion), dropping the weakest defeats until such a candidate exists. There are two ways of approaching doing this, which are technically equivalent: ranked pairs is probably easier to understand, CSSD (the Schulze method) is the most practically applicable. (Note the coincidental niceness of being able to tie preferences in this system, which under clunky old AV would be a partially spoilt ballot: this effectively allows for an election to be run as a primary and general in one.)

And in the example constituency I gave above, Clark, the last candidate that AV eliminates, is the Condorcet winner, thanks to the second preference votes of the candidate with a plurality.

The ultimate problem with AV is that it is stuck in the past. Jenkins did not mention CSSD because he was writing before Schulze. It would be ridiculously foolish to adopt what is essentially an obsolete voting system.

Enough has been said about the need for a top-up. Any single-member-constituency-based voting system is not proportional otherwise. (I favour one or other of open lists or taking that party's most-preferred constituency losers, as it happens.) But small single-member constituencies are a must: it's no coincidence that it is the Australian House of Representatives (AV) has three members who have been re-elected after their parties expelled them, whilst the Senate (STV) is a near pure party-list stitch-up. STV merely enhances the tyranny of the whips. Okay, the best thing that can be done to counter that is secret ballots in Parliament, but STV is still a nasty system for anyone but party machines.

cherami said...

The best system is the French - two rounds or more until someone gets fifty per cent.

Makes for participation, makes for excitement, best of all, finishes up with constituency members elected by a majority.

thedailysoapbox said...

Iain, I suspect that it wouldn't make landslides in general bigger for the main two parties. It might make certain *types* of landslides bigger, yes, such as a broadly popular party against a broadly unpopular one (such as 1997).

On the other hand, certain elections which under FPTP result in big landslides might be less generous. AV doesn't allow nearly as much for the vote of a party being "split" by similar parties, so a collapse in the Labour vote, for example, wouldn't translate so easily into a Conservative majority.

Now, another assumption you make is that the Lib Dems are only concerned about outcomes on a national level. In fairness, this may be true for some Lib Dems. But AV is also fundamentally fairer on a local level, and allows independents and small parties to stand with far less fear of splitting the vote of a candidate they prefer that is more likely to win.

So I appreciate that you might feel that the Lib Dems' support of AV is somewhat inconsistent, but it's still a good system to support.

Fausty said...

STV might sound fair, but it is potentially so complicated that it would require a computer programme to formulate the results.

Any system which is that opaque is open to gerrymandering.

The US has had major problems with it and the incumbents have been accused (probably correctly) of rigging elections.

cabalamat said...

But I do not favour STV for Westminster elections for reasons I have already outlined below

I think the reason people are exasperated is that STV is irrelevant. It'd like you're being offered a choice between strawberries and chocolate, and you say you'll choose chocolate because you don't like umbrellas!

In the referendum, the choice will be between FPTP and AV. The merits (or otherwise) of other systems are irrelevant.

You say that only 3 countries use AV. But in fact Britain uses it already -- I am standing in an AV election to Edinburgh council next month. And many countries, including France, use a two-round run-off system, which is conceptually very close to AV.

gregblogs said...

Malcolm. As I understand it whilst they term it STV there it is AV as there is only one candidate elected.

Delilah said...

Why shouldn't the Lib Dems favour this, even if they see it only as a step towards STV? It's surely a fairer system in itself, and a big step forward. It’s less simple than FPTP but offers much more scope for diversity of people and ideas, therefore progress. It eliminates the need for tactical voting, which is widespread under the current system. It prevents wasted votes and will encourage a higher voter turnout. In this way, more of the electorate will have a voice, leading to a better democracy.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

gregblogs @ 6:11 PM:

The difference is that AV transfers second preferences whereas STV distributes and so needs complete recounts. In AV the aim is merely to produce a majority, under STV to match a quota+1.

What may be confusing you is that only twice before (1945 and 1990) had there been more than two presidential candidates (when it effectively becomes FPTP). In 1997 there were, unprecedentedly, five.

So for Mary McAleese to be elected in 1997, despite what it says at electionsireland.org, it needed two counts and three distributions to eliminate the three independent candidates (two of whom were so minor they lost deposits). Meanwhile the demolition done on Dana Scallon (she of Eurovision and strict RC orthodoxy) is an awesome reminder of what, in its pomp, Fianna Fail could achieve.

As things presently stand there are at least eight credible candidates for 2011, with a raft of other independents who might yet try their luck. Permutations thereon would adequately demonstrate the complexities of STV. Not for nothing does Ireland have "the most sophisticated electorate in the world". Consider, for a prime instance, how Sean MacEoin (a fixture since 1921) was duffed up, and turfed out of the 18th Dail, in Longford-Westmeath, 1965. Laugh? In the side bar of O'Neill's, Suffolk Street, we divvied up at least two extra rounds.

It looks as if one's money could be on David Norris for the Park in 2011 (currently 3/1 favourite).

Malcolm Redfellow said...

cabalamat @ 5:47 PM may anticipate his candidature for Edinburgh Council. He may be mistaken if he thinks it's a straight AV election. I reckon he'll find the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004 prescribes the single transferable vote. As we are rabbiting on about here, that is not the same wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie at all, at all.

davethawley said...

You are misrepresenting information. I think this is the only way the no campaign can put forward an argument is to miss out any part of the truth which disagrees. This either negligent (not knowing the subject matter) or just dishonest. 'AV can produce more disproportional results'. Only a partial truth. The real truth is that at their best AV produces far more proportional results than FPTP (which you miss out) and at worst AV produces only slightly worst results than FPTP - which you declare as the truth. On average AV is more proportional than FPTP (which you don't mention either). This of course is not the main benefit of AV. AV is just intrinsically fairer. Instead of MPs only needing a safe minority they will actually need a majority - scary for any MP so I can understand why quite a few don't like the idea of a better democracy

rob's uncle said...

'Every key ‘Westminster model’ country now has a hung Parliament, following Australia’s ‘dead heat’ election'
Prof Patrick Dunleavy, LSE, Aug 23:
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/?p=3781

Dave Gould said...

It's a myth that AV is less proportional. This was based on two polls in 1992 and 1997. Only the latter was deemed to be (slightly less) proportional.

But polls in 1997 overestimated Labour's vote by 5%. We can therefore be pretty sure that AV would have been more proportional in 1997 too.

Secondly, AV in 1992 would have produced a coalition parliament and hence the massive anti-Tory vote in 1997 wouldn't have happened.

We can therefore predict that Labour's majority in 1997 would have been much much lower if they'd have won at all.

AV produces more stable government over the long-term. It allows 3 parties to compete properly which can only be good for democracy. It will reduce corruption, diminish negative campaigning and keep out bad MPs better than FPTP.

Simon said...

@Malcolm above.

If it's a by-election for a Scottish single local Government seat then it will be the Alternative Vote.

You're correct in saying that STV is used for Scottish local elections for multi-member constituencies. However, this becomes AV when only 1 seat is upon for election, as is the case in a by-election.

The situation is the same in the Lower House in Ireland - STV at General Elections, AV at by-elections.

Regards,

Simon Foster
(A level politics lecturer).

Sean Haffey said...

> JamesD

The reason that Jones doesn't get elected is that 20,000 people have him as their first choice but 30,000 people want anyone else.

That seems fair.

Dangerouslysubversivedad said...

How AV gives a third-placed candidate the win.

http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2010/08/distributing-preferences-in-denison.html

George said...

FPTP ain't broke so why fix it?

This is just another attempt by the left to gerrymander political matters to suit them and to ensure their uninterrupted power base.
We've seen what 13 years of NuLab has created, the mess we've been left with and the massive debts that have to be repaid with high taxes.
We require a system that has inbuilt checks to ensure that power is not abused. AV and its other clones will result in stasis, it will fragment the country and pork barrel politics will become the order of the day.
A plague on all those that seek to profit from this gerrymandering

longrun2 said...

AV is UNFAIR because it treats second, and where relevant, third preferences as worth the same as first preferences. This is obviously wrong. It does not mean that you get the person whom a majority of electors want (unless you are in Tom Harris' Glasgow South or William Hague's Richmond) - it means you get someone bland enough to come above his/her principal opponent in the lower preferences of minor candidates.
The sales pitch for AV is specious.

longrun2 said...

@ Sean Haffey
I could easily construct a slight variant on James D's example that would have 49% voting for Jones with Davies as last choice by a country mile and 51% having Jones as only one place behind Davies in their preferences.
Is their any reason for saying "that seems fair" apart from it suiting your argument.
PS I know there *are* some good arguments in favour of AV - please could one of its supporters quote one of them?

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Simon @ 8:56 AM:

I strongly advise you to reconsider the textbooks you are proffering your students, then.

It doesn't matter whether it's a General election, a by-election, Dáil or whatever: the system is STV.

For the record (swift cut and paste):
Dáil seats are awarded to candidates who attain the constituency quota, calculated by dividing the number of valid first preference votes cast in the constituency by one more than the number of seats to be filled, and then adding one to the result. A candidate whose first preference vote total equals or exceeds the quota is immediately elected; if the candidate obtained more first preference votes than the quota, the surplus is distributed among the remaining candidates, in proportion to the second preferences of all votes cast for the successful candidate. The surplus transfer may result in the election of one or more candidates, in whose case the described procedure is repeated. However, if there are unallocated seats after transferring surplus votes from elected candidates, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and the preferences of the eliminated candidate are transferred to the remaining candidates. These two processes are repeated until all seats are filled.

When there is a single seat (in Ireland, a straight FF/FG fight) and only two candidates (as in the Presidential elections of 1945, 1959, and 1973) the quota is half-the-valid-vote+1. Yes, that amounts to FPTP, and everyone goes home early, if not happy.

When there are three or more candidates for a single seat, the STV rules come into play. As I said in a previous post that involves a proportional distribution, not just a simple tally. The difference is subtle, mathematical, even abstruse — but there is a difference. It is misleading to assert there are two different systems (AV/STV) depending on the number of seats and the number of candidates.

Hmm .... I really need to get out more, with or without my anorak and Ian Allen ABC.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Simon @ 8:56 AM:

It doesn't matter whether it's a General election, a by-election, Dáil or whatever: the system is STV.

For the record (swift cut and paste):
Dáil seats are awarded to candidates who attain the constituency quota, calculated by dividing the number of valid first preference votes cast in the constituency by one more than the number of seats to be filled, and then adding one to the result. A candidate whose first preference vote total equals or exceeds the quota is immediately elected; if the candidate obtained more first preference votes than the quota, the surplus is distributed among the remaining candidates, in proportion to the second preferences of all votes cast for the successful candidate. The surplus transfer may result in the election of one or more candidates, in whose case the described procedure is repeated. However, if there are unallocated seats after transferring surplus votes from elected candidates, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and the preferences of the eliminated candidate are transferred to the remaining candidates. These two processes are repeated until all seats are filled.


Any single-seat straight fight (as in the 1945, 1959, and 1973 Presidentials) only first preferences need counting. Yes, that amounts to FPTP, and everyone goes home early, if not happy.

Three or more candidates and the STV rules come into play. As I said before, that involves a proportional distribution, not just a simple tally. The difference is subtle, mathematical, even abstruse — but there is a difference. It is misleading to assert there are two different systems (AV/STV) depending on the number of seats and the number of candidates.

Hmm .... I really need to get out more, with or without my anorak and Ian Allen ABC.