There’s talk about how the upcoming Labour leadership election may define the coming referendum on the Alternative Vote. Well let’s take a look.
Britain isn’t lacking in examples of AV in practice. Variants are used in almost every internal election for Labour and Lib Dems, by all MPs in selecting Speakers and Committee chairs, anyone who’s been to university (and remembers what a Sabbatical Officer is), or any card carrying members of unions, professional associations, and the like.
But Labour’s use of AV can show us what its capable of. There’s lots of numbers to crunch – particularly when we look back at the deputy leadership election that gave us Harriet Harman. Harman of course was not the First-Past-the-Post winner. That accolade goes to backbencher Jon Cruddas, who could have romped home with barely half a percentage point lead in a split field.
Labour Deputy Leadership Election – 2007
|Candidate||Members of affiliated organisations||Individual members||MPs and MEPs||Total|
It was a close run thing on First Preferences. And as we see in Westminster elections, the closer and more competitive the race, the more people are left with an MP they didn’t endorse. As for Harriet, even when last placed candidate Hazel Blears was eliminated, it was Alan Johnson who leapt into first place…
|Candidate||Members of affiliated organisations||Individual members||MPs and MEPs||Total|
And it was Johnson who led the field until the penultimate round of counting…
|Candidate||Members of affiliated organisations||Individual members||MPs and MEPs||Total|
At the final stage Cruddas saw his backers throw their transfers significantly behind Harman producing a nail biting 50.43% win for the current acting Leader of the Labour Party…
|Candidate||Members of affiliated organisations||Individual members||MPs and MEPs||Total|
Today the talk is of Miliband the Younger pulling off a similar trick with 2nd preferences. But why should any of this matter?
Well they say parties are broad churches. Well our constituencies are far broader.
For the same reason MPs use AV to elect their Speaker, and Lib Dems and Labour their leaders, these figures require legitimacy, with broad appeal, and, fundamentally, more people for them than against them. That’s the regrettable position 2/3 of our MPs are in at the minute, historically high levels stoked by the growth of multi-party politics.
With 2 candidates such a system is needless. Simple black and white choices require nothing more than that blunt instrument that is First-Past-the-Post. But Politics, as you might have noted, has ceased being Black and White, Whig and Tory, or even Red and Blue. And in the Labour Party while the press might wish to dwell on a wholesome Cain and Abel struggle let’s not forget Dianne Abbott, Andy Burnham and Ed Balls, and more importantly perhaps their likely voters.
Labour’s electoral college system complicates things a bit, but what we do know are the number of MPs backing each candidate. The picture today is as follows, figuring in the John McDonnell 16 nominations had when he withdrew on 9 June 2010.
Thus far no candidate can even boast of speaking for even a third of their colleagues. Miliband the Elder may appear in a commanding position, but viewed in First-Past-the-Post terms his ‘lead’ puts him alongside the 8 MPs in whole of the new Parliament who failed to pick up even a third of the vote in May. But there is a still so much to play here for because Labour members have a vote that goes further – unlike the rest of us in the country at large.
Now anyone attending the recent Labour hustings will note the marked difference between them and their US Primary equivalents – they’re less vicious, more convivial, almost at times resembling actual debates. We can’t put that all down to AV of course – our parliamentary system means these lot are destined to remain close colleagues regardless – but AV does mean it simply isn’t worth alienating your opponent’s base with empty name-calling. It means reaching out beyond your comfort zone to a wider electorate, fashioning a coalition of sorts among your own constituents.
The goal is legitimacy. Harman reached it in 2007. A Miliband has a pretty good chance of it in 2010. As for your own MPs in 2015, that will depend on the outcome of next year’s vote.
Nick Clegg yesterday confirmed a date – 5 May 2011 – for a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV). Since the Coalition agreed to a referendum on AV, we in the Electoral Reform Society research office have been inundated with queries from sitting MPs. More often than not, they’re after projections of how AV might have affected the most recent general election. In short, they’re worried about how a switch to AV will affect their chances of holding onto a seat in 2015.
Some of them have every reason to be fearful: AV means that all MPs need 50 per cent support in their constituencies, and only a third of the current cohort of MPs command such levels of support. Many MPs are also concerned that AV will negatively impact upon their party. But there is a problem with trying to understand voting reform in this way.
For too long, the different options have been outlined in crude party political terms. So the Conservatives favoured First Past the Post, the Lib Dems were passionate about proportional representation, and Labour were divided about what would work best for them.
The AV referendum is a chance to rethink the debate. Nobody is sure which parties will get the most out of it (although we can state with some certainty that the BNP will struggle). British politics is now characterised by an unusual inter-party dynamic: the Lib-Cons in Westminster, an SNP minority government in Holyrood, and a Labour-Plaid coalition in Wales.
It is extremely hard to predict how voters will use their second and third preferences – the crucial votes needed to push candidates over the winning mark. This is a marked difference from the mid-nineties, when the Jenkins Commission concluded that AV was “unacceptably unfair to the Conservatives”. Back then, the anti-Tory vote was so strong that most voters would happily have written “1” next to a Labour candidate and “2” next to a Lib Dem, or vice versa.
Now, though, several parties have had a taste of government. The party system is fractured, and the parties themselves look fragile. Will Lib Dem voters reward the Conservatives for working with them in government? Do left-leaning voters who opted to vote tactically for Lib Dem candidates feel betrayed? How will things pan out in Scotland and Wales, where the nationalist parties enter the fray?
These questions are difficult to answer, hence the dithering on this issue from the Conservative and Labour leaderships. And therein lies the beauty. The great opportunity that AV offers is for the people not the politicians. MPs will no longer be able to depend on a minority of diehard supporters in their constituencies. They’ll need to build consensus across the community, attracting second-preference votes from supporters of other parties. This much is obvious.
But what nobody has really picked up on is the effect the newness and unpredictability of AV will have on British election campaigns and party manifestos. In recent years, we have become accustomed to highly sophisticated election campaigns from the richest parties, exemplified by Lord Ashcroft’s Tory strategy at this year’s election. Millions of pounds are funnelled into a small number of key constituencies, where the latest marketing techniques are used to attract the swing voters who decide the election.
AV won’t make “safe” or “marginal” seats extinct, but, crucially, the battleground seats will be much harder to identify. The parties’ well-oiled campaign machines will be forced to broaden their range of targets for fear of being ambushed in previously secure seats. Sure, the Tories won’t have to worry about Windsor or Tunbridge Wells, but current strongholds like Bournemouth, Canterbury, and Chelmsford will suddenly seem a bit too risky to ignore.
By voting Yes in the referendum on AV on 5 May 2011, the British public will be voting to give themselves a voice. AV isn’t just a slight tweak to the way we count votes. It’s an opportunity to make a truly historic leap towards real and effective democracy.
This post first appeared on Left Foot Forward
You might find this question being revisited a few times over the next 10 months. And that’s because we heard today that the proposed referendum on the Alternative Vote will take place on May 5th 2011.
AV requires every MP to have support of at least 50% of voters. Doesn’t seem like a big leap, that is until you look at the numbers, and the General Election gave the majority of our MPs power without a real mandate.
Admitedly First-Past-the-Post sets the bar pretty low. To win you need only secure one more vote than the next guy. And that often means the vast majority of MPs speak for constituencies where most people frankly didn’t want them.
Over 2/3 of MPs are in that boat, at 66.77% an historic low. The 2010 general election saw the lowest proportion ever of MPs elected with the support of a majority of voters in their constituency (worth adding that in 2001, 2005 and 2010 not a single MP obtained a majority of their whole electorate).
But why should it matter? Well the sheer number of MPs with minority support, and the upward trend in recent years, is – at least from the voters’ point of view – straining the connection between MP and constituency. In all respects other than the provision of casework, the constituency link is as weak as it has ever been. A majority of MPs speak for their constituents despite the fact that a majority of those who bothered to cast a vote did not do so for the incumbent. While before 1974 this was relatively peripheral, it has become an ever more important feature of the political landscape since then.
AV requires that an MP will have at least a qualified majority of local voters; there will be times that the final vote for the winner will not be half of the ballots cast because of ballots that do not transfer, but most MPs will have a proper majority under AV. A majority of voters will get some degree of support, and therefore have some degree of ownership, over the MP – the constituency link should not be a one-way relationship. AV will enhance the constituency authority of the MP as well.
2010′s sorry mandates make a mockery of the constituency link and has left us with barely legitimate parliament. That link is highly rated – by MPs at least – but as ever First-Past-the-Post fails the tests its own advocates set up.
We’re hearing a new line on the proposed reduction of the House of Commons. Nick Clegg told the Commons yesterday that “We have a more oversized lower Chamber than any other bicameral system in the developed world.”
By our reckoning, there are only ten countries with bicameral systems in the developed world (fourteen if you include presidential systems with bicameral legislatures), so it’s a fairly weak comparison. Even then, the following table shows why Clegg has his wires crossed:
|Country||Population||Lower House||People per MP||Federal?||Presidential?|
Three countries (Ireland, Switzerland, and Austria) have more “oversized” parliaments than us. And most of the bigger countries are federalised, meaning that they have a whole extra tier of elected representatives with legislative powers. The only country that comes anywhere near being an appropriate comparison is Italy – and its lower house is roughly the same size as ours.
This argument marks a departure from the ‘classic’ ‘Reduce and Equalise’ rationale – that boundaries as they stand are biased against the Conservatives. The Conservatives went into the last election with a manifesto pledge on ‘Fair Vote Reforms’ that focused exclusively on this proposal. Again we thought we’d separate the fact from the fiction.
Here’s what it takes to get elected in Britain and its constituent nations.
Taking Britain as a whole, the average Labour seat is about 2,000 electors smaller than the standard size of a constituency, and the average Conservative seat about 2,000 electors larger. These are not large discrepancies, at 2.7% above and below the average, and politically of little consequence. If – and this is a highly artificial exercise – one could magic into existence constituencies to make both Labour and Conservative seats conform exactly to the British average, this would mean adding 8 seats to the Conservatives and taking 7 away from Labour.
The average constituency is a bit smaller in Scotland than in England, despite the equalised basis on which they have been allocated. This is for two reasons – allowance is made for the particular difficulties of Scottish Highland and Island geography, and because the numbers of registered electors have declined in the big city areas of Scotland. The average Scottish Labour seat, though, is only 919 electors smaller than the average British Labour seat, suggesting that Scotland’s over-representation is not a huge issue in overall electoral system bias. If the Conservatives had done better in Scotland (for instance, if their hopes of winning 11 seats had come off) this source of bias would have been reduced even further.
The Conservatives did gain ground in Wales in 2010, and the small size of Welsh constituencies is a factor in size differences between the parties. The 8 Conservative MPs from Wales actually tend to represent rather fewer electors each (879) than the 26 Welsh Labour MPs. Tory success in Wales therefore reduced this source of intra-party difference a bit, but with Welsh Labour providing 10% of the Parliamentary party this drags the average size of Labour seat down a bit more than 8 Tories among 305. The over-representation of Wales is one that may be justifiable at present given the need to protect the interests of a smaller nation in a devolved state in which the majority-English national legislature retains such extensive powers over Wales, but it is certainly worth revisiting as devolution proceeds.
In England, the average Conservative seat is 1.4% (1,003 electors) over the English standard size, and the average Labour seat 2.4% undersized (1,744 electors), a very small differential. This is worth 3 more Tory seats and 5 fewer Labour seats, again hardly the vast disparities that some politicians and commentators profess to believe in.
The problem lurking in the background is that all these numbers are based on registered electors. The number on the electoral register in a constituency is not a stable figure. It rises and falls with genuine population movements, the electoral cycle (it now being possible to join the register a lot later than previously possible during an election campaign) and administrative decisions. The introduction of Individual Electoral Registration will, if Northern Ireland’s experience is anything to go by, make the registered electorate a more volatile number than it has been until now.
The main administrative factor is that some people who are qualified to vote are easy to find, and some are not. If a person lives in a whole house (rather than a flat), has lived there several years, and has English (or Welsh) as their first language, they are likely to be very easy to get on the register. If someone is young, has moved recently, lives in a rented subdivided house, or is vulnerable by means of language or learning difficulties, they are going to be difficult to get onto the register. Electoral Commission studies have repeatedly found large scale under-registration, concentrated in the cities (a 2010 study found 75% registration in Glasgow, suggesting that far from being over-represented the city should have one or two more constituencies). If under-registration is a problem in the cities, Labour seats are disproportionately affected.
If electoral registration is 90%complete in Labour seats, and 94% in Conservative seats – as is quite possible given the urban concentration of Labour seats - the average English Labour MP in fact has more people qualified to be electors than the average English Conservative MP.
There are some relatively minor size effects, stemming mostly from the fact that two areas where the Conservatives are electorally weak (Wales and Scotland) have rather smaller constituencies than average. But again the case that the Conservatives are seriously disadvantaged by biased boundaries is weak.
We’ve already looked in depth at what the proposals might mean for Wales and Scotland. With seats in the Welsh Assembly tied to the Welsh seats in the House of Commons by law, we could see the Senedd reduce to a size that renders it incapable of governing. In Scotland the new constituencies would have to take a knife to well-established communities.
Voices from the government benches have echoed some of these concerns, with Conservative Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner launching a campaign to stop the Government slicing his ‘oversized’ constituency in two and giving half to another MP.
If our House of Commons isn’t oversized and boundaries aren’t unfair perhaps it’s time for the coalition to change the record. This government seems determined to pursue this ‘Reduce and Equalise policy, but it needs to pick its arguments carefully and be fully aware of the unintended consequences of such a move.
Good news for reform. Well sort of.
Polling today is suggesting overwhelming support for a shift to PR. As many as 8 out of 10 people are agreed that a shift to a more proportional system would be a step in the right direction.
Welcome news. But some commentators are already picking up on the contradictions in this poll. And it’s worth taking a closer look.
So we have 78% in favour of electoral reform, the country split evenly on the benefits of coalition government, and yet 72% think an outright majority is much more desirable than a hung parliament.
The reason for this contradiction is simple: the last question uses pejorative, journalistic language (“horsetrading” as opposed to “negotiations”) to lead the respondent into delivering the desired response.
It is also worth noting that the second question contrasts a single option (the Lib-Con coalition) with two discrete outcomes: (a) Conservative government, and (b) Labour government.
Why is this misleading? Well, it combines support for a Labour government with support for a Conservative government to overstate opposition to the coalition. The fact that the coalition still managed to outscore this combined figure suggests that it is the most popular outcome by some margin.
The lesson. Sensible questions will produce sensible answers.
Here we find ourselves, trapped in the dreaded hung parliament scenario, and despite some nightmarish predictions from our tabloid fortune tellers—economic collapse, societal breakdown, nuclear apocalypse—things seem to be ticking along okay.
Since the result became clear, the leaderships of all three major parties acted in uncommonly diplomatic fashion to reach a workable outcome. While David Cameron and Nick Clegg were busy hammering out a coalition arrangement, outgoing Chancellor Alistair Darling was meeting with European counterparts to agree a swift response to the Greek debt crisis. It was hardly the politics of inertia.
By the time Gordon Brown had handed over to his successor last Tuesday night, the public and press were already warming to the new politics of compromise and cooperation. The Tories are spinning the coalition as a “government in the national interest”, which seems a curiously empty boast until you consider that it is the first government since the Second World War that can claim in good conscience to represent a majority of British voters. Nearly sixty per cent of votes were cast for Conservative or Liberal Democrat candidates on 6th May. It is right that we have a government that broadly reflects this. That is why on Sunday Lib Dem party activists recognised the coalition’s legitimacy, striking the appropriate note of cautious optimism.
But this was a freak result. Under our “First Past the Post” system of elections, hung parliaments are an aberration. Had the Labour Party polled as many votes as the Conservatives, they would easily have won another clear majority of seats in the Commons. We can safely ignore Tory claims that reducing the size of parliament or re-jigging constituency boundaries will somehow restore fairness to our elections. They are wrong, and this standpoint has been repeatedly disproved by academics across the political spectrum. First Past the Post will always deliver freakish results.
If we want “big tent” government in the national interest, election after election, we need to fundamentally reform the voting system. We need a voting system which affords each party the number of seats it deserves. The Liberal Democrats polled 23% of votes at this election, but won only 8.7% of seats. Under their proposed system, the Single Transferable Vote, they would have won roughly 25% of seats. The Single Transferable Vote retains a link between MPs and constituencies, unlike the oft-criticised system of pure proportionality we use to elect MEPs, and allows voters to choose favoured candidates from each party. It has been used in Ireland for the past eighty years and is popular with Irish voters.
Over the years, many arguments have been put forward for the preservation of Westminster’s Victorian voting system. Some of them have been absurd, such as Daniel Kawczynski MP’s claim that we don’t need it because his constituents don’t care (a ComRes poll suggests 62% of Britons would support a proportional voting system). But others, such as those tendered by the respected Conservative academic Lord Norton of Louth bear closer inspection.
Lord Norton argues that a hung parliament is a politician’s parliament, where policy is the result of post-election bargaining. He argues also that smaller parties like the Liberal Democrats get to “call the tune”. And he contends that far from enjoying a majority mandate, the present coalition actually commands the definitive support of not one single voter (there being no Con-Lib option on the ballot paper).
In light of recent developments, we can put Lord Norton’s arguments under the microscope. Do they stand up to scrutiny? Let’s start with the post-election bargaining that is a feature of any coalition system. Aside from the rushed decision to introduce a 55 per cent dissolution resolution, the coalition agreement thrashed out by the two parties clearly takes as its basis the two party manifestos pitched to the British public before the election. All the policies announced so far have either been Conservative or Lib Dem manifesto commitments, or compromises lying somewhere between the two. They have not been conjured out of thin air.
As for the accusation that the Liberal Democrats have called the tune, we only have to look at the make-up of the new coalition to see that the Conservatives are the senior partners. Indeed, the proportion of Lib Dem cabinet positions roughly reflects the ratio of Lib Dem to Conservative votes. This is how coalition governments are formed across Europe—in places like Germany, where Angela Merkel heads a similar blue-yellow cabinet, as well as in the Low Countries and Scandinavia.
The only of Norton’s arguments to have some merit is his contention that First Past the Post makes it easier to kick out an unpopular government. But this is because single-party governments tend to be elected on such piffling mandates in the first place. Anyway, in Germany, where a very proportional system is in place, regime change happens about as frequently as it does in the UK.
Thanks to their foresight and equanimity, David Cameron and Nick Clegg look set to dispel many of the myths surrounding the issue of proportional representation. We might see that coalition governments can get things done. We might find that consensual politics can be decisive politics. And, after an era of presidential “sofa governments”, stage managed by the spin doctors, we can hope for a return to the collegiate parliamentarism of yesteryear. But without a reformed voting system this will remain the exception that proves the rule.
A version of this article appeared first on Left Foot Forward
Britain’s new political map is simple. Just take a look. We have a blue south, a red north, and a few spots of yellow in between.
But it’s not a map most voters would recognise as legitimate after last week’s broken election. Whole counties and cities are now the personal property of one party. Once again First-Past-the-Post has generated results that stretch the idea of ‘representative’ democracy to breaking point.
So we’ve had a look – modelling the systems currently on the table in coalition talks. There are whispers of Tory pledges on AV. There are pretty loud shouts from Labour that Clegg might get AV without a public vote, and possibly STV at a future referendum.
So let’s take a look at the numbers. (Full data is available here)
Nationally the picture is much as we’d expect. AV would have made a negligible difference to the parliament produced by last Thursday’s election, short of giving every MP a real mandate. STV on the other hand would be a major step to restore credibility back to representative government, by ensuring that our parliament that actually looks like Britain.
But regionally the picture is starker. Lets’ take a look at two regions, and the varied fortunes of the 2 big parties.
The South East
South East England’s political map is bright Blue. But that’s not quite how the all those voters who backed other parties see it. AV does a little something for them, but a single seat changing hands, but STV levels the playing field. The Tories get the bulk of seats, but Labour have a presence, and Lib Dems could more than quadruple their presence.
Just like the song they don’t seem to sing anymore, the North East is deepest Red. AV again does little to address the balance, while STV actually hands Lib Dems and the Tories more seats between them then the party that currently ‘owns’ the region.
STV is a historical commitment for the Lib Dems. We’re hoping their memory serves them as they stand on the cusp of power.
PS: At the onset of the campaign, we published the names of the winners in nearly 400 safe seats. We called these ‘victories’ an affront to democracy. Even with the most fluid election in generations 380 seats came in as called.
Well we’re sorry that we got 3 wrong. But we’re more concerned for the tens of millions of voters that, despite the most unpredictable contest in generations, didn’t see an election. That’s safe seats for you!
PPS: Since we began on this post the PM has resigned. For those who think reformers deal in fantasy politics, think again.
Talk is now firmly on coalition building. But how do you start?
The idea that the party with most votes has the ‘strongest’ mandate must be treated with caution as our voting system gives a very distorted picture. This is not a national contest for a national leader. This is a series of 650 local contests for local representatives, under a blunt winner takes all system. That’s why both main parties won’t be bothering their bases with the niceties of a campaign in many areas, and why so millions will stay at home or indulge in tactical voting.
But in broad terms there are two types of “grand coalition”. In countries where two parties dominate, one left of centre and the other right of centre, a grand coalition is a coalition between these two parties. It often a last resort, used to block extremists – for example, the present Austrian government (excluding the far-right) or the German grand coalition of 2005–9 (excluding the left).
In Belgium and Switzerland, a different type of grand coalition can be found. As ethnically divided countries, party system fragmentation means that several (4+) parties must unite to form a government.
“Rainbow” coalitions, where three or more distinct ideologies are represented in government, are rare. Finland’s present government is the closest (yellow-blue-green). Elsewhere, centre-right coalitions and alliances seem to have the upper hand.
Europe gives a taste of the options at hand. You won’t find any mention of the term ‘hung parliament’ here – because coalition government, based on cooperation, is the rule. And when we say Europe – we of course include examples of successful minority and coalition government created by devolution.
|Single-Party Minority Government||Single-Party Majority Government||Multi-Party Alliance Government||Coalition Government|
|Portugal (2009–present) – socialist
Scotland – nationalist
Spain – social democrat
|Greece – social democrat
Malta – conservative
Portugal (2005–9) – socialist
|France – centre-right alliance (Sarkozy)
Italy – centre-right alliance (Berlusconi)
|Austria – red-blue (grand coalition”)
Belgium – red-blue (“grand coalition”)
Denmark – centre-right
Finland – liberal/centre-right + green
Germany – centre-right
Ireland – blue-green
Luxembourg – red-blue (“grand coalition”)
Northern Ireland – all parties (power-sharing agreement)
Norway – red-green
Netherlands – red-blue (“grand coalition”)
Sweden – centre-right
Switzerland – red-blue (“grand coalition”)
Wales – centre-left + nationalist
But we’re not short of ideas in England. While Nick Clegg has talked a lot about working only with the party with “largest mandate” the rules vary – especially where his own party is concerned in the world of local government.
In Leeds, St Helens, Carlisle, Ipswich and Newport Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have formed coalitions to keep out Labour groups which are the largest on the council. Likewise in Wirral, Colchester and Broxtowe the Conservatives are the largest single party but coalitions have been formed between Labour and the Libs.
Every possible combination of minority and majority coalitions are already on offer in England’s town halls. Scotland of course, thanks to the shift to STV, is getting used to coalition government, of every conceivable shape. And the added scrutiny that comes with effective opposition has made a difference.
We’ll leave it to the voters – and a capricious system – to decide what shape our next government takes after May 6th
Polling or Gambling? Which discipline is it to be?
Well national polls have to be taken with a few dozen pinches of salt because of the system. The popular vote after all is meaningless thanks to First-Past-the-Post.
Pollsters are all reporting a Lib Dem surge, but even if they come out on top in the big poll on May 6th, there is little chance they will win most seats. Using crude modelling a losing Labour Party, even if in third place, might carry off the prize.
So capricious is our voting system in translating votes into seats won, the matter of who forms our next government hangs on the roll of a dice, and a loaded one at that.
We’re with the gamblers on this. The bookies have an interesting take on elections. They have a financial, rather than a simple reputational, imperative to get these things right. Lib Dem odds have consistently reflected their bleak prospects under First-Past-the-Post – and at 16-1 aren’t really reflecting the excitement the polls have suggested. Most news sites are now offering historical polling data, but for our purposes the bookies may have a lot more to offer, underlining the cosy dominance of the two big parties.
|May 2005||Labour victory in 2005 Election||8/11||Evens||150/1|
|December 2005 –||Cameron takes Tory Leadership||5/6||5/6||150/1|
|June 2007||Tony Blair resigns as PM, Gordon Brown takes office.||5/4||4/7||100/1|
|September 2007||Rumours of snap General Election after Brown approval rating hits a relative high.||Evens||8/11||150/1|
|October 2007||Brown rules out snap election and is accused of being indecisive.||2/1||1/3||100/1|
|July 2008||Labour lose ‘ill thought through and unnecessary’ – ‘42 day detention bill’ in House of Lords defeat||5/1||1/9||80/1|
|May/June 2009||The height of the expenses scandal||6/1||1/8||50/1|
|September 2009||The Sun newspaper desert Labour and return to their support of the Conservative party.||8/1||1/14||100/1|
|January 2010||Hewitt and Hoon’ leadership plot against Brown backfires and PM receives a small boost.||6/1||1/12||150/1|
|April 2010||Brown goes to Buckingham Palace and the 2010 General Election is set for early May.||9/2||1/7||150/1|
|April 16th 2010||Nick Clegg is the runaway winner of the first live TV debate between the three leaders.||7/2||1/4||16/1|
Punters stand to make a lot of cash from this election. One colleague stands to make something if the phrase “volcanic ash” is uttered in Tonight’s PM Debate. The very uncertainty we’re seeing over who will get most support is natural and necessary in Britain’s staid elections. But uncertainty over how our antiquated system will decide who wins at Westminster is not. A system that can make the first last, and the last first, is simply unacceptable.
We need a system that can deliver the will of the people not by accident but by design. A change to the Single Transferable Vote system would give us a parliament that reflects the votes cast, and leave a majority of voters with the satisfaction that someone they supported is at Westminster to represent their views.
That and the national polls might even mean something.
We guested on Newsnight Scotland last night with our story about all the seats where the campaign is already over. And they picked a pretty arresting comparison for their intro. And we’re wishing we’d thought of it first…
Why is much of Scotland like Mississippi at election time? they asked. Because their voters are invisible too.
So we had a little look across the pond.
Our US opposite numbers at Fairvote helped put this data together in 2004. It shows how naked the targetting of swing states is the US elections. All the money and all the leaders follow the few voters that can win you the White House.The green dollars show Ad spend in millions, those lovely waving hands rallies by the candidates. And suprise suprise most states do not see an election, Mississipi included. Whole regions – the Deep South and Mid West – are taken for granted by aspiring presidents
Britain’s rather more compact political geography makes the same task a bit of a challenge. But thankfully party leaders have got off to a flying start doing the job for us, tweeting , blogging and emailing as they go.
Brown headed straight to Kent’s key swing seats after his chat with the Queen. Cameron targetted Leeds and Birmingham’s floating voters in a single day. And Clegg headed for that key 3-way marginal of Watford.
Thankfully technology is making the task easier. We’ve asked our supporters to join our ElectionWatch programme. And today we’ve launhed the Follow the Leader tool, allowing our supporters to flag up their movements during the short campaign.
Watch the news, and you can build this picture one rally at a time. Well worth signing up to all their email bulletins too, because you’re likely to recieve a daily update from the latest marginal seat.