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


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.



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.


Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


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


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


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


We could be heading for GE2015 outcome that’ll appear to be grossly unfair, undemocratic and peverse

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

This result could totally undermine the legitimacy of Labour’s victory

The big impact of the rise of Ukip looks set to be a general election outcome that could call into question its whole legitimacy.

    If current trends continue Ukip could end up with many more votes nationally than the LDs and not end up with a single MPs.

    Labour could come home with a substantial overall majority even though it chalked up less than a third of the overall number of votes cast.

For in terms of seat distribution a Ukip vote up to the mid-20s is only important if the party is taking more votes from CON than LAB. The big driver, as ever, is the swing between CON and LAB and in about 10% of constituencies the Lib Dems.

Taking a 15% or 20% slab out for Ukip simply reduces the overall totals going to LAB/CON/LD and standard swing calculations apply.

Inevitably a LAB overall majority with fewer than a third of the votes would lead to cries of “foul” but the blues could not complain too much. Only three years ago the Conservatives were the biggest backer of the status quo in the AV referendum.

I said they were stupid at the time because it was blindingly obvious that the main beneficiary of continuing with First Past the Post was always going to be Labour.

The Tories didn’t see it and the tone of their campaign so poisoned relations with the LDs that they were never going to get the boundary change through.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Remember Tony Blair’s all postal vote Euro Elections in 2004

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

In the next couple of weeks postal vote packs for the May 22 Euro Election will be going out to those electors who have registered to cast their votes in this way. The chart shows how significant this form of voting has become.

Back at the 2004 Euro Elections an experiment took place in four regions of England of all postal voting. These were the North East, North West, Yorkshire and the East Midlands. This certainly encouraged overall turnout. In the four regions it averaged 42.4% which was 5% higher than the rest of the UK where voting took place in the normal way.

The manner in which the pilot schemes were carried out attracted a lot of criticism. Tens of thousands of ballot papers were reported to have going astray, printers were unable to cope, and there were many allegations of fraud. In some council areas in the regions concerned ballot boxes were reintroduced late at libraries as “collection points” for postal forms.

All postal voting in a national election has not been repeated but the newer rules making this a lot easier are in place and on May 22nd I’d expect to see about quarter of votes cast to be in this manner.

For me a big problem with postal voting is that the campaign has been effectively closed for many voters a couple of weeks before polling day.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


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