Author Archives: Tony Lloyd

Bar Charts!

I’ve had an idea about bar charts! It’s way outside my area of expertise, but indulge me.

Right, Northern Ireland has a unique set of parties and in Scotland and Wales the national parties have disrupted the ability of the LabCon duopoly to “game” First Past the Post. In England, though, LabCon game First Past the Post for all its worth. They do everything they can to maintain a dichotomy, “them or us”. Then they run a “project fear” on “them”.

Our campaigning tasks are to avoid being “them” and be an independent, viable, option.

I have previously suggested that we can avoid  being “them” by criticising neither duopoly party individually but only the duopoly as an unified entity.

As for establishing ourselves as real contenders, nationally this is going well.

Locally, though, I can see problems with the bar charts we use to make the case that we are a winning bet. Here we too often play exactly that “us and them” dichotomy that hurts us so much nationally. Nationally we need people to abandon voting for the least-worst-possible winner. Locally, though it’s all “only we can…” and “can’t win here”; straight out of the duopoly playbook. And all too often we dishonestly distort data to present the “story” we want to tell.

Now, after the elections for the European Parliament we have no need to distort as there is always some data that, fairly presented, will tell the story that we are in the race. In a constituency where we came second in 2017, that data can be presented. In my constituency, Lewisham and Deptford, we didn’t do so well in 2017 (to say the least). In the EU elections, though, we came first in Lewisham borough! That data can be used. In some areas of London we came third. Coming first in the region as a whole, though, allows that data to be used. What of a constituency where we did badly, in an electoral area where we did badly and a region where we didn’t do so well? The UK wide EU results put us in second place: those results will tell the story.

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Three incorrect solutions to EU election problems

Except in Northern Ireland, the d’Hondt electoral system will be used to elect UK Members of the European Parliament. 

The d’Hondt system is a party list system, it allocates seats to parties proportional to their share of the vote.  But the small number of seats in each region means that the seats can only be allocated at an approximation to proportionality. That approximation gets better as the number of seats in a region increases, but even in a ten seat region it is a pretty rough approximation. What tends to happen is that the higher proportions of votes are over rewarded with seats while the parties coming further down the poll lose representation entirely.

It is not perfect, it does have its issues. 

Not being used to the d’Hondt system, but very used to First Past the Post, we have a tendency to misapply First Past the Post strategies for d’Hondt problems.  The calls have gone out to “vote Labour to stop Farage”, vote for the most pro-EU candidate, and to combine the pro-EU vote behind one pro-EU party.

The first two are pure First Past the Post strategies utterly misapplied in the d’Hondt world. The third “solution” tinkers at the edges and avoids the key problem to be solved.

Vote Labour to stop Farage.

This is being actively pushed by the Labour Party, and it’s a lie. 

The d’Hondt system may be only roughly proportional, but it is proportional. It allocates seats based on the proportion of the vote a party has, not based on the votes for other parties. If Farage’s Party gets a quarter of the votes then it will get, very roughly, a quarter of the seats. And it will get roughly a quarter of the seats whatever the Labour Party polls. 

The d’Hondt solution is to reduce Farage’s proportion of the vote. To do that you vote, just vote, lending that vote to Labour will gain you nothing.

Vote for the most pro-EU candidate.

Michael Heseltine, on Newsnight, fell prey to this. He talked, in the singular, about whether the Conservative Party candidate he will see on his ballot paper on 23rd would be a Remainer. 

You vote for a party Michael, not an individual. You cannot vote for a pro-EU Conservative candidate, you can only vote for the pro-Brexit Conservative Party. Similarly, Labour voters cannot vote for a pro-EU Labour candidate, they can only vote for the pro-Brexit Labour party.

The d’Hondt solution is straightforward: vote for a pro-EU party.

Combine the pro-EU vote behind one pro-EU party.

But which pro-EU party?  Should we, Liberal Democrats, switch to the Greens? Should they switch to us? Should we both bite the bullet and vote Change UK?

This has led to Green activists falling out with Liberal Democrat activists and pro-EU politicians attacking pro-EU parties in the media. We undermine each other and miss the cause of the issue, which is that even together the pro-EU parties are polling nowhere near the level of support for Europe in the country.

That support is edging towards two thirds of the population. A total like that can be split many, many, ways before it comes close to falling under the no-seat level. A total substantially less than that can still be split many ways before it comes close to falling under the no-seat level. 

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Our fellow citizens can help us out with their vote

The argument for a referendum is well rehearsed. A narrow majority secured by deceit and illegality for a range of proposals is no mandate for any one specific proposal. With a million marching, over six million signing a petition to call for revocation of notice given under Article 50, and polls consistently showing a majority who wish to remain in the European Union; any mandate, even for a vague set of proposals, is doubtful.

Without a referendum on future arrangements the people of the UK will be in the position where their government, elected by an archaic and dysfunctional electoral system, …

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Working through the LabCon trick

We all know that the duopoly of Labour and Conservative parties is awful. We all know that this particular lot are awful. So again, the question arises: why are we, and other parties like the Greens, flat-lining in the polls?

I have a theory about part of the cause and a suggestion for what to do about it. It is that lovely thing, the UK’s dysfunctional electoral system. The system does not just attribute different values to different votes; it also distorts how people cast their votes. Voting for who you most want runs the risk of helping elect whom you least want.  First Past the Post not only accentuates this risk, it is such that the risk is far greater for parties outside the duopoly than for either member of that duopoly.

That puts non-duopoly parties in a fix.

Every time we attack the Conservatives we not only differentiate ourselves from the Conservatives but also Labour from Conservatives, and vice versa. We may offer a benefit to make the risk of voting for us worthwhile, but we also offer the same benefit, against a much lower risk, for voting Conservative/Labour. If we criticise the Conservatives, we bolster the “we must get rid of the Tories” narrative, and the lowest risk way of doing that is to vote Labour. If we attack Corbyn, we feed into the “stop Corbyn” narrative, and the lowest risk way of doing that is to vote Conservative. The duopoly maintains a system so arranged that anytime another party criticises either of the duopoly parties the electorate’s benefit in sticking with that duopoly increases.

It’s a LabCon trick.

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The Big Brexit Squeeze

We all know The Squeeze; when we alert voters to the binary choice forced on them by First Past the Post, asking them to drop their preferred option and settle for us.

The Squeeze runs through Brexit. Theresa May tells the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that they might loathe her Brexit proposals, but the alternative is Corbyn.  A wider, presumed “Leave,” the audience is told the alternative is “no Brexit at all.”As that would suit me down to the ground, I am told that HARD Brexit awaits if I fail to get behind whichever fantasy proposal is currently touted.

The biggest squeeze of all, though, maybe around the corner. The government nears collapse; a collapse that would leave the UK rudderless, unable to agree on any deal and, so, inexorably be sliding into a calamitous No Deal Brexit. A General Election, under the First Past the Post system that did so much to create the crisis, would not help. FPTP enforces the party blocks, limiting the choice of the electorate which it then further distorts.

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What should our policy on one of the defining issues of the age be?


Do not think about whether we should call for another referendum.  A referendum is a mechanism, not a policy. Instead, what should we ask our fellow countrymen and countrywomen to support?

Seventy years ago some of our forebears put forward the policy, in the ashes of our continent, to exchange the conflicts of nations for the cooperation of peoples.

It has been a spectacular success.

What, in those dark times, must have looked like a utopian fantasy has largely come to pass. In seventy years no member state, once admitted to the fold, has engaged in armed conflict with any other member state. Newly democratised Fascist dictatorships have been kept as stable liberal democracies. Newly liberated Communist tyrannies have had their economies and societies utterly transformed. In the continent that gave rise to both Communism and Fascism, and where destructive, terrible, wars were commonplace; that is a magnificent achievement.

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This time we should be firmly pro-Independence


At the last conference Alex Cole-Hamilton explained his opposition to Scottish independence by noting that he was a UK citizen, an EU citizen and wanted to remain both.

It is a fine sentiment.

The time, though, is fast arising when he and others may have to decide which is more important. When no amount of campaigning against the decision will prevent the outcome, when the Tory backbenchers melt and when the Labour leadership get behind the Brexiteers, then then people of Scotland are faced with a choice. It is a stark choice, it is a difficult choice and it is a choice, no doubt, that people do not want to make. But it is a choice they will be forced to: “UK or EU”, “both” will not be on the ballot paper.

So which to choose?

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But we are the party of freedom

Martin Roche wrote an eloquent piece, with a follow up,  calling for Liberal Democrats to brand themselves:

The Party of Freedom

Though generally well received some thought the branding conflicted with other values; fairness, equality, and community. Many thought the slogan linked us to the excesses of market ideologues and libertarians.

Are fairness and equality such rivals of freedom? Is someone’s freedom not limited if they lack decent housing or other basic needs? Is their freedom not limited if they cannot access information or lack the education needed to make use of it? Is someone’s freedom not limited if they suffer from discrimination or if they are sufficiently impoverished that they are excluded participating in society?

Of course that person’s freedom is limited. Others do not understand that. We do. That is why we are The Party of Freedom.

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What next for the Liberal Democrats post-referendum?

Harriet Harman, as acting leader of the Labour Party, explained her lack of opposition to the government’s Welfare Bill with the words:

We can’t simply say to the public “you were wrong”

Well I can.

Public, you got it wrong.

You got it disastrously wrong. You’ve endangered the future of our entire continent for the sake of a handful of Brexiteers’ Magic Beans. You’ve swallowed the distortions and lies of the Brexit brigade. You’ve gleefully thrown reason, evidence and reflection out of the window. You’ve allowed that Brexit brigade to press your basest, most pre-civilised, gut-reaction buttons. You’ve allowed yourselves to be fooled. The consequences for you and your fellow Britons will be dire.

But it’s no use getting angry at the electorate. We need to act. The action I propose is that we give the electorate an opportunity to correct its error. We should put at the forefront of our campaigning:

Get Back In.

Let us have Get Back In as the first item in our manifesto. Let us have Get Back In on every piece of election literature, on our membership cards, as the strap line under our logo. Let us replace the, frankly vapid, “working for you” and “winning here” with Get Back In. We need to make it clear that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for re-joining Europe. Re-joining Europe fully: no opt-outs, no special conditions, in the Euro on day one. Let us Get Back In, fully.

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Recent Comments

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