Opinion: Achievable electoral reform for 2015

Securing an initial cross-party agreement is rarely enough to deliver constitutional reform. The dilemma for proponents of proportional voting is that such a fundamental change will always require a lengthy period of consultation. This time is a boon for the backroom operators in the big parties looking to backpedal, backstab, and poison the water. Ask Labour or the Tories for proper voting reform and what you will get is a long-term commitment that is lukewarm and effectively worthless.

The obvious way around this problem is to try to secure a small, quick gain as part of the overall package, something to act as an insurance policy or future leverage. And as it now appears we are heading for a second power-sharing parliament in a row, it is worth thinking through what kind of incremental reform might serve such a purpose, and how it could be implemented.

Constitutional practice in the UK already provides one well-worn avenue for small-scale reform – direct legislation. The voting system in EU elections, the mooted reduction of seats in the House of Commons and the reconstitution of the House of Lords have all been matters that Labour and the Conservatives have been happy to decide by acts of parliament alone. In this light, it would not be unreasonable for other parties to insist on legislating an incremental change to the voting system in the context of power sharing and a longer-term reform process.

Percentage Moderated First Past the Post (FPTP)

One incremental option worth serious consideration is what I call Percentage Moderated First Past the Post, or PMF for short. As the name suggests, it is not full PR, and it would merely amend the current system, not replace it.

The basic idea behind PMF is the same idea behind the systems used in Scotland and Wales. You elect a large number of MPs for local constituencies, producing a disproportionate result, to which you then add balancing seats to compensate the smaller parties.

PMF would not involve any new MPs, however. You would simply cut the number of local constituency seats by 65 and replace them with 65 balancing seats. This affects just 10% of the House of Commons, and is comparable to the reduction in constituencies the Tories already want.

Percentage Moderation would also not involve any change to the way you fill out your ballot paper. You would still vote with a cross for a single candidate in your local constituency.

What would change is that after all the local results were declared, national party tallies would then be compiled and used to apportion the last 65 seats from party lists. The balancing seats would only go to parties under-represented relative to their share of the national vote, allocated proportionally according to each party’s seat deficit.

What you end up with is a system that looks and feels a bit like Mixed Member PR, even though it isn’t. A later switch to full PR would be a continuation, not a reversal.

Weighing up PMF

For most voters, PMF would not feel disruptive. You go to the same local polling station, the votes are still counted on the night and you still get a local MP. Constituencies would be a little larger, but boundaries are already adjusted from time to time anyway. Pretty straightforward.

For the likes of UKIP, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats, all historically short-changed, 65 balancing seats would provide a stable foothold in parliament. These parties would still not receive their fair share of the seats, but they would at least get enough MPs to function properly.

In terms of the balance of power, you would expect PMF to increase the number of alternative party MPs from its historical average of about 85 to perhaps 130. That would create more room for power-sharing, but it would not be a recipe for permanent coalition. Analysis of past elections shows that Thatcher and Blair would still have been gifted majorities in 1983 and 1997 respectively.

So PMF does what the name says. It moderates FPTP without overwhelming it. Implemented correctly, PMF could be a compromise reform that doesn’t compromise on the possibility of future reform. And being gentle enough to legislate, it is something the under-represented parties of the UK could conceivably achieve this year, not next decade.

* Adrian is a distant observer of UK politics

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  • No. This just muddies the waters. We stand for STV. If we can’t get STV for Westminster, then let’s go for STV for local government and the European elections instead.

  • Andy McGregor 28th Jan '15 - 1:15pm

    I like this idea!
    I have a radical idea for council elections that builds on this: one third of seats directly elected on FPTP for a ward
    2nd third proportional to overall vote share
    Final third, randomly selected from electoral roll, “jury councillors”
    It is different anyway!

  • Julian Tisi 28th Jan '15 - 1:35pm

    I lovely idea but I disagree. I have two problems with this. The first objection is for the same reason that the Lib Dems were right to reject the “compromise” offered when the Tories and Labour voted down Lords reform of just replacing hereditary peers when they died with a handful of elected peers. In that case and I believe in this, the adjustment to the status quo is so minor as to be barely worth doing. And rather than making further reform more likely it’s likely to reduce the impetus for change rather than increase it. The second objection is that we have a more achievable but more significant short term target – STV for local elections and likewise European elections.

  • Leekliberal 28th Jan '15 - 1:52pm

    Small beer…and not good enough.
    What upsets me is that just as the country is finally waking up to the need for constitutional change in terms of devolved decision making in England, we in our pre-manifesto don’t even mention it! In Manchester, 95 of 96 councillors are Labour and the other one is independent Labour! Who will scrutinise the actions of this administration? I predict poor decision-making and corruption, not because it is run by by Labour, but because this is inevitable where there is no effective opposition as in this great city. We MUST back demands from the Electoral Reform Society for PR in local elections in England and Wales without a referendum. Another coalition with either of the ugly sisters will be a further kicking for us. So let us demand a high price for participation and have this as a RED LINE in any coalition negotiations.

  • Tony Greaves 28th Jan '15 - 1:58pm

    Nonsense. The job of a radical party is to set out what we want and campaign for it. Leave any compromises to the day.

    STV for English Councils would be a great step forward. Good for local democracy in all kinds of ways. And it would get people used to STV – numbering by preference.

    A minor reform we should champion is to replace the dreadful Supplementary Vote (SV) system for the likes of elected mayors and police commissioners with AV.


  • Stop this now! STV – nothing else will do. And DO NOT make PR a condition of any agreement…………. especially a referendum – the majority of people just aren’t interested – however we like to think they are.

  • Nick Collins 28th Jan '15 - 2:09pm

    Alternatively, you could have Percentage Moderated Top-up (PMT).

  • matt (Bristol) 28th Jan '15 - 2:25pm

    I have been thinking this way myself – although my thinking was more on these lines and -to some eyes – even less ambitious. The question I asked myself was, ‘what small compromise would bring about some change in the electoral system that would be consented to by all/most parties, which would pass the test posed by the widely-held theory that the AV referendum puts wholesale change off the map for a generation?’:

    – Restart the aborted boundary review to reduce HoC constituencies to 600 seats but fill in the ‘missing’ 50 seats with (up to) 50 non-constituency MPs.
    – Any party having 1 MP elected and gaining 2% of the national vote share as a minimum receives 1 of these ‘extra’ MPs for each 2% of vote share they receive.
    – There is no ‘party list’, there is just a list of all the unelected candidates run by that party in all constituencies, ranked by number of votes they received in the GE and not by the party themselves.
    – In my ‘system’ there was no weighting for overall proportionality.
    – However, I imagined that part of the deal was enabling legislation to timetable 12 future referenda (in, say, 7 years) for each region / nation of the UK, allowing for a choice between the current FPTP system, AV and multi-member STV. This would allow each region/nation to elect MPs on different systems.

    This isn’t about saying ‘what’s the best system?’. This is about saying ‘what can we achieve to get us further forward from where we are now?’ Some would say this is obstructive to progress; but at this time, we have to face the fact that STV is nowhere in popular estimation, either tainted by association with ourselves as a party, or denigrated by other parties.

    When every electoral system is badmouthed by its opponents as a cynical attempt by its proponents to manipulate things to their advantage, it may just be that cyncial pragmatism, horsetrading and opportunist compromise is the only way to make headway and progress. This is not very pleasant to write, but honest, logical evidence-based idealism seems to have got us nowhere.

  • The fundamental problem with Pecentage Moderated FPTP is that is another step away from democracy! Currently all MP’s have to stand for election and can only hold office if and only if sufficient people directly vote for them. It would seem that the 65 candidates being totally party appointee’s have no real democratic mandate, in comparison the current method for appointing members to the House of Lords would seem democratic.

    No based on the results of the 2010 election, the realistic level of electoral reform that can be achieved in 2015 is zero, therefore it might be better to spend time on other more important and voter relevant policies.

  • David Faggiani 28th Jan '15 - 4:52pm

    I quite like this idea, as a Lib Dem who (unusually?) isn’t mad about PR. One to keep in mind for negotiations.

  • paul barker 28th Jan '15 - 5:23pm

    Right now more than a third of voters say they want Parties other than The Big Two, I dont see giving them a tenth of the seats as in anyway fair.

  • What Tony Greaves said.

    Stick with STV – which is of course based on the evidence compiled over decades by the Electoral Reform Society

    When plain packaging is introduced for cigarettes people will have more space on the back of a fag packet to devise their own novelty voting systems to entertain folks here on LDV. Fun for some perhaps – but not serious politics and not serious voting reform.

  • Before I go on to comment further, I would just like to reiterate: The article doesn’t advocate this as an alternative to PR. It advocates this as an insurance measure in any package of voting / constitutional reforms.

    The past 20 years have shown that the Labour and Conservative party machines will use any review, consultation or referendum period to wriggle out of serious reform. Is it at all likely that Labour or the Tories will agree to implementing PR within 9 months of forming government (and getting a lot of their side of the bargain)? I doubt it.

    So when negotiating a long-term package, why not include something like this as a backup? PMF could be legislated relatively quickly – soon enough to retaliate against if your partner starts backsliding – gaining at least a small improvement no matter how badly the long-term part is derailed.

  • Caractacus writes:

    > So not a proportional system or a step on the road to a proportional system…

    It is actually a step on the road to a proportional system (as indicated in the article). If you had PMF in place and increased the size of the balancing pool, the end result would be an MMP variety of PR such as the system used in New Zealand.

    > How on earth would you divide up 65 seats between Lib Dem/Green/UKIP if they
    > each poll 12% of the national vote and have 14 seats between them?

    As described in the article, where it says the balancing seats go “to parties under-represented relative to their share of the national vote, allocated proportionally to each party’s seat deficit”.

    Let’s simplify the numbers. Suppose the three parties each poll 10% and are ideally due 65 seats each in a perfectly proportional parliament. Suppose further that the Lib Dems win 25 constituency seats and UKIP and the Green Party win 5 constituency seats each.

    The Lib Dems are then 40 seats in deficit, UKIP 60 seats in deficit and the Green Party 60 seats in deficit. Every other party wins so many constituency seats they are all over-represented, so the total number of seats in deficit is 160. The Lib Dem share of the deficit is 40/160 = 25%, so the Lib Dems get 25% of the balancing seats. There are 65 balancing seats, so that would mean about 16 extra Lib Dem seats. UKIP and the Greens would both get 24-ish.

  • I’m sorry, I haven’t been awake long and I mistyped “Caracatus”.

  • Julian Tisi wrote:

    > the adjustment to the status quo is so minor as to be barely worth doing

    As I have pointed out, it is intended to be part of a package, as insurance, not an end in itself. However, you may be underestimating what something modest like PMF could achieve.

    If you do a crude re-run of the 1992 election, for example, the Lib Dems end up with more like 70 seats than 20, and the Conservatives are roughly 20 seats short of a majority. The SNP would have gone from 3 to about 7, a big help in terms of managing the policy workload.

    In 2005 the Lib Dems would have got more like 90 seats than 62, and Labour would have been just a few seats short of a majority. UKIP would have had about 7 MPs, the Green Party 3 (both polled less than 3% that election).

    I suspect many people would have preferred those outcomes to the narrow but safe majorities the Conservatives and Labour actually won.

  • matt (Bristol) writes:

    > Any party having 1 MP elected and gaining 2% of the national vote share as a minimum receives 1 of
    > these ‘extra’ MPs for each 2% of vote share they receive.

    Allocating a chunk of the seats proportionally like this is how the voting system for the House of Representatives in Japan works. This kind of system is sometimes called parallel voting.

    In this case it is actually less proportional than PMF because Labour and the Conservatives would take roughly 30 of the 50 seats between them (as I interpret your description). PMF only delivers the balancing seats to under-represented parties, like the AMS systems in Scotland and Wales.

    > There is no ‘party list’, there is just a list of all the unelected candidates run by that party in all
    > constituencies, ranked by number of votes they received in the GE and not by the party themselves.

    This is a very attractive idea, and in fact the Japanese House of Representatives voting system allows the parties to submit lists that work something like this, with “all of these candidates ordered according to how many votes they got” entries.

    However it can also be quite dangerous, because it can create an incentive for rival parties to pursue a decapitation strategy.

    For example, if Labour voters in a safe seat wanted to, they could safely shift 10% of the total vote away from their candidate in favour of the local Lib Dem. Labour would still win the constituency, but the Lib Dem would then shoot up the party list, pushing down more genuinely popular members. Applied in 20 safe Labour seats and 20 safe Tory seats, this strategy could conceivably knock the entire leadership of a small party out of parliament, contrary to the wishes of the voters who sincerely chose that party.

    > we have to face the fact that STV is nowhere in popular estimation

    And in fact it will have to overcome a lot of the the misinformation about AV that was allowed to get out of hand, since both involve numbering candidates on the ballot paper. There are also a host of metre-long ballot papers from Australian STV elections that opponents of PR will be happy to drape themselves in. STV will be an easy target for a campaign of fear and deception.

  • Caracatus wrote:

    > The problem with factoring statements like the Conservatives would have won in a majority 1983
    > is that they only won because of FPTP

    The article is not saying the Conservatives deserved to be gifted their majority in 1983.

    One of the first ambit claims Labour and the Conservatives willl try to make against any reform is that it leads to permanent coalition government. In the case of PMF, this is easily refuted, and the refutation (“look at 1983 and 1997!”) reinforces the claim that Percentage Moderation is a such modest change that it can reasonably be decided by legislation alone.

    > There is a reason the Liberals/Lib Dems supported STV and it is about the nature of politics and
    > democracy – it’s not just about choosing a system that helps the Lib Dems.

    Some people would argue that local representation, and the capacity for local independent candidates to win, is an important part of democracy. Conventional implementations of STV tend to struggle in that regard, because as the constituencies become smaller, STV becomes less proportional.

    As an outsider, I think the Liberal Democrat party as a whole needs to be a little careful about putting all its PR eggs in the STV basket.

  • Roland writes:

    > It would seem that the 65 candidates being totally party appointee’s have no real democratic mandate

    They are elected from a party list (not appointed), so the mandate comes from people voting for a party, knowing which names are on the list.

    Party (or group) lists are not ideal, however, as I touch on in other comments, the alternatives I am aware of have problems too.

    Normally party lists are made available at each polling place. With only 65 balancing seats in play, it may well be viable for the electoral commission to go further and put a printed copy of every party list in each individual polling booth.

  • paul barker writes:

    > Right now more than a third of voters say they want Parties other than The Big Two,
    > I dont see giving them a tenth of the seats as in anyway fair.

    The current system already allows the other parties to win about 13% of the seats, and PMF would boost that to roughly 20%, both figures being contingent on shifts in voter sentiment and the FPTP lottery.

    The article says quite explicitly that this isn’t fair. But it is an improvement that could, just possibly, be locked in during the first year of a power-sharing agreement. This is about reducing wriggle room for Labour and the Tories in the context of a longer, more ambitious reform process.

  • In response to Stephen Johnson:

    I’ve browsed your DPR website once or twice before, Stephen. Without digressing too much, I think the general idea of giving MPs differently weighted votes is potentially a good way to allow the granuality of parliamentary voting power to be disconnected from the granuality of the persons exercising it, (meaning getting proportional outcomes without needing large constituencies that elect many members each). There are elements of the DPR prescription that do not appeal, but I have not thought about them enough to be sure.

    > It would be better to go for an alternative system where all the MPs are
    > elected by FPTP in the same constituencies with no change to constituency
    > boundaries or the number of MPs…

    PMF doesn’t change the number of MPs.

    > … [this] reduces the bickering associated with redrawing boundary changes…

    Boundary changes happen anyway, so I think you are over-egging the difficulties involved there.

    > … [the alternative’s] voting and counting are both quick and simple, and it
    > would make it so much easier and cheaper to introduce.

    PMF ballot papers are the same as the current FPTP ones, so they are even simpler than the alternative you are citing.

    The physical counting needed for PMF is the same as that required for FPTP. Balancing seats are allocated by adding up the FPTP totals and computing percentages, something that can be done with a notepad and a pocket calculator. The alternative you cite appears to involve similar steps and has extra information to count, so I find it difficult to characterise it as quicker or simpler.

  • Malcolm Todd 29th Jan '15 - 9:57am

    DPR is a fundamentally wrong-headed solution, for reasons that have been exhaustively discussed before on this site.
    In a nutshell:
    *Not all votes are party-based
    *Even for party votes, MPs can and do rebel against the Whip — why should a rebellious Lib Dem MP have more influence than a rebellious Labour or Tory MP?
    *Most votes don’t take place in the full chamber — how would this work for Committees, which do most of the work of parliament?
    *It does absolutely nothing to counter the grotesque regional distortions of FPTP: Scotland is effectively unrepresented in a Tory government (and Scottish Tories are effectively unrepresented always); vice versa for most of the South under a Labour government. No wonder Tory governments don’t know what’s right for Northern cities and Labour governments have a tin-ear for rural concerns — none of them represent those places!
    * What on earth happens when an MP defects, or there is a by-election at which a seat changes hands?

    Why continue to promote this system?
    I notice that Stephen makes the usual claim that “One of the principal objections to AMS is that there are two kinds of MP”. It’s hard to know how so many successful parliaments — Scotland and Germany, to take the most obvious examples — cope with this terrible defect; but in any case “DPR” wouldn’t create two classes of MP, it would create at least a dozen — a different one for every party in the House!

  • peter tyzack 29th Jan '15 - 10:36am

    the purpose of any change is to make things better, this doesn’t. The changes we need should bring us an election result nearer to the wishes of the public, not the wishes of the parties..
    – there needs to be improved scope for an individual, independent of party, to stand, STV does this.
    – there needs too be a refocusing of the process on the actual candidates not the celebrity leaders.

  • STV is party policy and rightly so – it produces more proportional results but it’s also more democratic for other reasons too (for example, the choice given to the voter, the fact that every vote countrs, the lack of any need for party lists or additional members).

    I think we would be sending out a very confused message if on the one hand we say “FPTP is awful, we need PR and we want STV… but here is a compromise we would be OK with which adds a bit of confusion and a bit more proportionality to the existing system but which doesn’t fundamentally change it”.

    I’m not saying that we should not countenance any other offer on the table but in negotiation if we go to the other parties saying “STV for the Commons is our ultimate aim, we would like PR for local elections, we would also like a more open system than the closed lists we use for Euro elections, but here’s a minor reform we’d settle on” – then guess what? That’s all we’ll get. Not only that but to our opponents they will be able to claim they’ve radically changed the electoral system, made it much fairer and that the issue is now “settled”. This is why for example the Tories would like English Votes for English laws – not only will it give them an inbuilt majority in England but it will also “settle” the West Lothian question and the rising calls for devolution. That’s why I think we’re right to call for a wider review of devolution in England rather than give into calls for EVEL.

    As Stephen Johnson says “the result of the coming election is likely to shout injustice” – and we should use this to keep up the pressure for change. Yes, we should be prepared to consider less than STV for all elections. But we should beware of allowing too little change as this could lessen the chance for further reform.

  • Responding to Stephen Johnson,

    I’ll confine myself mainly to the topic of this article in this comment.

    > I think your basic premise that we have to put forward an easy pathway to PR

    Well that is one of the premises, yes, but what I’m suggesting is that it in the context of power-sharing negotiations, what the smaller parties should ask for is not “a pathway to major voting reform” but “a legislated change to improve the system now, and a pathway to major voting reform”. This ensures that if recent history repeats, and the Labour and Conservative machines go into overdrive to trash the reform process, there will at least be an incremental gain.

    The question then becomes ‘what kind of voting reform is small enough to legislate, but worth doing’. I think PMF does a reasonable job of keeping small in terms of the workload it places on voters (no need to learn a new way to fill out ballot papers etc), how it affects constituencies and so on, while still yielding a worthwhile gain for the under-represented parties. It blunts many of the common objections wheeled out about voting reform, but of course every system has drawbacks, and this one is particularly constrained by the circumstances.

    I appreciate the factors you cite regarding boundary changes and the two classes of MP. We just disagree on whether they are manageable or not. I think they are because those kind of gripes are mainly driven by party power structures, and I think that if presented as part of a larger power sharing agreement they can be managed.

    > It seems to me that PMF would be a staging post to AMS.

    If you could legislate PMF then I suspect getting people used to the idea of linking the share of the seats to the share of the votes would make it a lot easier to advocate for any form of proper PR.

    PMF, the Scottish and Welsh AMS systems and the New Zealand MMP system are very closely related, but they also differ in important ways. If you started with PMF, and you then wanted to make as few changes as possible to get to something regarded as proper PR, you would head for MMP.

  • Further objections to DPR
    * MPs do a lot more than vote. To do it properly, it would be necessary to give MPs proportionate speaking time, and proportional entries in the private members’ ballot. And perhaps other members would be expected to give proportionate weight to the opinions expressed by vote-heavy MPs?
    * In a system such as ours, where government ministers are selected from Parliament, a party with a small number of vote-heavy MPs would have a small pool of talent from which to pick ministers. Or would the weighted vote system apply to the Cabinet as well?

  • Peter Tyzack remarked:

    > the purpose of any change is to make things better, this doesn’t.

    The purpose of this is to stand between the engineered failure of a big reform and zero reform.

    If an important criterion for ‘better’ is making the share of the seats align more closely with the share of the votes, then this is better.

    If you do a rough rerun of the 2005 election using Percentage Moderation, you should (I hope) see the Liberal Democrats getting about 30 extra seats, with the Green Party going from 0 to 3-ish and UKIP from 0 to 7-ish.

    Incidentally, I agree with your preference for a focus on the candidate as an individual.

  • Julian Tisi wrote:

    > I’m not saying that we should not countenance any other offer on the table
    > but in negotiation if we go to the other parties saying “STV for the Commons
    > is our ultimate aim, we would like PR for local elections, we would also like
    > a more open system than the closed lists we use for Euro elections, but
    > here’s a minor reform we’d settle on” – then guess what? That’s all we’ll
    > get.

    I would characterise it more as saying to prospective power-sharing partners: “We know you have a track record of trying to wreck these big reforms, so thank you for that 3 year pathway full of difficult budgets and painful policy shifts, but if you don’t mind, here’s a very modest change we can legislate now as well, just in case that pathway turns into a dead end.”

    The article doesn’t present PMF as a minor reform to settle on in isolation.

  • Tsar Nicolas 29th Jan '15 - 12:22pm

    Stephen Johnson,

    With about 8% of the poll, the Lib Dems under a proportional system would give us around 57 seats!

  • This thread has strayed off onto Westminster elections. We stand a much better chance of getting PR of some sort for Westminster if we first get PR for local elections. ( see Tony Greaves’ post). STV at local level could be achieved by grouping existing wards together. It would also work well for parish elections. Parishes are often not warded but elect significant numbers of councillors.

  • Stephen Johnson asks:

    > Re Lib Dem policy, has anyone done an analysis of how current voting intentions would translate
    > into seats under STV?

    Tsar Nicolas, replies:

    > With about 8% of the poll, the Lib Dems under a proportional system would give us around 57 seats!

    Unfortunately STV is not very very proportional, just “proportional enough”. You can’t always just take a direct percentage.

    If you had 12 member regions and an otherwise conventional implementation, a party on 8% evenly distributed would win one MP in each region – about 54. (The required vote to win a seat is about 8%.)

    But if you only had 8 member regions, the winning quota would be about 11%. The party would need to attract preferences, so it would waver between winning one MP or none in each region.

    Over many regions that might add up to more or less than 54 seats, but as the last European election showed, it’s a very slippery slope once you start sinking below the quota needed to win a seat in your own right.

  • Kay Kirkham writes:

    > This thread has strayed off onto Westminster elections.
    > We stand a much better chance of getting PR of some
    > sort for Westminster if we first get PR for local elections.

    At risk of straying even further back to the original article, PMF is not being presented as an either-or option, nor as a stand-alone stepping-stone option.

    The rise of UKIP, the Green Party and the SNP reinforces and renews the need for electoral reform. Even though the water was poisoned in 2011, I think it is worth at least contemplating how a reform pathway for Westminster could be negotiated in a power-sharing agreement. Given the objectives of the other smaller parties, it is conceivable that a wide-ranging suite of constitutional reforms could be on the table, including both local and national voting reform.

    I agree that local STV would help educate people about the system and kill some misinformation. But it is also worth remembering that the experience of AMS in Scotland helped crystallise Labour’s fears about PR in Westminster. And it will be very easy for opponents to cherry pick local government failures and blame them on STV.

  • Julian Tisi 29th Jan '15 - 1:47pm

    Hi Adrian

    STV for local elections is very achievable as an aim. Partly because both NI and Scotland already have STV for local elections. And the experience in introducing STV to Scotland has been very positive – even the Tories now recognise that it’s forcing them to work areas that were previously no-go, because there’s more of a chance that they could get someone elected. The other thing is that an incoming government knows that they tend to lose seats in local government if they’re the national government – so introducing a new electoral system might be in their short-term interests.

  • Denis Mollison 29th Jan '15 - 3:38pm

    I agree with those who’ve alreay said we should stick with STV. It’s now used for local, assembly and European elections in Northern Ireland as well as for council elections in Scotland. While AMS is used for the ScottishParliament and Welsh Assembly, independent Reports (Arbuthnott for Scotland, Richards for Wales) have recommended that STV would be better.

    STV gives much closerto proportional results than Adrian’s simplistic 8% and 12% example suggest – I can provide chapter and verse from the Scottish Council election results if anyone’s interested.

    I believe that the SNP, Greens and UKIP are all sympathetic to STV, so if there’s scope for joint demand for reform this is the system most likely to get unanimous minor party support.

    Just possibly the outcome in May may be so absurd that we can demand reform for Westminster again, but an excellent first step would be STV for local elections in England and Wales.

  • John Lister 30th Jan '15 - 1:39am

    It’s by no means perfectly proportional, but I like the two-birds-with-one-stone idea of replacing the House of Lords with a chamber made up of the 650 people who’ve come second in constituency voting. Would be a tough sell to critics who’d argue it puts losers into office, but it would be more reflective of public option and would give more options to people who’d normally think “party X can’t win, so there’s no point wasting a vote.”

  • Anthony Tuffin writes:

    > Adrian PR repeated an old fallacy, “STV is not very [party] proportional, just “proportional enough”.”

    Leaving aside the other parts of Anthony’s comment, that is a misquote.

    I said “not very very proportional”, meaning offering no guarantees of being within, say, 2% of perfect proportionality.

    Most PR systems are just “proportional enough” in practice, meaning that enough people who care think they are near enough.

    The only current senator in Australia who was elected as an independent paid ~25% of the first preference vote for one of six STV seats in South Australia. Two of his rivals paid ~7% and ~4% respectively for their seats. One might see this as “proportional enough” if the preference flows are authentic and other factors mitigate and so on. But I also think that means you need to caveat and qualify any projections that use a simple “5% of the votes is 5% of the seats” rule.

    (Oh, and Tsar Nicolas, in spite of the dry response, I did catch the humour in your comment about 57 seats.)

  • In response to Stephen Johnson:

    This isn’t really what you want, but the Legislative Council in Victoria (Australia) has used a form of STV with eight five-member regions at the last three elections. The relevant tables at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_state_election,_2014 (and _2010, and _2006) may be of interest.

  • John Lister: “Would be a tough sell to critics who’d argue it puts losers into office”

    In other words, no change from the current system!

  • Denis Mollison 30th Jan '15 - 11:54am

    Stephen – I’ve not tried predicting 2015 results under STV; they’d depend heavily on how voters would react, with UKIP and Green support presumably less squeezable than under the present system.

    But to contribute some data to the discussion, I’ve posted figures showing how proportionality worked out for the 2012 Scottish Council elections, both overall and council by council, plus a graph examining the threshold at which a party starts winning seats: see here.

    The results show generally good proportionality of seats to first preference votes, with the expected departure at the bottom end (threshold effect), and a corresponding `better than proportional’ effect at the top end. The main deviation from this is the Conservatives, who do fine in council areas where their support is over about 20%, but badly where it is less. This is because they (in Scotland) attract few second preferences. This – not very large – discrepancy shows that STV is doing what it should, taking some account of other than first preferences in tight elections.

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