Tag Archives: alternative vote

FPTP is worse than you realised

As we approach another election, it’s worth noting just how flawed First Past the Post (FPTP) voting is as a system for electing candidates in single-winner elections. David Cameron saw his career destroyed by not supporting Alternative Vote (AV), and now it appears Rishi Sunak will witness the rise of The Reform Party, potentially increasing the Tories’ losses at the election.

The biggest issue with FPTP isn’t merely that it encourages dishonest voting or that the concept of ‘most votes wins’ seems intuitive. Rather, its main flaw is that it can result in the election of the least popular candidate.

I have previously pointed out that first-past-the-post voting can indeed lead to the election of the least popular candidate. While discussing this in a forum with supporters of electoral reform, I was told, ‘That’s not true.’ It wasn’t that they insisted on this misconception; they simply assumed it couldn’t be the case until it was explained how. This isn’t an opinion, it’s a mathematically provable fact.

Unfortunately, some people, despite favouring other forms of single-winner elections, still view FPTP voting as at least an acceptable method for conducting elections.

In an election, our aim is to identify the most popular candidate, right? There’s an assumption that the FPTP winner is the most popular, while an AV winner might be more of a compromise. This narrative was propagated by the NoToAV campaign in 2011, with insufficient opposition from the Yes campaign.

In reality, the winner under AV is much more likely to be the most popular candidate. While FPTP often does elect the most popular candidate, it can also fail to do so. Although less common, AV can also fall short in this regard; however, it cannot elect the least popular candidate.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 36 Comments

D’Hondt complain afterwards if you d’Hondt understand it…

Not everyone in the country takes a lot of interest in the intricate details of electoral systems, and that probably includes most politicians including the new Chukkers on the block, and almost all the media.

A lot of people know that you can have “first past the post” (FPTP which in practice usually means the candidate who has got closest to the post when the whistle goes) and “proportional representation” which includes all the other systems ever invented. And that’s about it.

The thing is that the way the votes are counted is one of the two things (together with how people vote) that decides who gets elected. Stalin is supposed to have said that what matters is not how people vote but who counts the votes. In the Euro elections, the counting takes place by a system known as d’Hondt after one Victor of that ilk who is (possibly) one of the most famous Belgians to have lived.

FPTP is designed for a binary choice. It works perfectly when there are only two candidates – or in a for-and-against referendum. In elections when there are lots of parties, all standing for different things, it’s hopeless. On the other hand, d’Hondt is designed for just that – it will allocate seats more or less proportionately between lots of parties standing for different things (though it discriminates against the smallest ones). It is useless at making a binary choice.

Yet it has for a long time been as clear as daylight that if we have EU elections next month they will be proxy for a new referendum on the UK’s EU membership. It would work if there were just two parties standing (though I suppose we would have to let the Labour lot in to provide a third choice for the fence-sitters.) In practice, there are going to be more serious contenders than ever. And there is a huge danger that Farage’s Brexit party will sweep up the Leavers and “top the poll” in both votes and seats, while the People’s Voters and Remainers are split umpteen ways.

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Indicative Votes – An alternative to the Meaningful Vote, Three

There is an old saying that goes “You couldn’t make it up” the drama of the last few weeks in parliament where Theresa May has been trying to get her deal passed has, in my opinion, been scandalous. May in her first attempt suffered the largest defeat in parliamentary history, followed by a second attempt when she faced the fourth largest defeat in history. Theresa May has not changed any of her red lines and then went on national television to blame MPs (how to win friends and influence people, Theresa May style). The only reason some of the MPs …

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged | 45 Comments

LibLInk: Lord (Paul) Tyler – Just Deserts?

Paul TylerOver at Lords of the Blogs, Lib Dem peer Paul Tyler gives short shrift to the complaints of his parliamentary colleagues complaining that the red benches cannot accommodate the 22 new peers appointed last week:

What a nerve! If on 10th July 2012, having given the Government’s Bill a huge second reading majority, those very same MPs had allowed it to make progress, this alleged problem would have been solved. Egged on by Peers and journalists, they broke their manifesto promises to bring democracy to the Lords by playing party games. Had the Reform Bill passed, political appointments would have ceased by now and we would be preparing for the first election of 120 members representing every region and nation of the UK, next year. The choice was theirs two years ago: popular election or party patronage. They are now getting what they asked for.

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Psst! Whatever you do, don’t tell the Tories democratic reform is in their own best interests

A few weeks ago I wrote an article for Conservative Home offering some unsolicited advice to David Cameron’s party. I argued that a party that had achieved electoral success in the 1980s by appealing to the classless entrepreneurialism of aspirant ‘Middle England’ had once again become established in the electorate’s eyes as the party of established wealth and privilege. If the Tories want to regain the voters they have lost, they need to take drastic action to counter that view.

Reform of the House of Lords was one policy area I said the Tories should seek to make their …

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Opinion: One year on from Tuition Fees: why I’m still a Liberal Democrat

It’s one year on from the vote on Tuition Fees, so I thought I would lay out some reasons why I, as a student, am still a Liberal Democrat after our great ‘betrayal’.

Although our ministers are having to make tough choices, Liberal Democrats have won a major victory – having a tax cut for the low paid, rather than the very rich, as the Tories would have preferred. Raising the income tax threshold to £10,000 is a good way to correct the disaster Gordon Brown created when he scrapped the 10p tax band. Plus it is a tax cut …

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Nick Clegg’s irrelevance to loss of AV vote

How important was Nick Clegg to the loss of the referendum to reform the electoral system? Very important if you believe this anonymous source quoted recently in The Guardian (hat-tip to James Graham):

Last night a senior source in the campaign for the alternative vote admitted they knew “very early on” that there was no chance of winning the referendum and that Clegg had become part of the problem: “Every time Clegg spoke about AV our polling numbers went into free-fall. We knew from very early on, before the new year, that we couldn’t win, our message wasn’t getting

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Lib Dem members say: AV referendum result irrelevant to Coalition’s future

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 530 party members have responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results.

69% say AV referendum result irrelevant to Coalition’s future

LDV asked: Imagine the NO campaign wins the referendum; if this happened do you think the Liberal Democrats should leave the coalition?

    8% – The Liberal Democrats should leave the coalition if the NO campaign win
    22% – The Liberal Democrats should stay in the coalition if the NO campaign win
    69% –

Posted in LDV Members poll | 17 Comments

Why I’ll be voting Yes to AV on 5th May: it’s all about choice

I will be voting ‘Yes’ to the alternative vote in the referendum on the 5th May. Here’s why.

For me, this referendum is all about choice. The ‘Yes’ campaign stands for giving voters greater choice — the choice to rank candidates standing for election according to our individual preference.

But, in fact, the ‘Yes’ campaign stands for more choice than just that. If you prefer, you don’t have to rank your candidates by preference. That’s right, under the alternative vote, you can express as much preference, or as little preference, as you choose:

  • If you love only one party —

Posted in Op-eds | 43 Comments

Opinion: Must the Alternative Vote benefit the Liberal Democrats?

John Curtice is a God among psephologists. He is not a man to be criticised lightly. But he left me muttering into my cornflakes when I heard him suggest on the Today Programme that we could be sure AV delivers a benefit to the Lib Dems in terms of seats won.

Now, the national media – even Radio 4’s august news flagship – is not happy dealing in nuance but there are at least three reasons why it is dangerous to make assumptions about future elections fought under AV on the basis of past elections fought on FPTP.

First is whether the …

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Have you ‘Liked’ the Unofficial YES to AV campaign Facebook page yet?

Remember this — the unofficial Facebook Lib Dem fan group, We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!, the internet election sensation? (Still going strong with over 146,000 members, by the way.)

Well, the same guys are also behind an unofficial Yes campaign Facebook page also: YES to Alternative Vote on 5th May, with over 3,000 fans to date. The page is replete with links, photos and videos — serious, and erm not so serious — which you can share with your friends’ network on Facebook.

The group has managed …

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Clegg: “AV is a very British reform”

In a month’s time we will know the result — will the British people have voted to modernise our electoral system? The next three and a bit weeks will see some frantic campaigning in the first national referendum in a generation.

Tim Farron is leading the charge for the Lib Dems, as he described here on Lib Dem Voice yesterday. And today Nick Clegg, who as deputy prime minister steered through the legislation to give the public their say, will deliver a speech on the merits of the ‘alternative vote’ in London. You can read the full text below. The …

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LDVideo: The People Say Yes to AV (‘No Politicians’ Edition)

The No2AV Campaign has been all too delighted to parade has-been politicians to back up its arguments — the Yes2AV Campaign has rather more wisely stuck to letting the public have its say in this first UK referendum in 35 years.

Here members of the public explain why they’ll be choosing the Alternative Vote this May:

(You can watch it on YouTube here.)

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Three cheers for Ed Miliband (shame about his party)

This evening Labour leader Ed Miliband will urge his party and the public to say yes to fairer votes in this coming May’s referendum.

All of us in favour of electoral reform, and a voting system that puts more power back in the hands of the people, should welcome his personal backing for the alternative vote. Ed, at least, is staying true to what Labour’s 2010 general election manifesto pledged, specifically:

To ensure that every MP is supported by the majority of their constituents voting at each election, we will hold a referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote for elections

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The Yes! to Fairer Votes campaign asks: Where does your MP stand on the Alternative Vote?

Earlier this week, Lib Dem Voice highlighted the No2AV campaign’s embarrassing failure to check whether all the Labour MPs they said were opposed to reforming the UK’s unfair electoral system actually are opposed. It turns out that five of the 114 named were listed wrongly.

As a result of the No camp’s confusion, the Yes! to Fairer Votes campaign is asking the public to help make sure all MPs come clean about which side of the debate they support:

What really matters in this referendum is what the people want, not politicians. But since they are meant to represent us,

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No2AV campaign left red-faced by list gaffes

Last week I posted to Lib Dem Voice what I thought to be an accurate list of the 100+ Labour MPs who had proudly announced they would be opposing electoral reform in the May referendum.

I assumed it must be accurate… after all, the list was taken directly from the No2AV campaign’s official website. Surely they would have checked with each MP before publishing their name, I thought. Not carefully enough, it turns out.

As Left Foot Forward has highlighted, five Labour MPs named by No2AV as opponents of electoral reform have been listed incorrectly — take a bow …

Posted in News | Also tagged | 31 Comments

The 100-plus Labour MPs publicly opposing electoral reform

Poor Ed Miliband. In his first speech to the Labour party conference he tried his valiant best to show that Labour had changed, that it was a party which could re-claim the progressive liberalism it so happily junked in the Blair/Brown years.

No more ID cards, detention without trial, control orders etc — so said Ed. And yes to electoral reform in the shape of the alternative vote — so said Ed.

Unfortunately for Ed, not many of his MPs are listening to him. Today, the No2AV campaign proudly announced that over 100 of Labour’s 257 MPs would be opposing …

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Elected Police Commissioners: how the elections would work

The publication this week of the Police Reform And Social Responsibility Bill provided, amongst other matters, details of how the planned elections for Police Commissioners (or, strictly speaking, Police and Crime Commissioners) would be conducted.

The overall plan is to treat them like local elections, with the same electorate and the same polling day in May. However, the Bill also applies the ‘standard’ election system for existing directly elected executive posts to Police Commissioners, namely the supplementary vote.

This is likely to be controversial, both because the supplementary vote is very unpopular with many Liberal Democrats and also because the …

Posted in Election law and News | Also tagged , , and | 13 Comments

Opinion: why the voters are right to be annoyed, but not at the Lib Dems

So, another week, and more policies announced that are definitely not Liberal Democrat in origin. Particularly one close to my liberal heart on the issue of paying for University education. Now that debate will rumble on and on, but I want to look more closely at whether the Lib Dems did indeed “sell out” on their principles, or whether they …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 29 Comments

Opinion: Chris Bryant is right, though he doesn’t know why

As I write, Chris Bryant is arguing during the Whole House committee for the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill that a method for drawing up constituency boundaries that is severely confined by a mathematical formula is misguided.

I completely agree, although possibly for a different reason to the one he uses to support his argument.

Mr Bryant has been arguing that a strict mathematical formula will have to ignore natural geographical and physical boundaries.

It’s true: to bring in the Bill as it stands will create constituencies that are almost constantly shifting and where previously combined communities may very well find themselves …

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Opinion: Labour leadership voters may have favoured Balls over the Milibands

A low point in William Hague’s otherwise excellent conference speech on Sunday was his cheap shot at the Alternative Vote system and its role in the outcome of the Labour leadership election. The result, he implied, was some sort of mathematical anomaly; somehow unfair. But there’s nothing unfair about the election of Ed Miliband. If the election were repeated tomorrow using the first-past-the-post system, with only the two Milibands standing, the result would be the same. What the AV system showed was that a majority of the Labour party electorate preferred Ed over David. …

Posted in Op-eds | 4 Comments

Opinion: the Tories should be supporting voting reform

I am not a Liberal Democrat who is going to apologise on the doorstep for the Coalition. I think it was the best situation that could have transpired.

The Conservatives are not the party they were in the 1980s; they have a leader who is clearly much more in the centre-ground of politics, and his and Nick’s personal chemistry certainly attest to a political dovetailing as well. You need look no further than the disquiet about Cameron and the coalition coming from the traditional right-wing elements of the party, and the brewing arguments over defence spending to …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 27 Comments

Guardian verdict on voting reform: “Mr Clegg spoke for progress; Mr Straw for reaction.”

The Guardian has not always been kind to the Coalition since its formation; still less to the Lib Dems. But its stinging rebuke to Labour’s “opposition for opposition’s sake” — with its attempt last night cynically to torpedo the Lib/Con government’s electoral reform measures — might perhaps give the new party leader pause for thought.

In the topsy-turvy world of Coalition politics, two parties which do not support the alternative vote last night voted to endorse a referendum on it; while the party which pledged to introduce it in its manifesto decided to jettison that promise.

It was an irony …

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Clegg on AV referendum bill: “We must make the system fair. We must put people back in charge.”

The BBC reports:

Plans to change the way MPs are elected have cleared the first Commons hurdle. A bill introducing a referendum on changing the voting system, changes to constituency boundaries and fewer MPs, was backed by 328 votes to 269.

Labour says the changes would affect Labour-supporting areas and said the bill was “political skulduggery”. Tory opponents of the referendum said it could cost £100m but deputy PM Nick Clegg said it would restore “people’s faith in the way they elect their MPs”.

Despite criticism, the bill passed with a majority of 59 and a Labour bid to kill it off

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged , and | 21 Comments

The Independent View: the Alternative Vote – what about the House of Lords?

The debate on whether to replace First Past the Post with AV for elections to the House of Commons certainly seems to be warming up. Both sides are seeking increasing media coverage, bloggers from both sides are debating on the internet, and public interest seems to be growing on the issue.

Yet there seems to me one thing missing – an appreciation of the role of the House of Lords, and how it might be reformed.

The reason for this is quite important – the House of Commons does not exist in a vacuum. The AS-level course I teach on …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 27 Comments

Opinion: the Australian election and AV

Fans of the alternative vote system would do well to look at the result of the Australian election. Australia and Fiji are the only two countries in the world to use AV. The two main parties got about 80% of the vote. A record* 2 million+ people voted for minor parties, that’s around 17% – a 50% increase of the number of people not voting for the big two.

And the result? Well the two main parties got 145 seats and the minor parties 5.

Now at this point defenders of AV will be saying “yes we know AV isn’t that good …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 50 Comments

LDV survey: 96% of Lib Dem members back AV – but majority with “no real enthusiasm”

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of a variety of key issues, and what you make of the Lib Dems’ and Government’s performance to date. Almost 600 party members have responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results of our survey.

Today we’re looking at the Alternative Vote, the measure of electoral reform the Conservatives conceded in their ‘final offer‘ to the Lib Dems to secure the Coalition agreement. A preferential system of voting (in which the public can, if they choose, rank the candidates in order), AV is not …

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged and | 15 Comments

Iain Dale’s voting system confusion

Iain Dale yesterday posted a piece attacking the Alternative Vote system which doesn’t bode well for a well informed campaign.

That’s a shame because there’s a sensible debate to be had – with Lib Dems being the first to admit that the Alternative Vote system isn’t the best of all possible options, though most would rate it as a great improvement on what we have now.

Dale writes

There’s a reason only one other country in the world uses AV. It’s a half way house. It tries to be a PR equivalent of the First Past the Post system, but in reality

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 27 Comments

“The voting system is broken, back the Alternative”: ads to help win May’s voting referendum

Last month, The Voice asked the question, Can you design a poster to win the AV “Yes” campaign?, highlighting TakeBackParliament.com‘s competition to crowd-source the design talent of bloggers who support abolishing first-past-the-vote and replacing it with the Alternative Vote in readiness for next May’s referendum.

The winner has now been announced (and sorry, guys, but it doesn’t do it for me). Runner-up was Lib Dem blogger Stuart Bonar, who produced an excellent series of designs.

Here’s an example from one batch:

And an even more inspired …

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LibLink: Nick Clegg – My vision for a new political map and voting system

Acting Prime Minister… are we allowed to call him that? No, okay then: Holding the Fort Prime Minister Nick Clegg has an article in today’s London Evening Standard setting out how he thinks the way in which people vote can be improved by the next general election, in 2015.

He looks at three issues. First, Nick notes the current unfairness that unequal constituency sizes mean that the votes of 87,000 voters in the East Ham constituency are worth less than the 66,000 voters living 10 miles away in Islington North: “So, if you live in Islington, your voice counts for more.” …

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