#GE10

I am a politics geek.  I studied political philosophy and psychology at uni, and did a lot on democracy, elections, voting, and political indoctrination.  I’ve jotted some very rough thoughts on how this election has turned out so far, resulting from the coverage and some of the discussions on Twitter.  140 characters is not enough, so here they are:
  • “Cleggmania” took us all by surprise in the last few weeks of the election.  Nick Clegg was very clever in how he presented himself in a sophisticated, presidential-style campaign.
  • However I think this failed to filter through to a constituency level.  The Lib Dems have fewer campaign funds than the other two parties and in contrast to the leadership campaign, local campaigning was much less sophisticated.
  • Clegg engaged very well with young people and the party as a whole has been quite good at youth engagement.  However young people tend to have a much lower level of participation, not to mention those too young to vote, so this probably did not translate into more votes for the Lib Dems.
  • Lib Dems got 23% of the popular vote but only 6% of the seats in Parliament.
  • The Conservative Party got 36% of the popular vote and 45% of the seats. (on latest figures – not all counting has been completed yet)
  • Digest that for a minute.  That is what we get under first past the post.
  • Nick Clegg has said that the party with the most seats should seek to form a Government.  I think this is the correct view, however distasteful to many.
  • Normally in a hung parliament situation the sitting Prime Minister gets the first shot at forming a government.  However in this situation Labour has clearly lost the election.  Faced with such a huge defeat most Prime Ministers would resign.  That is why in this instance I agree that the Tories should have the first shot at forming a government.
  • A Lib/Lab coalition would not have a majority in Parliament.  It is difficult to imagine the Liberal Democrats and the Tories finding enough points of agreement to form a coalition.
  • Whatever happens, I think we’ll all be voting again in the not-too-distant future.  Firstly in a referendum on electoral reform.  Then in another general election, under a proportional representation system.
  • Proportional representation means that the percentage of overall votes a party receives determines the proportion of seats they receive in Parliament.  There are different voting systems designed to achieve this.
  • The Liberal Democrats favour an alternative voting system.
  • AV, or Single Transferable Voting (STV) as it is also known, requires voters to rank their preferred candidates from first choice to last.  The candidate who comes last has his or her votes reallocated among the remaining candidates, and so on until a winner emerges.
  • This means you are still voting for the candidate you prefer rather than the party.  I don’t really think this addresses all of the problems with the current system.  However in situations such as this election where the left vote is split between two parties it could still result in a very different outcome.  It does not necessarily end up in a truly proportional outcome though.
  • I think a mixed member proportional system such as that in New Zealand and Germany would be preferable.  This system gives each voter two votes: one for the local candidate, and one for the party.  The party vote determines how many seats a party gets in Parliament.  There are some MPs with no constituency known as “list MPs” who top-up the numbers, so for example if a party wins 25% of the electorate seats but 30% of the vote, it will still receive 30% of the seats in Parliament.
  • Therefore you could vote for a candidate from one party and give another party your party vote.  It is useful in situations where you have a very hard-working local MP who you would like to support, even though you don’t necessarily agree with their party.

…whew!  The key question over the next 24 hours is what will the Tories offer?  It is difficult to imagine them agreeing to electoral reform, but Nick Clegg would be an idiot to budge on that one.

Funnily enough I am due to vote in another referendum on electoral reform, on whether New Zealand should go back to first past the post.  The new National (Tory) government got in on a promise to hold a referendum, even though they no longer oppose proportional representation themselves.  The referendum will occur next year, probably at the same time as the next General Election.  If I have a holiday in New Zealand between now and then I will be eligible to vote in both countries.

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3 thoughts on “#GE10

  1. The NZ method looks interesting, as it keeps the localism lost by simple proportional representation.

    The system I favor personally is the most mathematically fair – a 5 star system. It allows everybody to give local candidates a mark out of five (with no limits on the number of stars total). This means people who like more than one candidate, but nevertheless have a preference, can express that rather than being limited to a single vote. Then the stars are added up, and the candidate with the most stars wins.

    It’s a bit like first past the post, but is far fairer as it removes tactical voting, and allows the full spread of opinion to be expressed.

  2. Mixed member PR is already practiced in Wales, and probably Scotland, so UK has experience with that system. The main thing about PR is that if/when we get it the vote for parties such as LibDems, Greens AND probably the BNP will increase. In constituency voting voters vote to keep out/get rid of the party they don’t want out of the two most likely to win the seat. There is no need for tactical voting with PR, therefore epople vote for what they want.

  3. I think that the Conservatives have a majority in England and England and Wales which is interesting and I suspect that the old West Lothian Question will raised and hotly debated in the next few weeks too. Whatever your political beliefs it is manifestily unfair that the Scottish MPs can vote in Westminister on an England only issue, when the Scottish Parliament has voted on that issue in Scotland.

    Parliament voted by 316 to 311 to introduce “top up” fees for students in England, this was only passed by the votes of the Scottish MPs where at the same time Scottish students are not required to pay the fees as the Scottish assembly voted agains “top up” fees in Scotland.

    Of course with the number of Scottish MPs in the cabinet the last Government did not address this, but I do believe that it is only fair that the Scottish MPS do not vote on England only matters.

    Obviously the same applies to the Welsh assembly, althugh their powers are less.

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