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


The factors that drive much of the pro-LAB bias in general elections could work for the Tories in the May Euros

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Don’t write off the Tories to win most votes

We all know that the electoral system for Westminster seats seems to produce an outcome that is more favourable to LAB than the other parties. A big part of the reason for this is illustrated in the chart above. Labour has far fewer wasted votes.

Thus looking at the first two columns – a much smaller proportion of LAB votes were “wasted” in seats where the party finished 3rd. A second factor is that turnout levels in seats won were markedly higher in CON seats than LAB ones.

    For traditionally LAB has found it much harder getting its vote out where it doesn’t matter – its heartlands and Tory ones. LAB voters are less likely go to the polls if they don’t see their vote making a difference.

It should all be different next May’s Euro elections. The closed party list electoral system and the fact that the GB is split into 12 massive multi-member “constituencies” mean that the Tories could be helped more.

Higher turnout levels in CON areas and votes not being “wasted” in 3rd place seats should give the blues more bangs for their bucks.

Last night’s Survation poll had the party just 1% behind UKIP and 8% behind LAB. My guess is that the the three parties could be a lot closer together and I wouldn’t rule out the Tories winning most votes overall.

Mike Smithson

Blogging from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble since 2004


How a minor change to the electoral system could stop Farage’s party from topping the polls in next year’s Euro elections?

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Simply switch from the closed to an open list voting system

There’s an intriguing move developing that could lead to a change in the way the EU elections are carried out resulting in an electoral system that’s less UKIP friendly.

A report just out from the LSE for the Electoral Reform Society suggests that UKIP’s chances in next year’s EU elections could be seriously undermined if an “open list” voting system was used rather than, as at the moment, the “closed list” one.

The headline numbers from the document are in the chart above showing how such a change would benefit the Tories most at the expense of Farage’s party.

The essential difference between the two approaches is that voters select individual candidates to vote for rather than simply allocating their vote to a party list which was introduced by Labour for the 1999 Euro elections.

Using a sample of 8,000 the LSE team worked with YouGov to test out the impact of the two systems. The detail of their methodology can be found here which is well worth looking at.

This is the report’s conclusion:-

“..Our experiment shows that if the electoral system for the European elections in Britain allowed for within-party competition, support for UKIP would decrease, and the overall vote share for the Conservative party would increase. The magnitude of this effect is large, and would have real consequences for the distribution of British seats in the European Parliament.

Thinking more broadly, there are two reasons to expect voting behaviour to differ under different ballot types. First, open-ballots encourage candidates to compete for votes by increasing their constituency work, delivering infrastructure projects, and building a strong local profile. This is because candidates are aware that through these activities they can build their own ‘personal vote’ on the open-list, which improves their election prospects vis-à-vis their co-partisans. The incentives to do this are much lower in the closed-list system (where no personal vote is possible), and we should therefore expect different voting outcomes to the extent that candidates engage in such activities. This phenomenon has been widely studied in the political science literature..”

The Open-list systems is used in EU Parliament elections in 18 of the 28 member nations and it is being said that a change could be brought in for the 2014 elections if the coalition wanted.

    On the face of it voting for individuals rather than just a party appears more democratic and would make individual MEPs more accountable.

Would the government bring in such a change? Hard to say but based on this research it has attractions for all three main parties.

If it happened then my 10/1 bet that the Tories will win most votes would look like a possible winner.

Mike Smithson

For the latest polling and political betting news


No boundary changes and no AV: EdM is proving to be a lucky LAB leader

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Henry G Manson on how the Tories have made GE2015 easier for Ed

There is a bit of talk as to whether certain Conservative MP are able to be endorsed by UKIP and stand with two party emblems next to their name on the ballots paper. This is now possible under updated election law. This week Peter Bone MP took to the airwaves arguing for joint Conservative and UKIP candidates to take advantage of this:

“There was a tremendous Conservative vote. There were the conservatives that voted Conservative and the conservatives who voted Ukip. The trick is to get us all together again and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

I can see why that would be attractive to the certain individual MPs as they attempt to ride both horses to save their skin. It could be less straight forward for the parties. As we’ve come to appreciate UKIP can now win votes from Labour and in Northern heartlands. If UKIP backed joint candidates with the Tories it could endanger their appeal in many parts of the North where the blues remain so toxic. Look what’s happened to the Lib Dems in the urban North there as a result of coalition with the Conservative. For UKIP to pull it off it would need a suitable number of Labour MPs to enter in a similar arrangement. This is never going to happen. The party simply wouldn’t permit it.

Being backed by two parties would also raise other issue when candidates become elected and arrive in the Commons. They’d potentially experience contradictory whipping operations. Would they be permitted into the 1922 or would their loyalties be questioned? Many Labour MPs have dual ‘identities’ as Labour and Co-op Party MPs. The difference is that the Co-op Party doesn’t stand against Labour MPs and there is no Co-op whip as would surely be the case with UKIP. Conservative and UKIP MPs could pose as many problems as solutions. All in all this seems a clunky response to the fragmented state of British politics and avoiding the bigger problem further upstream – the electoral system itself.

    It’s worth casting more than a moment’s glance at what might have been for the blue party. The electoral system that would suit the Conservatives the most right now is the one they campaigned hard against early in the parliament – the Alternative Vote.

This would have effortlessly allowed right-leaning voters to support UKIP first and Conservative second without fear of ‘splitting the vote’ and letting in Lib Dems or Labour.

Instead David Cameron’s Conservatives are now going to have to try and win back the support of UKIP while not alienating their more moderate supporters. Not an easy task. It’s all well and good Boris Johnson arguing that the rise of UKIP is good news for conservative ideas – but here speaks a man who isn’t going to be held account for the outcome of the next general election and has to fret about marginal seats.

What does seem strange looking back is how the official Yes 2 AV campaign went out of its way not to include UKIP in its campaign. Instead as a result it gave the impression of being a liberal middle class enterprise rather than one based on some wider democratic concerns with First Past the Post that would have almost certainly included UKIP. Comfort zone politics at its worst. If an AV campaign and referendum were re-run today I wonder if the result would different with Farage on the platform? I’m pretty sure it would.

    Is there any regret at all among Tories that they opposed AV in the referendum? I don’t see any sign of it despite it possibly being a pivotal moment for the party.

Will much of the UKIP vote come to the Conservatives closer to election as some at CCHQ hope? I’m not certain. It’s starting to look like First Past the Post could make it harder for Conservative Party to win power in the years ahead – it’s certainly helped give it a stinking headache with UKIP now.

    Despite his support for it, Ed Miliband could well be the biggest beneficiary of AV’s defeat. As with the avoidable collapse of boundary changes, the Labour leader is starting to look lucky.

Henry G Manson


Electoral reform – Coming sooner than you think?

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

A few days ago, Simon Hughes speaking in the Financial Times, about potential future coalition negotiations in 2015, said

“If the time did come for more coalition negotiations, the experience of coalition the first time will be clearly taken on board when we think through what we would do a second time.

“The constitutional reform agenda and particularly reform of the Lords would have to be a part of the package.”

Now a hung parliament is a possibility, especially if the polls continue to narrow as has ICM recently. I wonder if the price for a referendum on Europe for the Tories will be to allow House of Lords reform and a referendum on the electoral system, such as STV?

Perhaps Tory backbenchers and High command will accept this as the cost of doing business?

In the event of a hung parliament with Labour as the largest party, Labour might be inclined to acquiesce to the Liberal Democrat plans for electoral reform, especially if Scotland votes for Independence in September 2014, as England in the last two general election, a plurality have voted Tory, there maybe a desire on the centre-left for a realignment in the remainder of the UK once Scotland has departed, and taken away fifty two Labour and Lib Dem MPs.

In the event of a Labour majority, that would be wiped by the departure of Scottish MPs, Labour may also offer a referendum on the electoral process, we could be potentially a couple of years away from Electoral reform.

Paddy Power have a market up on electoral reform

Applies to the ‘first past the post’ system in us for Westminster parliamentary elections being amended to allow more proportional representation. Must be passed and effective before the first day of 2021.

Yes 7/1

No 1/20



A reminder – the main cause of pro-LAB bias in the electoral system is not the boundaries but lower turnout levels in LAB-held seats

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

I’ve published this chart before which is based on data prepared by Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University and others after the 2010 general election and seeks to show one of the big drivers of “electoral bias”.

The first set of data shows the average electorate in LAB and CON constituencies last time. There is a difference – 72,435 in CON seats to 68,612 in LAB ones but the gap is nothing like as large as is widely perceived.

Just look at the second group – which shows the average aggregate votes cast in CON seats (49,436) compared with 41,842 in LAB ones.

    The reason is turnout. The average level in CON seats was 68.4% while in LAB seats it was 61.1%. It is this gap which is behind much of the distortion.

In Labour’s heartlands, where the outcome is not in doubt, far fewer people bother to vote. This is not something you can change with legislation.

Unless there’s a drastic change in voting patterns, which I very much doubt, there will still be a much higher vote threshold for the Tories to win an overall majority than Labour however much you bring average seat sizes into line.

Mike Smithson

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November 15th 2012 – A slap in the face for politics

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

What are we to make of the dismal turnout?

The November 2012 elections were meant to go down in history as the start of a brave new era of direct democracy. They will go down in history but not for that reason. The May referendums put the first dent in the plan, when all the cities bar Bristol voted down the mayoral option. The second, and more significant, hit was delivered by the mass abstentions on Thursday.

While a low turnout had been anticipated – the initial Ladbrokes betting market was on whether it would be under or over 17.5%, with equal odds for both – it’s still a desperately poor day for politics when only about one in seven choose to cast a ballot paper.

There are explanations, principally the lack of information about who the candidates were and what they stood for, and what the elections were about. The time of year didn’t help either but there’s more to it than that. The turnout was symptomatic of a deep disengagement between the public and the political class.

    It wasn’t just the PCC elections that were blighted by low turnouts: one of the three parliamentary by-elections had the worst turnout since WWII and another saw just one in four vote.

While these were both safe Labour seats, they are way down on equivalent by-elections in the 1992-7 parliament – the last time Labour was in opposition – and so not a ringing endorsement. For example, the 1996 Hemsworth by-election had a turnout of nearly 40% and the 1995 Islwyn by-election saw more than 45% vote. Both were held in February so the weather and darkness will have been similar to if not worse than this week.

The reality is that the elections were not good for any of the three main parties. Labour probably have most to shout about with the two parliamentary holds and the gain in Corby but the swing there was respectable rather than spectacular, particularly given the unforced nature of the election. On the other hand, Labour failed to win the Bristol mayorality and finished with fewer PCCs than the Conservatives.

The Conservatives can be reasonably pleased to have won more PCCs than anyone else, though the turnout takes the edge off that, and to have escaped embarrassment in Corby or Cardiff (though not Manchester Central, where the Tories won the support of less than 1% of the electorate). That’s more than can be said for their coalition partners, who not only failed to finish in the top two in any PCC election but were fourth or worse in all but three of the 24 contests in which they stood.

Apart from the Can’t Be Bothered Party, the big winners were the minor parties and independents. Despite the lack of a mailshot or in many cases a volunteer base, these won enough of the PCC posts for it to be possible to travel from Dover to Holyhead entirely in Independent PCC areas, and very few candidates lost their deposit. An independent will also become the Bristol mayor, and UKIP performed strongly both in Corby and the PCC elections.

It’s clear that a great many people are turned off politics altogether but even more are turned off by the mainstream political parties, the senior members of which have far more in common with each other than they do with the man or woman in the street. The November elections were undoubtedly a vote of no confidence in both government parties; however, they were far from a vote of confidence in Labour either. The next general election remains very much open to the first party which can successfully engage the public.

David Herdson

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How the supplementary vote electoral system deprived the first-past-the-post winner, John Prescott, of victory

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Only problem John: YOUR government designed this system in 2000

Looking at the outcome in Humberside you can perhaps forgive John Prescott for being so angry about the voting system. For if this had operated on first past the post he would have been celebrating his victory tonight.

I wonder whether he recalls how in the period before the first London mayoral election in 2000 the supplementary vote was introduced by Labour with the aiming of stopping Ken – who had been threatening to run as an independent if he didn’t get the Labour nomination.

SV did come in and has been used in elections for elected mayors and now police commissioners since.

In spite of the voting system Ken stormed to victory in 2000. Four years later a way had been found for Ken to re-join the party and he stood for re-election under the Labour banner.

The voting system remains.

Mike Smithson

For the latest polling and political betting news


And now election junkies we have the Police and Crime Commissioner elections

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Just a week to go – how many will vote?

In an effort to boost turnout in next Thursday’s elections which are being held in all parts of England outside London the Home Office has launched a multi-media advertising campaign, including the TV one above, to raise awareness and help boost turnout.

At the moment there is little betting interest apart from on how many will actually bother to go to the polling stations.

The big political interest next Thursday is on the Corby by-election to fill the vacancy created by Louise Mensch stepping down. If the polling is correct the Tories are set to lose to Labour.

The bookies that have set up PCC markets have put the threshold pretty low. Ladbrokes are offering 5/6 on it being either more than or less than 17.5%. Bet Victor have 8/11 that it will be higher than that and evens that it will be lower.

    The awareness raising exercise has not been helped by the relative lack of coverage in the national media which tends not to notice that anything is happening unless it’s going on in London as well.

There appears to be little activity on the ground though I guess there’ll be a fair amount of phone canvassing aimed almost solely at getting existing party supporters to the polls.

The deposit level of £5,000 and the need to get 100 signatures of voters on the nomination papers has kept the number of candidates down.

Overall I reckon that the 17.5% turnout threshold for the bet will be exceeded but not by that much.

Mike Smithson

For the latest polling and political betting news..