Archive for the 'Voting systems and the electoral process' Category

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For their own good, it can be argued, young people should be compelled to vote

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Donald Brind on cumpulsory voting

Eddie Izzard writes his own jokes. He made that very clear when I offered him what I thought was a good line he could use in pressing young people to get out and vote. “Vote and you get stuff, don’t vote and you get stuffed.”

I was touring North London marginals with the Labour-supporting comedian and Eddie was a bit sniffy about my offering. It cut no ice when I pointed out that the author of the aphorism was the young, supersmart editor of the New Statesman Staggers blog Stephen Bush.

I was reminded of the exchange by Mike’s posting last week on the political implications of the greater propensity of older people to vote – and thereby to be given “stuff” by the Tories – a variety of benefits for pensioners are locked into the system while the you are hit by cuts in housing and , unemployment benefits and maintenance grants.

Getting young people to actually use their vote was a major preoccupation of Labour campaigners – including Eddie Izzard and leader Ed Miliband. Remember his dalliance with another comedian Russell Brand?

In the runup to the election I was reporting for The Week and I posted a piece discussing the idea of compulsory voting, as a way of involving young people. . I noted that in Australia, where registering to vote and going to the polls have been legal duties since 1924, turnout in the 2013 general election was 93%.

What I found particularly striking back in January 2015 was that two influential columnists on the activists website Conservative Home were saying nice things about a private members Bill presented by the veteran Left wing Labour MP David Winnick. It proposed a law on the Australian model.

Tim Montgomerie founder of Conservative Home and a Times columnist was clearly surprised to find himself backing the idea. He told Times readers “I’m not comfortable recommending any kind of compulsion. But I’m much more uncomfortable at the prospect of Britain becoming some sort of gerontocracy where older (and richer) people decide who is in power. This is a much greater social evil.”

Montgomerie argues that “A skewed electorate produces skewed public policy.” Older people are more likely to vote so parties woo them. “That’s one big reason why austerity has fallen so disproportionately on younger people with families.” He cited housing and benefits as examples where older people got a better deal from the Chancellor George Osborne.

Another Con Home writer Peter Hoskin was clearly uncomfortable about supporting Montgomerie.  “There’s something weird and un-British about the idea of compulsory voting, isn’t there?” But he was impressed by arguments in a report by the Left think-tank IPPR Divided Democracy which showed there was is a gap of more than 20 per cent between turnout figures for 18-24 year olds and the national average. “Unsurprisingly, it’s voters over 40, and particularly over 65, who push that average up,” says Hoskin.

Hoskin came down in favour of IPPR’s suggested half way house “that voting be made compulsory, at pain of a fine, for first-time voters only. This makes sense because voting is what they call “habit forming”; once people pop to the ballot box they just can’t stop.”

Labour’s prescription is votes at 16 strongly advocated by the London Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan. He told the Independent it was part of a package to make voting easier for the young with polling stations should be set up in secondary schools, on-the-day voting registration and perhaps online polling.  “Why do elections take place on a Thursday? Why do you have to go to a cold church hall to cast your vote? Why can’t you vote by the web? Why can’t you have same-day registration? You can get a mortgage in a day – why can’t you do the same with voting registration? If the concern is fraud, we can address that.”

Khan says “If you speak candidly to a campaign manager of any of the mainstream parties they will say that they concentrate their energies disproportionately on those they know are going to vote,” he said.

The arguments are very similar to those of Montgomerie who argues that compulsory voting is really all about forcing politicians to reach beyond their comfort zones. “It’s a 20-minute burden for voters once every four or five years but it would compel our politicians to change in fundamental ways and to build much broader voting coalitions.”

Making the political parties find a way to appeal to the 16 million people who did not vote “could have a profound effect on British politics.” He adds there would need to be strict caps on political donations “so that the rich and organised cannot find back-door ways to reassert their disproportionate influence.”

Is George Osborne listening? Almost certainly not. Montgomerie is a supporter of the social justice movement in the Conservative Party. He thinks Osborne is a flop, as he makes clear in a recent must-read dissection of the Chancellor’s record on Capx.  The disdain is probably mutual.

Donald Brind



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Those who actually vote are getting older and this has big political implications

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

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New report warns that policies will be even more geared to the oldies

The chart above is from the Intergenerational Fairness Foundation (IF) a think tank researches fairness between generations. It believes “that, while increasing longevity is welcome, government policy must be fair to all generations – old, young or those to come.”

As a result of medical advances and having healthier lifestyles we are living longer. This combined with a far lower participation level in the political process amongst the younger age groups is driving the trend towards the average age of those who actually vote going up.

Developments such as individual voter registration are exacerbating the age balance movement and, inevitably, policies become geared to voters rather than those groups who are less likely to participate.

This is all good news for the Tories. Indeed one of the reasons for the GE2015 polling fail was that the very old age segments were not featured strongly enough.

Buzzfeed which has an interesting report on the issue notes:

“The report, released on Thursday, said young voters had already suffered the “systematic removal of their welfare protections” – such as housing benefit, unemployment benefits and maintenance grants – to fund £5 billion of “universal benefits” for the old.

To counter Britain’s changing age profile, older people must be encouraged to vote in the long-term interests of their children and grandchildren, it said.”

This is not a new issue but it is not one that is going to go away.

Mike Smithson





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Electoral reform might not be the panacea the left hope it is

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

Con Majority

If the 2015 general election had been fought under PR, the Tories would most likely still be in government (probably in coalition with UKIP)

There’s a very interesting story in today’s Independent on Sunday.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, is in secret talks with Jeremy Corbyn about voting reform in a bid to form a progressive electoral alliance against the Conservatives.

Mr Farron’s aides are talking to a Labour MP – a close ally of Mr Corbyn – who is acting as a conduit between the two leaders, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

However, for the talks to progress, the Lib Dems want a respected senior figure in the Labour Party to take on a formal role as a go-between. “It should be a former Cabinet minister, or someone of that rank,” said a Lib Dem source.

The Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Greens could also be involved in the talks, the source said. If the  negotiations are successful, up to five left-of-centre parties could stand on an agreed platform of voting reform at the 2020 election – giving them a mandate to scrap Westminster’s first-past- the-post system without a referendum, so long as they are able to secure a majority in the Commons. Ukip also backs electoral reform, but is unlikely to enter into a pact with Labour or the Liberal Democrats.

Whilst it isn’t a formal pact, merely if the parties end up in government in 2020 they will change the voting system without a referendum. This might sound like a good idea if you don’t like the idea of a Tory government, but The Electoral Reform Society last summer produced a report showing what the general election result would have been if it has been fought under different (proportional) voting systems. 

As we can see below, under the various PR systems, we would likely see a Tory/UKIP coalition, indeed some Tories might well regret not voting for AV in the 2011 referendum, as they would have done better under AV than under First Past The Post.


At the general election, in Great Britain, The Tories and UKIP polled 50.7%, some recent polls have the Tories and UKIP polling well above 50%, whilst it would be the height of arrogance to assume all UKIPers would vote Tory under a form of PR, it is easy to see under a more proportional voting system how the Tories would remain in power, especially against a Corbyn(esque) Labour leader.

I’m astounded given Corbyn’s dire polling, why the Lib Dems (or anyone else) would want to form an alliance/understanding with a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party on any topic. Political osmosis would take place, and the other parties in this alliance/understanding could be tainted by association with Corbyn’s more interesting views and policies. Instead of spending time on changing the voting system, it might be wiser for these parties to come up with policies that change the minds of the voters, especially Tory voters.

TSE



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Corbyn’s English challenge

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Labour need to stop piling up votes in their safe English seats

Looking at the chart above we can see that in England Labour did best where it didn’t need to and the Tories did best where they did need to do well. In England overall there was a swing of 1.1% from the Tories to Labour but in the crucial battle ground of the fifty most marginal Tory held seats there was a swing of 0.9% FROM Labour to the Tories.

One of the reasons for this was probably down to Labour’s much hyped ground game being focussed in the wrong places. A few months ago Labour’s Jon Ashworth, MP for Leicester South, said he and his canvassing team between January and May of this year had 16,000 doorstep conversations in his constituency. Which struck me as odd. Why were Labour wasting resources in a safe seats like that when there were winnable marginals seats in the Midlands that Labour needed to gain to become the largest party/have a majority?

This was comfort canvassing by Labour, those resources should have been focussed on places like Warwickshire North and Sherwood. In those Tory held hyper-marginal seats of Warwickshire North & Sherwood the Tory majority went up from 54 and 214 respectively to 2,973 and 4,647. Across England there are other examples like this from Stockton South to Nuneaton to Waveney. This explains in part how the Tories increased their lead over Labour in seats despite Labour reducing the Tory lead in the popular vote in England.

If Labour have any hope of taking power in 2020 they need to stop piling up votes in safe seats and start winning them in Tory held marginal seats. I’m not sure Jeremy Corbyn is the man to achieve that as I expect Jeremy Corbyn will be even less appealing in the Tory held marginals than Ed Miliband was.

Many thanks to PBer Disraeli for producing the figures that this article is based on.

TSE



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With so much potential tactical voting the overall national party vote shares won’t mean as much

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

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Tomorrow is about seats not national vote totals

There’s lots of talk at the moment about the electoral “system being bust” and “no longer fit for purpose”. What is being pointed to are possible disparities between national aggregate vote shares and the total of MPs each party ends up with on Friday morning.

Yet as we’ve seen strikingly in Monday’s ICM Hallam poll or last week’s Ashcroft survey in Jim Murphy’s Renfrewshire East a very large slab of electors on Thursday will not be voting for the party of their choice but seeking to ensure a specific outcome in their seats.

The readiness of Hallam CON voters to switch to Clegg to stop LAB is a good pointer to other LD defences as well as what might happen North of the Tweed. There the scale of the potential switching by those in favour of the union could be signifcant and the SNP might not sweep up quite as much as some polls have suggested.

The huge differential in 2010 LD voting patterns highlighted in last week’s ComRes poll of English LAB-CON battlegrounds is another pointer. The overall closeness of the election appears to be causing people to think more closely about how best they can use their vote.

    Because it is clear that many are not voting for their allegiance winning the national aggregate vote will mean less. The election is about seats.

If the Tories are not the national vote winners you can see them pointing to places like Hallam and Scotland to suggest that those figures are less meaningful in the likely post-election legitimacy debate.

This is a direct product of first past the post. If people want to make their vote count then they might vote differently so adding up national vote totals doesn’t tell you as much.

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Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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A record-breaking 469,047 registered online to vote yesterday before the midnight deadline

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

On the face of it this is good news for LAB

On top of the online registrations a further 15,965 people registering by post. The total who signed themselves up was the equivalent of well over 750 people for each parliamentary constituency or roughly one percent of the electorate.

According to Wired of those who registered yesterday “152,000 were aged 25 to 34 with 137,000 aged 16-24. People aged 35 to 44 were third on the list with 89,500 registrations.”

These are big numbers and suggest a high level of interest in the election particularly from demographic groups who normally have the lowest turnout levels. They are also segments which tend to be more pro-LAB than those up the age scale.

I’m coming to the view that overall turnout could be around the 70% mark.

What I find odd is that pollsters don’t routinely ask whether those in their samples are registered. This, surely, is something they should be doing.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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Why LAB wins more seats with fewer votes : The way First Past the Post works in its favour

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Understanding Labour’s “other crutch”

We’ve talked a lot on PB about Labour’s “electoral crutch” – the big shift to it since 2010 of Lib Dem voters which has so far remained. Well Labour has another crutch – the electoral system which could be equally or even more important.

UK general elections are not decided by aggregate national vote shares but by FPTP elections in 650 separate seats where voters choose which individuals they want as their MPs.

Unlike the Euro elections the process is not about voting for parties but for people and whoever tops the poll in each of the 650 goes to Westminster. In one seat last time, Norwich South, the Lib Dem candidate won with just 29% of the votes.

Generally the party that chalks up the biggest aggregate national vote share ends up “winning” but not always. LAB won on votes in 1951 but the Tories were returned with a workable majority. In February 1974 Harold Wilson’s LAB secured fewer votes than Heath’s Tories but won more seats.

    The biggest driver of the seats:votes ratio is not as commonly believed the “boundaries” but the fact that LAB seats on average have significantly lower turnout levels than CON ones

The chart above shows the gap. Boundaries do play a part as the third drop down chart shows but not on the same scale as turnout. Added complications are that the Tories see many more votes “wasted” in seats where they come third and are much more vulnerable than LAB to tactical voting.

In what could be tight election on national votes shares Labour could easily repeat February 1974 and win on seats but lose on votes. If the tactical Anti-CON element is strong, which I believe it will be, then we could be heading for what could appear a perverse and unfair result.

It might just be possible that there could be a LAB majority on fewer votes.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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If the Tories do win more votes than LAB but get fewer seats then let there be no bleating about the system being unfair

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

That’s the system that they campaigned hard to retain in 2011

If current broad poll trends continue and some of the CON-Ukip shifters return then it is likely that my 8/1 bet that that Tories will win most votes but come second to LAB on seats will be a winner.

Broadly the 2010 LD switchers to LAB are staying relatively solid and the returnees could boost the CON aggregate national vote share as we get closer to polling day.

The chart above shows what happens to the GE2010 results if you divide national vote shares by the number of seats won. The second tab shows the %age of the seats won. So CON came out with 47% of seats on 36% of the UK vote is is far from being unfair if you think that aggregate national vote shares are relevant.

    But the system we have is first past the post elections for individual MPs, not for parties or a PM, in each of the 650 seats. Nowhere does the relationship between national party aggregates come into the equation

That was the system that the Tories campaigned so hard to retain in the 2011 referendum and that’s the system that’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

The Tories had the chance during the 2010 coalition negotiations to opt for a fully proportional system but resisted it.

That’s fine but please no bleating if as a consequence of the UKIP surge GE2015 produces a result that appears to be unfair to the blues.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter