So Labour will be holding a consultation process on the benefits of a secondary vote, compulsory voting and voting at the weekends then? Well, I think I can guess what this exercise will say:
“It’s a wonderful idea, I’m suprised we didn’t think of it before!”
To which I would answer: “Because First Past the Post gave you two landslide majorities!”
Assuming that they continue with the late Roy Jenkins’ recommendation of Alternative Vote, it soon becomes obvious why Labour are now warming to the idea. At the next election (working on the new boundaries) Labour will start off with 349 MPs, the Conservatives will have 210 MPs and we will have 62 MPs. Under a system of Alternative Vote, no candidate is elected unless they achieve 50% of the vote +1, so let’s see how many MPs achieve that in 2005
63 Conservatives; 134 Labour; 16 Liberal Democrats; 1 Plaid Cymru; 1 Scottish National Party
= 215 MPs out of 650 MPs
= 33% of all MPs
Or, to put it another way, Labour has 41% of the MPs needed for an overall majority.
And what about the other 435 MPs who do not have 50% of the vote +1? Well, that’s where the second vote comes in. Like in London, this asks “If your preferred candidate doesn’t manage to make it into the top two, which candidate would you like to support?” And when you put this suggestion through you get some very interesting answers indeed.
Take for instance, Wantage. Under the boundary changes, Wantage in 2005 voted:
Con 22,424 (43%); Lib Dem 14,385 (28%); Lab 12,467 (24%); Green 1,334 (3%); UKIP 796 (2%); Others 646 (1%),
But through the wonders of the alternative vote, Wantage undergoes a startling change:
Lib Dem 26,301 (52%); Con 25,112 (48%).
Yes, that’s right, Wantage goes Lib Dem for the first time in its electoral history. And the reason for this? Labour voters actively vote Liberal Democrat to defeat the Conservative on their second ballot, and when applied across the whole of the UK, the changes are even more stark
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).
I suppose it would have been ignorant of us to assume that Labour would think of a system that helped us without helping them
* Harry Hayfield is a Lib Dem activist and prospective local election candidate in Ceredigion. The numbers have been generated using the 2005 Media Guide to Parliament and UK-Elect.