LibLink: James Graham – Labour’s accusations of gerrymandering are self-defeating

Over at The Guardian’s Comment is Free website earlier this week, Lib Dem blogger James Graham dismissed Jack Straw’s overblown accusations that the Coalition is ‘gerrymandering’, and urged the voting reform bill to receive the more serious scrutiny it deserves. Here’s an excerpt:

Every time a Labour politician uses the word “gerrymandering” a puppy dies. … Gerrymandering is the act of deliberately fixing a boundary in order to give a political party an unfair advantage. Yet the proposed changes will not to lead to any more political interference in the boundary review process. …

One of the main effects of the new bill is to base constituency boundaries on electorate size, rather than population size. The review is to be completed before the 2011 census will have even been published. There is nothing new about the phenomenon of “electoral deserts” – another problem that Labour took no action over in 13 years – but the effect of this proposal will be to formally deny the existence of millions of people within the electoral process. Constituency MPs with large unregistered populations will end up with disproportionately large caseloads; just because you aren’t on the electoral register, it doesn’t mean you don’t still have housing problems or nuisance neighbours. Indeed, since electoral deserts tend to go hand-in-hand with social problems, those (mostly urban) MPs will be hit by a double whammy.

The way the coalition is planning to mitigate this is by redoubling government efforts on electoral registration, but thus far no concrete plan on how they intend to do this has emerged. … So there are genuine social justice problems that need to be ironed out of this legislation. Unfortunately, by focusing on the false gerrymandering charge, Jack Straw puts party self-interest above the public good and only ensures that the debate in parliament becomes more heated.

You can read James’s article in full here.

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50 Comments

  • David Boothroyd 31st Jul '10 - 6:23pm

    Graham claims “One of the main effects of the new bill is to base constituency boundaries on electorate size, rather than population size”. No, that’s been the case since 1944, although it shouldn’t be.

  • I love how you’re attacking Labour for the words it uses, “gerrymandering”, and then agree with the points that Labour raises in support of its assertion that this is an attempt to gerrymander.

    Now can anyone tell me how democratic it is for Nick Clegg to have changed his mind over early cuts as early as March, yet still sent you lot out arguing for the opposite right up to the day? He obviously knows he did wrong, since he was saying in June that he changed his mind on the 15 May after a meeting with Mervyn King (that he turns out to have lied about- according to King the conversation was not what Clegg said it was).

    So come on, is proportional representation worth having people vote for things included with an eye to coalition discussion rather than actual policy? “Your votes are proportional but we don’t even intend to go through with the manifesto you’ll be voting on.” Disgusting.

  • The best examples of gerrymandering I can remember were Thatcher’s ouitright abolition of the GLC and six metropolitan borough councils (because they didn’t elect the right colour councillors), and Dame Shirley Porter’s “homes for votes” scandal in Westminster. Tories are the experts when it comes to gerrymandering.

    If the Lib Dems had held out for PR, instead of caving in at the first whiff of power for Clegg and his cronies, constituency boundaries would have become irrelevant. If you want Labour to vote for AV, put it in a separate bill from all the other rubbish.

  • Ian Patterson 31st Jul '10 - 9:27pm

    What nobody has mentioned thus far, is the impact on our existing seats (Norwich S, Bristol W, Leeds NW, Redcar, Burnley, Colchester, Cambridge etc. If the proposed quota is a 100,000, the extra electors need to come from somewhere and i suspect it will be nigh impossible to equalise large rural seats with compact urban ones. Cameron only started banging on about cutting mps when the expenses scandal hit. Those pesky labour and Lib Dem MP’s will either be ouright abolished or married to another area, but the fly in the ointment is whether tory mps will be pleased about being abolished.

  • As John Ruddy says, the simple answer is to split the two issues into two separate bills. I support AV but I have reservations about the boundary changes and am strongly opposed to the cut in the number of MPs, which will worsen the service they can offer to electors and will strengthen the power of the executive over the legislature. On that basis, I cannot support the bill.

    Once again, through Nick Clegg’s weakness, the Liberal Democrats seem to have got themselves in an uncomfortable position where they are going to lose people who would normally support AV, by lumping the measure in with more contentious proposals.

  • The Tories complain that FPTP is currently unfair (even though it gave them 47% of the seats with just 36% of the vote), yet they have no wish to abolish it, just to fiddle with the boundaries. In the 1980s, FPTP favoured the Tories more than Labour; for example in 1983, 44% of the votes gave them 61% of the seats. There’s no sinister plot involved, it all depends on how your votes are distributed.

    If the Tories had any real concern about fairness they would support a change in the voting system, so that minor parties received some representation for the thousands of votes cast in their favour. However, the Tories are not concerned with fairness, merely with self-interest.

  • Let’s forget about the Labour Party, just for a moment, and examine Cameron’s proposals on their own merits, shall we?

    Is the equalisation of constituency sizes wrong in principle? No. It is right in principle. This is what the Boundary Commission does on a rolling basis. So nothing new there, then.

    Is reducing the number of MPs a good thing or a bad thing? It is a thoroughly bad thing, because it lessens the standard of service that MPs provide to their constituents, and weakens their scrutiny role. As we must surely know by now, the reason the media ran with the MPs’ expenses furore was to damage the reputation of Parliament and make it more difficult for MPs to do things that are contrary to the interests of elites. Cameron’s proposal to cut the number of MPs by 50 shows that this gambit is working.

    Should Boundary Commission proposals no longer be subject to the right of appeal? Absolutely not. I see no possible justification for doing this. What does Cameron have to hide? If decisions are made on the basis of objective criteria without political interference, what does Cameron have to fear from public inquiries? During the 1990s round of reviews, Labour made copious use of public inquiries, while the Tories didn’t bother, with the result that the boundaries ended up favouring Labour. That is the Tory Party’s fault, not the system’s fault.

    Should the Liberal Democrats support these proposals, even if it means no referendum on AV? Absolutely not. They are wrong, and remain wrong, whatever enticement might be attached to them. You bet Cameron will use this review to wipe every Liberal Democrat off the electoral map. It’s a miserable carrot and one hell of a stick.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 31st Jul '10 - 11:54pm

    “Now can anyone tell me how democratic it is for Nick Clegg to have changed his mind over early cuts as early as March, yet still sent you lot out arguing for the opposite right up to the day?”

    I’ve asked the moderator to remove this post. Surely you realise this is not supposed to be mentioned?

  • charliechops1 1st Aug '10 - 5:16am

    It is unfortunately true that the ambitious attempt by the Coalition to change the Constitution is inextricably mixed with an attempt to gain political advantage. No one voted for the Coalition or its programme and from its very first days it has sought desperately to perpetuate itself: fixed terms, a 55 percent vote of the Commons to call a General Election and the packing the House of Lords to push through this and other policies is a crude attempt to get party advantage. Why should the Labour Party vote for it own demise when with determined Opposition it can bring down the House of Cards?

  • I agree with many of the concerns expressed by people about the boundary reform aspects of this Bill. In particular, the abolition of public inquiries must be resisted because they ensure the process is fully transparent, which is vital to its legitimacy. In exchange for their abolition the Bill merely extends the existing window for people to send in written submissions. But that does not, as Nick Clegg tried to say last week, provide people with a louder voice in this process – and he knows it.

    If the right to public inquiries is not maintained then we will see enormous resentment once the consequences of a rigid mathematical equalisation become apparent (seats linked either side of the Solent and the River Mersey, and parts of Cornwall seats in Devon etc), and the public realise they have no means to object.

    But perhaps the biggest objection to the proposed boundary reforms is the timetable and the decision to recalculate all the seats on the basis of the December 2010 electoral register. The electoral commission calculated that in 2000 there were 3.5m eligible voters missing from the register in England and Wales alone. In March this year the commission reported that this figure was likely to have increased since then, and using eight case studies in different parts of the UK found that under registration was a particular problem among specific social groups (the young, the poor, BME groups) who tend to live in urban areas, coastal towns and student towns.

    Unless time is taken – and resources diverted – to get at least a proportion of these people registered before the boundaries are redrawn, we will end up with a distorted electoral map because they won’t be counted when the Boundary Commissions do the sums. Clegg keeps shouting that Labour had 13 years to solve this problem and failed. Maybe – but he’s in government now and the problem still exists. Rather than compound it by rushing ahead with the boundary review on the December register, why not do this on a more sensible timetable? It’s hard to see the democratic case for not doing that.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 1st Aug '10 - 11:32am

    “Rather than compound it by rushing ahead with the boundary review on the December register, why not do this on a more sensible timetable? It’s hard to see the democratic case for not doing that.”

    Obviously the “democratic case” is that the new boundaries should take effect before the next election, rather than after it!

  • @ John Ruddy

    “Heres an idea – split the bill – call Labour’s bluff. Have one bill on electoral reform referendum, and one bill on the proposal to redraw boundaries and end public inquiries.”

    Yes the two elements in the bill (AV and Boundary Changes) should be treated discretely in two separate bills. Peter Hain advocated this on Newsnight recently when he appeared with Simon Hughesand challenged Hughes to do this. Hain insisted that Labour would then have no problem with voting in support of AV as a referendum on AV was promised in Labour’s manifesto. Hain also added that he would be happy to go out and campaign for AV as he has been asking for it for years. So how can it be a question of calling Labour’s bluff to split the bill when Labour are already asking for it? If the Orange Tories stop believing their own propaganda about Labour they might actually get the support for AV they need. But Labour will never support AV when it is perceived to be conflated with a nakedly opportunistically vote rigging measure by the Blue Tories which the Orange Tories are supporting. If the Orange Tories continue supporting it then I foresee Labour members such as myself, even though we are sympathetic to PR (but not AV) will never vote for AV in the referendum, on principle. What would be the advantage of doing so for Labour supporters when they will have been railroaded out of seats without a proper enquiry? Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. Haven’t the Orange Tories learnt anything since May the 6th?

  • Paul McKeown 1st Aug '10 - 3:09pm

    @MacK

    Whether the Red Tories support AV is their concern. The suspicion is that there manifesto commitment to AV was merely an insurance policy in case they needed LD support to form a government. Hardly makes a big difference to the fortunes of the big two and only slightly helps the LDs. That the Red Tories have no further need for the LDs during this parliament has suggested to them just to thwart the LDs. Dishonest politics, nothing more.

    The boundary changes are needed, there is a considerable imbalance in the size of constituencies. The net effect will be small, the Conservatives would gain 8 seats, Labour would lose 7, based on the current 650 seat parliament. There is no gerrymander, just faux outrage. That the Conservatives put such high hopes on it, shows how little they actually understand the reasons for their relatively poor performance relative to Labour. Variable turn out, in which Conservative voters turn out in droves in the shires, whilst Labour voters stay at home and just sufficient numbers turn out to keep their seats Labour. If the Cons really wanted parliamentary parity with Labour for an equal share of the vote, then, naturally they would have to propose a proportional electoral system. Sadly, the Blue Tories are generally a bit thick and wedded to the way things have traditionally been done.

    As for the Red Tories, their leadership knows damn rightly that the Bill placed before parliament only marginally addresses the current pro Labour electoral bias, but their policy is simply one of blind oppositionalism, partly as anything else would damage any leadership candidate who came out in favour of moderation and commonsense, partly that they have no current leader and are reacting by default, and partly they calculation that if they spray enough slurry, some will stick. The Red Tory Party knows that retreat into heartland sloganising is a recipe for defeat, but in the absence of a clear alternative, damaging the reputation and, presumably in its view, the electoral chances of the Liberal Democrats will do instead.

    Basically none of this is a surprise, although, naturally it is disappointing to see the suspicion of bad faith confirmed. All three main political parties are faced with difficult challenges. The Red Tories display of naked opportunism, though, is hardly a good omen for its fortunes in the medium term, as the electors have a good nose, in general, for bull.

    Anyway, if you believe in a fair electoral system, you will get behind the campaign for AV, as AV represents a clear step towards it, with its preferential voting. If you prefer the current political bipolar disorder, then fair enough. Don’t pretend to oppose AV out of high minded principle, though.

  • More arrogant Lib Demmery. Impossible to oppose you honestly isn’t it? It can’t possibly be out of principle! The poorest areas having less MPs per head than the richest? It’s fair because it means less Labour! Never mind that the most impoverished are the most in need and that the unregistered pay taxes and use public services just like the rest of us and shouldn’t be denied representation!

    Talking of naked opportunism- Clegg changed his mind about early cuts before the election, according to himself. Although he also changed his mind on the 15th of May according to himself. Is it all well and good that Clegg sent you lot out arguing for a position he never intended to see through? Does that not matter to you? Well it matters to me, and I’m sure it matters to the voters you’ve lost since the election, voters that wanted what you said you were not what you actually were.

  • Will the 12% poll rating for the party have any effect on the public vote?

  • I’ll make this easy-

    Imagine an electoral system in which a party can lie about its intentions and then repent in the name of compromise during backroom discussions after the votes are in. It doesn’t matter if the votes are proportional if you have Clegg and Cameron falling over themselves to ditch the manifestos people voted on, having campaigned on stances they never believed in secure in the knowledge that they can trade them away during discussions.

    If PR makes coalitions more likely it is not a fair or democratic voting system, and taking steps towards it isn’t right.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 1st Aug '10 - 4:51pm

    “Never mind that the most impoverished are the most in need and that the unregistered pay taxes and use public services just like the rest of us and shouldn’t be denied representation!”

    But surely it’s those who don’t register to vote who are denying themselves representation (to say nothing of breaking the law, of course).

    “Imagine an electoral system in which a party can lie about its intentions and then repent in the name of compromise during backroom discussions after the votes are in. … If PR makes coalitions more likely it is not a fair or democratic voting system, and taking steps towards it isn’t right.”

    Certainly if the kind of dishonest double-dealing we’ve seen from the Lib Dems in the last few months is anything to go by, democracy might well be better served by a system that fosters a clear choice between two alternative contenders, rather than increasing the representation of smaller parties who may be more interested in power than principle.

  • Paul McKeown 1st Aug '10 - 5:11pm

    Anthony,

    I think you’re being rather blind to the nature of the “clear choice between two alternative contenders”. The Labour and Conservative parties are merely electoral vehicles for their respective party elites, which try to sweep up huge numbers of voters behind their big tents, cloaking their true intentions by giving nods and winks in all directions without any intention of implementing half the rubbish they speak off. It would be much healthier to break up the big tents and implement a fair voting system to support smaller parties with clearer objectives. You are, in my view, entirely unrealistic in what you believe the Liberal Democrats can achieve, short of polling 35% plus, or a radical change to the electoral system. And you oppose the Blue Tories with your whole soul, so that the Liberal Democrats were damned as soon as they did they only realistic deal possible. If only the Blue and Red Tories existed, I simply wouldn’t vote, they are both garbage.

  • “But surely it’s those who don’t register to vote who are denying themselves representation (to say nothing of breaking the law, of course).”

    I don’t agree-

    1) Whether you want to morally judge people for not registering to vote or not, they still get representation of an MP, it just means that more people will be sharing an MP- registered or not- in areas of low registration, which means less MPs per head in poorer areas than in richer areas. The MP would not only represent the 75,000 that are registered, but all the others that don’t register on top of that.

    2) Equalising by electors can further inflate the numbers of MPs in wealthier areas because it is legal to register in multiple areas if you’re a second home owner or a university student, for example.

    3) If the issue is seriously that in some areas it takes less votes to put an MP into parliament, then being registered and not voting is just as bad. So poorer areas will still take less votes for an MP to be elected because of people who are registered yet simply stay home.

    4) I didn’t know it was illegal not to register, I’m sure many don’t. I think a registration drive would be better- trying to get people to vote would be a better way to solve the problem than deciding that those who aren’t currently registered are a lost cause.

  • “cloaking their true intentions by giving nods and winks in all directions without any intention of implementing half the rubbish they speak off”

    That’s why I oppose PR. It ensures coalitions so that Clegg and his ilk can get away with lying to the electorate and then implementing what he really wanted under the guise of compromise.

    Under PR manifestos will be tailored with discussion in mind- “let’s leave off this policy so we can concede it to them during discussions”, “let’s include policies we don’t want that they hate so we can reluctantly give it up”. You can never know what a party aiming at coalition actually intends, as the Lib Dems proved this year.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 1st Aug '10 - 6:12pm

    Paul

    The point is that if a party wins an overall majority it is expected to honour its manifesto commitments. But in a hung parliament the manifestos are torn up the day after the election. Even if a clear majority of the electorate has voted for parties with a particular policy, a coalition will be free to adopt precisely the opposite policy.

    Add to that the dishonesty of a party leader who quite openly admits that on one of the key economic issues, he privately believed the opposite of what he was saying publicly in the campaign – that public policy having been dropped within hours of the polls closing – and what chance is there of any kind of democratic outcome?

  • Changes to the suffrage are hardly likely to be introduced by parties that think they will suffer from them.

    When Labour legislated in 1969 to reduce the age of voting to 18 it is unlikely that it did so merely because it thought it was a good thing.

    When the Liberals introduced the secret ballot in 1872 it was to stop their supporters being intimidated by tory landowners.

    When the tories split up many of the county constituencies in 1867 they doubtless did so for electoral advantage.

    The tories want the rules on equal constituency size to be enforced more stringently and the Liberal Democrats want to see an introduction of preferential voting – neither of these measures are wrong in themselves but will find different levels of enthusiasm in different parts of the coalition. Practically they have to be in the same bill.

  • “the Conservatives would gain 8 seats, Labour would lose 7, based on the current 650 seat parliament. There is no gerrymander, just faux outrage.”

    8 seats is not an insignificant number. Do you think that if the Blue Tories had achieved an 8 seat majority at the General Election they would have invited the Orange Tories to form a coalition? I don’t. 8 seats at the next election could mean the difference between being in power or being in opposition. But I can’t take this debate any further because I don’t have the evidence base you are using for your assertions about seat numbers.

    “Don’t pretend to oppose AV out of high minded principle, though.”

    Are you being deliberately obtuse? The Blue and Orange Tories do not have the prerogative over principle. I have made it very clear on previous threads that I support a Party List form of PR. I would not vote for AV in a referendum because it is not proportional; it could produce a perception that the second best candidate has won and is inimical to the smaller parties. It has all of the disadvantages of FPTP without any of the benefits. The conflation of AV and the boundary changes in one bill shows that the bill is a cynical ploy by the Blue Tories to make it impossible for Labour MPs, even those who support AV, to vote for it. The solution is simple: persuade the Orange Tory MPs to decouple AV from the Boundary Changes and Labour in the Commons will be able to support AV. Peter Hain said so on Newsnight. Why should a hugely important issue such as a proposed change to the voting system be conflated with another issue which could cause it to fall? Now that’s bad faith! The Blue Tories are insisting on the inclusion of the Boundary Changes in the bill becasuse they know that Labour will have no alternative but to oppose the whole package and then earn the epithet, opportunistic, and the obloquy of the Orange Tories. Now that is dishonist politics! In addition, the Blue Tories are obviously hoping that with Labour being forced to oppose the bill the right wing Blue Tories will support them and the bill will fall and deprive the Orange Tories of their prize. The only reason the Orange Tories are in coalition! If the Orange Tories are really courageous and not just Cameron’s footmen, they will use the fact that the Blue Tories are toast without their political support to insist that the referendum includes a number of options for proportional representation which the public can pronounce on. Then, I and other Labour Party members will be able to vote in the referendum without the feeling that we’ve been “had” by the Blue Tories and that our principles have not been sacrificed.

  • Andrew Suffield 1st Aug '10 - 7:37pm

    The point is that if a party wins an overall majority it is expected to honour its manifesto commitments.

    I’m curious, which party are you thinking of that has done this? I know it’s not Labour or the Tories, but my 19th century political history is a bit rusty.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 1st Aug '10 - 7:40pm

    Andrew

    Read it again.

  • Ian Patterson 1st Aug '10 - 7:43pm

    cant fathom how new seats will only be 76,000, which is only 7000 more than current quota. 50 constituencies going will require major surgery on electoral map. With ecxeption of the large highland constituencies, the quota figure will be nearer 100,000.

  • so will Charles Kennedy seat go ???

  • @ Andrew Suffield

    Much of the 1945 Labour Government’s manifesto was implemented. That’s why the Blue Tories have been striving to roll it back for over 60 years!

  • No-one defending Cameron’s electoral “reform” package has addressed the following proposals:-

    (1) The reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600.
    (2) The elimination of the right to appeal against boundary changes.

    The first is rather obviously Cameron capitalising on the MPs’ expenses furore to weaken Parliament. The second is equally sinister. It suggests to me that Cameron is intent on stitching up the whole process so as to eliminate as many Lib Dem seats as possible (and yes, a few Labour ones as well).

    I don’t think the Tories are particularly afraid of Labour at the moment. Unless another Blair/Mandelson presents himself in short order, Labour is likely to be out of power for at least a decade, and possibly forever (retreating into the class bunker might make activists happy, but it isn’t going to appeal to the middle ground). What really is irking Cameron and his gang are those pesky Lib Dems who win all those plum Tory seats and once in can’t be got rid of by fair and legitimate means.

    If the Labour trolls would sling their hooks, my fellow Lib Dems might begin to hear the sound of the penny landing on the flagstones.

  • Ian Patterson 1st Aug '10 - 10:51pm

    Steve,

    kennedy’s seat remains intact.

  • Paul McKeown. First you tell us that AV “hardly makes a big difference to the fortunes of the big two and only slightly helps the LDs” (which speakes volumes about how little the LDs gained from the coalition negotiations). Then, later in the same posting, you say that “if you believe in a fair electoral system, you will get behind the campaign for AV, as AV represents a clear step towards it, with its preferential voting”. So, do you consider that AV would be a significant change, or not?

  • Ian Patterson 1st Aug '10 - 11:15pm

    clegg hs publically said (about two weeks ago) that if av fails, will not press for stv.

  • Andrew Suffield. A BBC research project in 2002 concluded that Labour had met 181 of the 229 promises in its 1997 manifesto:-
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1961522.stm

  • allentaylorhoad 1st Aug '10 - 11:44pm

    “In a hung parliament the manifestos are torn up the day after the election. Even if a clear majority of the electorate has voted for parties with a particular policy, a coalition will be free to adopt precisely the opposite policy.”

    Does it have to be like that? Shouldn’t two parties in a coalition just implement the parts of each other’s manifesto which both find acceptable, then go back to the electorate for a fresh mandate on issues over which they disagree, instead of assuming they have a blank cheque and locking themselves in for five years?

    I find Cameron’s stance on a fixed five-year term particularly hypocritical. He spent much of last year demanding an immediate general election, long before the five-year term was up.

  • Paul McKeown 1st Aug '10 - 11:54pm

    @Bert Finch

    Unintelligent comments from the narky red rattle and scarf brigade are, I suppose, to be expected at the present time.

    If you had actually read my post with open eyes and an unprejudiced mind, you would have noticed that I said that AV introduced preferential voting, which is a major improvement over simple majoritarian voting, as it allows voters to cast votes for as many or as few candidates as they wish, and to list them in order of preference. Preferential voting eliminates the need for tactical voting; electors can cast a positive ballot. Obviously AV is not proportional, but it presents a major step forward to either of two proportional electoral systems, AV+ or STV, which have been proposed recently.

    If you wish to be obtuse, do feel free, do but feel free to vent elsewhere.

  • Olly:

    “Claiming that ” Labour is likely to be out of power for at least a decade and possibly forever” sounds a bit like whistling to keep your spirits up to me”

    I have discussed this on another thread today, but I am happy to do so again. With an ever decreasing proportion of voters identifying themselves as “working-class”, it is going to be increasingly difficult for Labour to win, especially if they retreat into the “core vote” bunker, as they appear to be doing at the moment. In order to win in 1997, it was necessary for Labour to find a new leader who would do the trick of holding the core vote while appealling to the middle ground. Blair-Mandelson had to rebrand his party and ditch many of its policies. And he required the enthusiastic support and adulation of the media to pull it off. Is this going to happen all over again? Maybe it will. But I don’t see it. David Miliband isn’t being hyped by the media the way Blair was. He doesn’t have Bair’s phenomenal presentational skills, and he doesn’t appear to me to have what winning takes at this level – the killer instinct. The fact that we ended up with a hung Parliament in which Labour could, just could, have led a coalition government, masks the fact that Labour scored just one percentage point more than Michael Foot in 1983. Believe me, my spirits are far from up – not while we have Cameron, Osborne, Hague, Gove and Lansley running the shop.

    “Latest YouGov poll Labour 38% – Lib Dems 12%.”

    I finally gave up taking any notice of opinion polls on 7th May. The only polls that matter are the ones where real people vote, and they are suggesting that the Lib Dem vote is holding firm, with Labour up a bit, especially in its core areas. Have you seen the latest results from 29th July? http://www.aldc.org/elections/by-election-results/ YouGov obviously didn’t do its fieldwork in North-East Somerset and Haywards Heath.

    “it seems to me that for Labour to be kept permanently out of office the Lib Dems would need to replace Labour as the second party.”

    Not necessarily, though that may happen in the fullness of time. It could be that the Tories remain in power for a quarter of a century or more while the left and centre-left realign themselves. Not exactly an appealling prospect, but an inevitable result of distortional representation. And don’t forget, the Lib Dems already have replaced Labour in large chunks of the country. North-East Somerset is a classic example of the faultline inexorably receding into Labour’s inner urban and industrial heartlands (like Wolverhampton, where they can still win by motivating their core vote).

    “IMO that would need some form of PR”

    If we had had PR, it would have happened in the 1980s.

    “given that Clegg has alienated thousands of Labour supporters who would otherwise have voted for AV”

    Has he and would they? Don’t take the Labour trolls on this site as representative of the wider community. I suspect that most Labour voters are totally uninterested in voting reform, but then again I may be entirely wrong.

    “& Camreron will have got his seat reduction and boundary changes at no cost.”

    Cameron still has to persuade the Lib Dem MPs to vote his proposals through. When it dawns on them what Cameron actually has in store, they might not be so keen.

  • Paul McKeown 2nd Aug '10 - 12:11am

    @MacK

    Given that Labour currently has a 50 – 70 seat or thereabouts inbuilt advantage due to electoral efficiency under differential turnout and smaller average constituencies sizes, 8 seats is neither here nor there. Of course the Blue Tories are thick, which is why they oppose a more proportional electoral system.

    Try the BBC’s electoral seat calculator and set the Blue and Red Tories and the Liberal Democrats to 31% each. The Red Tories get 314 seats, the Blue Tories 207 and the Liberal Democrats 100. The Red Tories with 31% beat the Blue Tories and the Liberal Democrats with 62% together by 7 seats.

    Of course, the Blue Tories are thick, and preferring tradition to rationale, are happy to believe in any and all sorts of conspiracy against them, rather than that FPTP currently and for the forseeable future disadvantages them.

    The Red Tories know of their inbuilt advantage, and shriek with outrage if the smallest part of it is removed. Cynical? Never!

  • Anthony Aloysius St 2nd Aug '10 - 12:22am

    “Have you seen the latest results from 29th July? http://www.aldc.org/elections/by-election-results/ YouGov obviously didn’t do its fieldwork in North-East Somerset and Haywards Heath.”

    The trouble is, you’re just selecting the results most favourable to the Lib Dems, as usual. As might be expected, things aren’t so good in urban areas. In particular the result from 29th July that you didn’t mention was the one from Bilston North, in which the Lib Dem percentage dropped by nearly two thirds, leaving the party in fifth place, behind the BNP and UKIP.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 2nd Aug '10 - 12:40am

    No-one defending Cameron’s electoral “reform” package has addressed the following proposals:-
    (1) The reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600. …
    The first is rather obviously Cameron capitalising on the MPs’ expenses furore to weaken Parliament.

    But Clegg was saying exactly the same thing at exactly the same time (though the numbers may have been a bit different). Both were just coming out with populist nonsense. No doubt Clegg didn’t expect to be in a position to put his nonsense into effect, as it would obviously be to the disadvantage of the Lib Dems.

    Maybe he thought AV would compensate for that. But of course, if the referendum results in a “No” vote, as I think it’s likely to, it won’t.

  • @ Sesenco

    “No-one defending Cameron’s electoral “reform” package has addressed the following proposals:-

    (1) The reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600.”

    I have made the point several times on this site that the population at the 2001 census was nearly 59 million and in 2010 is estimated to be over 62 million. There is therefore no justification for reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600 when the population has increased by 2 million! But of course, Cameron is justifying his elimination of Labour and Lib Dem seats by asserting the need to reduce the number of MPs and then subsume those seats into Tory seats — er — equalise the constituencies. Yet another reason the Orange Tories should not support the cynically conflated AV and Boundary Changes Bill.

  • OOps — Should read ‘When the population has increased by 3 million!’

  • @Sesenco

    ‘ “given that Clegg has alienated thousands of Labour supporters who would otherwise have voted for AV”

    Has he and would they? Don’t take the Labour trolls on this site as representative of the wider community. I suspect that most Labour voters are totally uninterested in voting reform, but then again I may be entirely wrong.’

    I think that you are entirely wrong: latest YOU/GOV poll shows that the lead AV has over FPTP has slipped down to 1% and the Blue Tories’ right wing media attack dogs haven’t even got on the case yet.
    Labour trolls not representative of the wider community? Or activists who have their ears to the ground?
    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2010/07/past-support-reform-post-lead

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