Friday, October 01, 2010

AV Would Mean LibDems Would Always Decide Who Governs

No wonder the LibDems are pushing for AV. A new academic study shows that if the last election had been caarried out under AV the LibDems could have also chosen to ally themselves with Labour. Indeed, I would venture to suggest that this would be the result at virtually every election. The electorate wouldn't matter. It would be the LibDems who always chose who becomes their coalition partners.

In the forthcoming January 2011 issue of Parliamentary Affairs, leading academics demonstrate that, had the 2010 general election been conducted under the Alternative Vote (AV) electoral system, the Liberal Democrats would have been able to form a coalition with Labour.

The article, Simulating the Effects of the Alternative Vote in the 2010 UK General Election, by David Sanders, Harold D Clarke, Marianne C Stewart and Paul Whiteley, uses survey data from the 2010 British Election Study to simulate what the effects on the seat distribution on the House of Commons would have been if AV had operated in May 2010. The results suggest an outcome for the three main parties of Conservatives 284, Labour 248 and Liberal Democrats 89. They say: "This outcome would have radically changed the arithmetic of post-election coalition building, with the Liberal Democrats being able to form a majority coalition with either Labour or the Conservatives. While the Liberal Democrats’ share of seats under AV would not have been as large as under pure proportional representation, it would have been sufficient for them to form a coalition with either of the major parties."

So be prepared for semi-permanent coalitions, with the LibDems deciding who should govern.


Tom said...

Only if you assume the Tories cannot work together with Labour... Which under a three-party state they would have to learn to do.

Dr Johnson said...

This is a bit too theoretical for me. Once we have AV, the electorate will adapt to it and vote differently. For example, a lot of Labour supporters will now be unwilling to give their second preference to the libdems.

The libdems will still only be able to form a VIABLE government with a party that their views align with and that the public support.

The Heresiarch said...

Similar studies show that in 1997, 2001 and 2005 AV would have given Labour even larger majorities than they actually obtained. How does that lead to permanent government by Lib Dem-decreed coalitions?

AV tends to produce clear majorities. At the next elecion, if it is operational, the number of Lib Dem-Labour transfers will presumably be low, with a much higher number of Conservative-Lib Dem transfers. The result would most probably be a clear majority.

AV is not PR. Not even close.

Dan Sullivan said...

Wouldn't it be those who vote for the Lib-Dems deciding who governs and given that if that 10/15/20% of the voting population is needed for the government to have majority support then what is wrong with that? Just what is it about governments with majority support that people have a problem with?

Tim Footman said...

Not necessarily so. The last few Parliaments have seen a number of big issues (the Iraq War for one) on which Labour and the Tories have agreed, but the Lib Dems opposed. With post-ideological parties cleaving to the centre, I don't think a Grand Coalition of Labour and the Tories is such an unlikely concept at some point in the next few years. (No more unlikely than ConLib might have seemed at the 2005 election.)

Duncan Stott said...

1. There's nothing stopping Labour and the Conservatives forming a coalition, other than these parties' belligerent attitude towards each other.

2. If voters don't want the Lib Dems to be in a kingmaker position, they'll stop voting LD. It's called democracy... embrace it!

3. Voters are likely to behave differently after a campaign aimed at an AV ballot, where parties also chase second and third preferences as well as first. After being exposed to such a campaign, who knows how the electorate will vote. The study acknowledges this problem (lines 740 to 746).

Jon Harvey said...


Under First 'Past the Post' thousands and thousands and thousands of votes are wasted as they make no difference to the result in a constituency. Moreover there are many MPs who are elected under FPTP with a minority of the votes cast. FPTP means that MPs are not truly accountable.

Under AV (which is by no means a perfect system) - at least probably every MP will be elected by a majority of first and second preference votes (perhaps third preference in some cases) which means they are likely to represent the majority of people in their constituency and feel more accountable. This is something we want after the expenses fiasco - where there was a clear link between the 'safety' of a seat and the degree to which the MP milked the system.

AV is quite simply more democratic than FPTP.

I would support AV even if it meant that my preferred party were never in power because I believe in democracy. Indeed I believe in a plurality of ideas being debated.

Are you saying that you would support AV if it meant that the Conservative Party were mostly in power?

Mark Taylor said...

When you say "the electorate wouldn't matter", who are you imagining would be creating these hung parliaments?

Simon Gardner said...

I think you've missed the actual point about all this. Not for the first time and probably not for the last.

I hold no brief for AV which as far as I can see is pretty much as non-proportional as FPTP.

The fact is that for over 50 years (leaving aside this time) Brits have been governed by a party most of them opposed.

If Brits want Government by one party, they can vote for it. They certainly haven't so voted for 50+ years.

What we have is a pseudo-democracy which is no democracy at all.

I don't see AV changing that.

Sir Norfolk Passmore said...

Your conclusion really isn't justified by the report linked to, Iain.

At the 2010 General Election, the failure of the Tories (or any party for that matter) to get above the mid-30s in percentage vote always made a hung parliament likely. The real issue is whether the same applies to an election like 1997 or 1987 where the top party polled comfortably over 40%. I very much doubt AV would have delivered a hung Parliament in either case.

Nic said...

AV doesn't always lead to semi-permanent coalitions - the evidence points the other way.

AV is not proportional and unlike other pro-AVers, i've looked at the evidence regarding tactical voting. AV doesn't erradicate tactical voting altho it does make it more complicated.

Although unlike Tories and anti-PR people, i want a government elected on a majority of the vote which if you look at election results - only 3 governments in the past 92 years have had a majority of the vote. All being coalition governments. 1931, 1935, 2010 and due to turnout none have had a real majority i.e. had over 50% of the electorate.

Paddy Briggs said...

Important to remember that if we had a more proportional system we would vote differently. Some of us anyway. If every vote counts (not true under AV) then tournout should increase dramatically. And if Parliament's party representation matched voter preference precisely that would be more democratic. It cannot be democratic for votes not to count - Tories in Wigan and Labour supporters in West Surrey. It just can't !

D said...

This is populist bullshit as you well know. If AV becomes established voters will be able to be more flexible in their voting patterns and not cowed by the need to avoid their particular antichrist being first past the post. In that scenario parties' fortunes can fluctuate more radically than the current system permits and, in fact, it is as likely to be Labour or Tory, as LibDems, calling the shots in establishing a coalition where a clear mandate is not available.

Lord Blagger said...

Lets get to the heart of the matter.

The Lib dems are pissed off because they don't have a say.

I'm pissed off because I don't get a say and I'm in a lib dem seat, and I don't want their policies.

So make it simple. Give everyone the vote on everything. MPs are then representatives when it comes to writting the law, implmenting and regulating. They however, don't get to decide. The voter does.

The cheap and cheerful way is referenda by proxy. You nominate an MP, any MP, and they cast your proxy vote. It just takes one MP to set up a website where you can decide, and they will cast your vote for everyone, if they want, to have a say on the issues.

Tony_E said...

That is the outcome under the present voting system if you count the votes by the AV method. this doesn't take into account how people would vote if they knew that the LibDems would have a hand in government.

What was it you quoted before Iain? Something like ' I didn't vote lib dem to have them running the country!'

However, that doesn't make AV any more desirable, it's a bad system and I'm all for keeping what we have.

dave said...

I Iain, Are you open to honest, thought out debate. I was going to post corrections to your blog for discussion but I thought I would ask if you just senor anything that disagrees with you (like some other no campaigners are doing at the moment). If you are I'll get posting :-)

Rebel Saint said...

The problem with all this sort of analysis is, you have absolutely no idea how people would vote under AV. When you largely eliminate the need to vote tactically I think you'll find a lot of people re-allocating their votes.

And the problem with all this "AV would let the xyz party have influence" is that it's putting the politics before the principles. What's more important - that a certain party is kept from being elected or having influence, or that the views of the people are fairly represented?

Which is fairest AV or FPTP? That is the only debate worth having. Every other consideration should be secondary.

Liberal Neil said...

Rubbish. Labour and the Conservatives could decide to govern together. Or one party might win a majority and govern on their own.

James Mackenzie said...

Not necessarily. Preferential voting changes politics, and they couldn't simply switch partners without a price. In Scotland they governed with Labour from 1999-2007 and everyone assumed they'd just switch to the SNP in 2007, but it didn't happen. Westminster might well become a five-party Parliament too, with Greens and UKIP where Holyrood has Greens and the SNP.

AndyR said...

You're assuming there would always be three significant parties. If Cameron is successful in permanently moving the Conservative party onto the centre ground, there will be a lot of room on the right for another party (UKIP?) to gain seats if voters decided to demote the Conservatives to second preference.

Nicholas said...

I would support AV even if it meant that my preferred party were never in power because I believe in democracy.

Except of course that giving a third party powers to chose which of the main two parties forms the government is the negation of democracy. It does in effect give 20% of the electorate powers over the 80%. FPTP is the fairest and most democratic electoral system compatible with constituencies.

Simon Gardner said...

@Rebel Saint said...

Which is fairest AV or FPTP?

Answer: Neither.

They are both appalling.

Anonymous said...

Erm, Iain, I'm sure I've seen you criticize the AV referendum along the following lines: "Why are the Lib Dems even supporting AV, when it can be less proportional than FPTP?"

You can't have your cake and eat it! Either AV is less proportional or more. The answer of course, is that it can be either.

It is not AV that will lead to semi-permanent coalitions, but the fracturing of the vote in Britain. There has been a clear long-term trend of people moving away from the two established parties to the Liberal Democrats and others. If that continues, then under any electoral system there will be more coalitions. However, if the public decide that they now detest the idea of parties working together, we will see a reverse in that trend, and will go back to a firmly two party system.

There is nothing undemocratic about coalitions; the public really do choose them.

Lord Blagger said...

People are deluding themselves.

They think that getting a different MP means that they will get their policies and issues addressed.

It won't.

PR is just about putting a different pig in the trough. It doesn't address what you want.

Opinicus said...

Yes and Queen Anne's dead

Anonymous said...

Simon Gardner is wrong. He ignores (i) low turn-out in safe seats (except, pre-Scargill, mining villages)
(ii) votes not counted when MP is elected unopposed
(iii) Conservatives never put up a candidate to oppose The Speaker
(iv) Tactical voting when the Liberal (or now LibDem) candidate has a far better chance of defeating the party you really dislike than your first-choice candidate
(v) Independents picking up votes on local issues (eg AP Herbert or Dr Taylor) and/or personally unpopular candidates losing votes (e.g. Neil Hamilton or Maggie Jones).
In 1959 The Speaker represented the Cities of London and Westminster but votes for him and a handful of "Independent Conservatives" were excluded from the official tally which said the official Conservative Party won "only" 49.4% of the votes cast. I descend into American "Go, figure"

Anonymous said...

At the next election the tories and LDs are going to have to share the same opinions about lots of things. Even as different parties they will not be able to seriously politically attack each other.

Tories will say vote for us to make sure of a right wing govt and the LDs will say vote for us so that the govt is not too right wing.

Both will say do not vote for horrid labour. LDs will know they have a good chance of staying in govt allied to the conservatives. Labour are faced with facing a defacto alliance. AV would make it worse for labour.

Not a sheep said...

Possibly the biggest "No shit, Sherlock" of the decade.

Norfolk Blogger said...

A few weeks ago you claimed the Lib Dems would lose on under AV (according to Lord of Ashcroft of Belmopan). Get your story straight Iain.

Blair said...

This is nonsense. One only has to look at a country which operates under AV, or a version of it, to see that this is not the case. Australia is certainly not noted for multi-party rule (although the Liberals and the Nationals are in permanent coalition). Britain would likely become the same, with perhaps a smattering of more Green MPs on the Left in cahoots with Labour, and a few UKIP MPs on the right attempting to influence the Tories. The Lib Dems would live and die by their decisions, as all parties do. Their base of support is by no means guaranteed.

johnpaul said...

are you sure .Look at 83 Tories 43% of the vote majority of 144, of the 25.9% of Lib/SDP voters three quarters of those second choice would have been Tory,It would have ment that the Alliance woul have picked up more votes in those elections and the other two less, but not that many, Plus in 83 the alliance would have stood back and let the tories have a minority gov't