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Opinions/Politics

Vote for a Change - and fairer elections

Some people like to talk politics, others don't. I've made a separate forum so you can post if you want or ignore it if you don't. Hope this is an acceptable compromise.

Vote for a Change - and fairer elections

Postby Dave » Sat 1 May 2010 16:04 GMT

If, like me, you're fed up with an electoral system that wastes most of the votes and ensures that only a minority gets the MPs they want, let alone the government they want, then sign up with:

Vote for a Change

(In the interests of transparency, I should point out that this used to be an affiliate link - but this is a cause I've supported since I was a teenager, which is why I continue to support it now even though the financial incentive is no longer there. :-) )

The campaign aims to achieve a hung parliament as the best way of ensuring that future elections produce parliaments that more truly represent the population's wishes - in other words, proportional representation.

They don't support any particular political party - what they're aiming to do is to ensure that no one party dominates the next Parliament.

To do that, they ask you enter the postcode of the address for which you're registered as a voter. Once you've done that, they identify your constituency and advise you which candidate to vote for to minimise the chances of any one party dominating at Westminster.

In practice, that generally means voting Lib Dem in England - but in much of Scotland and Wales it means voting for the SNP or Plaid Cymru respectively, including where the sitting MP is a Lib Dem. (A Lib Dem majority government would still be a majority government and not a hung parliament.)

Have a look - and if you want your vote to count for something in future elections, sign up and vote for a hung parliament!

Update: And now that we're into hung parliament territory, the fight goes on - you can support the cause by visiting Take Back Parliament and signing the petition. Please visit the website now!
Last edited by Dave on Sun 9 May 2010 18:56 GMT, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby ruggie » Tue 4 May 2010 11:12 GMT

Shades of the anarchist movements of years gone by? :)
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Postby Dave » Tue 4 May 2010 18:42 GMT

:lol: Quite the opposite, Ruggie. We're trying to reform the system from within and avert anarchy.
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Postby Dave » Sun 9 May 2010 18:46 GMT

And if you've been half-way persuaded that PR means weak government, large parties being held hostage by small ones, the break of the link between MP and constituency, or bamboozled voters not understanding who they're voting for...

...then try reading the Electoral Reform Society pamphlet, PR Myths (PDF, 2.4 MB)

Not a long document (42 smallish pages, and many of them are title pages), but it may help debunk some of the nonsense that's spouted about the "dangers" of PR.

Here's a brief quotation from the back cover:

“No political issue attracts more fallacious arguments than proportional representation. Perhaps the most foolish one is that a proportional system would be too difficult for the voters to understand. The implication must be that English voters are the most stupid in Europe.” Professor Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government, University of Oxford

Imagine a country with voting so complex that no one really understands it; where small parties rule the roost; a country plagued by extremism, lacking strong government or any meaningful connection to the voters.

Critics have conjured up a nightmare vision of Britain under proportional representation. Yet the increasing body of evidence and the Government’s own research has proved many of these fears groundless. So as the flaws in first-past-the-post politics become ever more obvious, it’s time to set the record straight – and separate the facts from the fiction.


Go on, give it a read. Wouldn't it be nice to know that your vote actually counted for something?

Edit: By the way, English voters are singled out specifically because (apart from in London Assembly and EU Parliament elections) they're the only ones in Europe who never encounter a PR system - Scotland, Wales and N Ireland all have PR elections for one body or another.
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Postby ruggie » Mon 10 May 2010 14:15 GMT

The reason is that STV often involves candidates of the same party fighting a seat, with the hope that each will be elected but always with the possibility that one or more might not make it.


I'm going to have to read a lot of surrounding material to make sense of this document. A lot of it seems to support the case for multiple representation in a given ward. I was unaware that monopoly representation only became the rule in 1951 - clearly I know very little about UK politics (or any other politics, for that matter).

I have no idea why the conservative policy is against PR, but it seems to me that it would be a good idea to have some proper discussion about the whole electoral system, not just how votes are counted.

However, it should have an action plan with deadlines. That seems to be something alien to parliaments, and a major difference between them and management in industry.
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Postby ruggie » Mon 10 May 2010 14:21 GMT

I think everyone is tackling this from the wrong end. Partisans of various vote-counting tools are scrapping like product salesmen, trying to convince prospects that the benefits accruing from their product are the ones most important to that customer.

The discussions by what are in practice non-experts should concentrate on what they want the system to achieve. Then the experts can tell them which system matches those requirements best - and point out the effects where it doesn't match, in case they are critical.
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Postby ruggie » Tue 11 May 2010 09:40 GMT

An Analysis on BBC showed that the AV system being offered by both con & Lab would have made only a small difference to the number of Lib Dem seats, but STV would have made them a serious third party.

I've now studied STV. My feeling is that it works well for any given group of choices (seats, in the parliamentary case), but that it would make choice of regions to group critical - i.e. gerrymandering would become rife. Any thoughts on this, Dave?
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Postby Dave » Tue 11 May 2010 10:58 GMT

Quite the opposite, Ruggie. Because there are several seats per constituency, it's very difficult indeed for a single party to stitch up all the seats in one constituency unless the constituency's bizarrely uniform in its political allegiance - in which case electing three or four MPs from the same constituency might not be unrepresentative anyway.

Look at it this way; say you've got a four-member constituency contested by three major parties, all of whom have roughly equal support and all of whom have put up four candidates. Even assuming that none of the three parties' supporters votes for any of the others, it's well nigh certain that all three parties will get at least one candidate elected. What happens to the fourth seat then depends on whether any of the candidates is particularly popular or unpopular within their own party.
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Postby Dave » Tue 11 May 2010 11:12 GMT

The key thing to remember is that although it's the single transferable vote, the constituencies are multi-member - once a candidate has achieved the quota necessary to be elected, or is eliminated as the least popular of the candidates remaining, those votes get transferred to other candidates. So the number of votes wasted is minimal.

If the constituencies weren't multi-member, then effectively you'd be left with the Alternative Vote system - and that's as susceptible to gerrymandering as FPTP.
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Postby ruggie » Tue 11 May 2010 17:37 GMT

I'm still a little wary. Let's assume, for a start, that we don't want more MPs than we already have (every party seems to agree that we need less).

Now let's look at a region which fields 3 MPs today and see what happens if we join all 3 together and used STV to elect 3 representatives.

- each representative now has to canvass the whole of what used to be 3 separate areas. Or does he/she? Would a major party field 3 candidates, each intending to represent only the old constituency?

- voters would have to assess more candidates. Or would they?

I'd expect the new regions to replace contiguous areas from the old system. In some cases each will be similar, so a candidate could propose actions which pleased voters in all of them. But wouldn't some consist of old areas with very different, sometimes conflicting priorities?

I'm not saying STV for parliamentary elections is bad - just trying to understand how it would be implemented in practice. It's the potential to game the system when defining regions that I'd like to understand - that's what I meant by gerrymandering in this context.

There's a rule of thumb for all competitions: the more complex the rules, the more likely it is that someone will find a way to game the system.
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Postby Dave » Tue 11 May 2010 18:33 GMT

Phew! Quite a few questions there, Ruggie. I hope this answer helps!

Yes, each candidate has to canvass the whole constituency - but in concert with the other candidates of that party, and with the party resources for the larger constituency.

A major party would field three candidates, all of them representing the entire constituency. Remember, not all of them are guaranteed to be elected. The "old" constituencies don't count for anything in particular, although the candidates who were MPs under the old system might want to point to their record as a reason to re-elect them.

Voters would certainly have to assess more candidates. At a guess, I'd say that if the UK followed the Irish model and had 3- or 4-member constituencies, Labour and the Conservatives would have a full complement of candidates for most of them; the Lib Dems would probably have at least two or three candidates in most. (In Ireland, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael usually put up a full slate; Labour, the Progressive Democrats, Sinn Féin and the Greens don't have the same resources.)

I'm sure new constituencies would be cohesive territorially in just the same way as constituencies are now. Of course, as the scale goes up, so the potential for conflicting priorities within the same constituency goes up. But that potential's there even under the current system - you only have to look at some of the city constituencies to see that. And the advantage of STV is that if you don't trust one MP elected for your constituency to represent your point of view, then you speak to one that you do - if the issues involved are so important and so divisive, then there's a strong chance that MPs will be elected on both sides.

That's the beauty of STV - it retains the link with the constituency, and it increases the chance that every (or nearly every) constituent will have at least one MP sympathetic to their concerns, even where there are divisive local issues at stake. And it isn't that easy to game the system either - unlike FPTP, where the system itself is fundamentally flawed for anything other than a two-party set-up.
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Postby ruggie » Wed 12 May 2010 07:03 GMT

Thanks, Dave. Why isn't anybody else on this forum taking an interest? It's one of the most interesting and critical subjects in UK politics...
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