14 March 2011

The 5,000 Labour Voters Who Secured This Tory - Lib Dem Coalition

When the results came in after last year's general election, one thing became clear: the only stable coalition on the cards would be between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. Given the Tories and Labour are too belligerent to work with each other, the one remaining alternative would be between Labour and the Lib Dems. But the election result didn't allow for this: Labour seats + Lib Dem seats only comes to 315, but 322 MPs are needed for a working majority (accounting for Sinn Fein MPs not taking their seats).

With 7 more MPs, the Lib Dems would have been able to form a coalition with Labour. So if 7 of the Con/LD marginals were won by the Lib Dem instead of the Conservative, a Labour - Lib Dem coalition would have been a real option.

So in these 7 seats that where the Lib Dems came closest to beating the Conservative, Labour voters who didn't vote tactically for the Lib Dems actually voted to ensure that Labour weren't in power. The totals shown are the number of Labour to Lib Dem switches needed to defeat the Tory:

1. Camborne and Redruth: 67
2. Oxford West and Abingdon: 177
3. Truro and Falmouth: 436
4. Newton Abbot: 524
5. Harrogate and Knaresborough: 1040
6. Watford: 1426
7. Montgomeryshire: 1185

That's a total of 4,852 Labour voters who ensured Labour were out of power and helped the Tories in.

If you think this is stupid, I agree. Under AV, Labour voters would have been able to vote Labour as their 1st choice and Lib Dem as their second, making sure their vote didn't do the exact opposite of what they intended. This is yet another reason to ditch our broken political system and vote Yes in the AV referendum on May 5th.

10 March 2011

Ternary Plots of the General Election in England

Here are plots of the top 3 party vote share for most of the English seats from the general election plotted. Seats in the red zone were won by Labour, blue zone by Conservatives, and yellow zone by Lib Dems. The lighter triangle in the centre represents seats won with less than 50% of the vote, so shows the seats that will be affected by AV at a 3 party level.

I've shown English seats only, as results in Scotland and Wales distort the picture due to the additional presence of the Nationalist vote, which would require 3D to show properly. I've also filtered out constituencies where parties other than Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems don't form the Top 3 parties to avoid a misleading picture.

The data comes from this incredibly useful spreadsheet which I come back to time and time again.


Not shown: Barking, Brighton Pavilion, Buckingham, Cornwall North, Dagenham and Rainham, Devon North, Devon West and Torridge, Thirsk and Malton.
Con: 185 over 50%, 110 under 50%.
Lab: 89 over 50%, 100 under 50%.
LD: 20 over 50%, 22 under 50%.

For comparison, here's the projected result from 2005:

Not shown: Barking, Bethnal Green and Bow, Boston and Skegness, Brighton Pavilion, Burnley, Dudley North, East Ham, Hornchurch and Upminster, Liverpool West Derby, Mansfield, Morley and Outwood, Poplar and Limehouse, Sedgefield, West Bromwich West, West Ham, Wyre Forest.
Con: 101 over 50%, 102 under 50%.
Lab: 146 over 50%, 119 under 50%.
LD: 15 over 50%, 33 under 50%.

In a future post, I'll identify zones on the 2010 chart which I see as having different dynamics at the next election.

7 March 2011

Robin Hood Tax Propose Mythical Banker Taxation

Here's a screenshot from a new widget from the Robin Hood Tax campaign:

So a 100% Tax on something worth £7.2 billion would raise £7.2 billion for public spending, would it?

Short answer: No.
Long answer: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Here's some content harvested from Wikipedia:

A 100% tax rate will also generate no revenue because at such a rate there is no longer any incentive for a rational taxpayer to earn any income, thus the revenue raised will be 100% of nothing.

How Representative is Parliament?

The whole point of representative democracy is that the MPs we elect to Parliament will represent the will of the people who elected them.

There are lots of ways to test this. One way is to see how many votes are represented by an MP. This is done by adding up all the votes that were cast for the candidates that got elected to Parliament. This can then be compared to the votes that didn't get represented - the sum of the votes that weren't for a candidate that got elected, and also the votes that didn't get used. Together, these make up the members of the public that aren't represented in Parliament.

From this spreadsheet (which only has seats in Britain, so these calculations don't include Northern Ireland), here are the totals for each group from last year's general election:

Represented votes: 13,695,495 (31%)
Unrepresented votes: 15,315,206 (34%)
Didn't vote: 15,435,593 (35%)

From these findings we can state the following:

• Over two-thirds of the public are not represented.
• Only a minority of voters are represented.

This isn't good enough. The decisions taken that affect all of us are being made by people who don't get close to representing the majority of us. There are many possible solutions, but there's one action you can take to improve this: Vote Yes in the AV referendum on May 5th.

How It Will Help

Here's why there are so many unrepresented votes (also called wasted votes) under the old First Past The Post system. These graphics are largely based on this handy Guardian animation.

Even though candidate A got more votes than the other candidates, most of the votes cast go to waste and aren't represented by the winner. This is what happens in two-thirds of constituencies across the country.

Here's how things will change under AV:

With AV, there is less waste, because it is guaranteed the winner will represent the majority of the final vote. That's because even though candidates C, D and E lost, that doesn't mean their voters' voices are silenced. This is why the MPs who win under AV will have to be more representative than under the old system.

Nobody's pretending AV will solve everything. There will still be people who choose not to vote under any system (although when the old system means there's little chance of your vote being represented, you can't blame them for not bothering). But when an opportunity comes to improve the representativeness of Parliament, we've got to take it.

1 March 2011

Lies, Lies and More Lies from #No2AV

Here's the first thing you'll see on No2AV's website today:

I've pointed out three unequivocal lies that they are peddling. I'll go through them:

LIE 1: The Electoral Commission (which runs elections) don't say we'd need buy expensive voting machines - Channel 4 News has looked into this and rated it as 'Fiction'. Even if we did, they wouldn't have to be bought from Electoral Reform Services Ltd (the commercial arm of the Electoral Reform Society, which has been campaigning for change to the voting system since 1884 and is helping to fund the Yes campaign). A quick Google found plenty of other providers.

LIE 2: First, Nick Clegg is not going to be Lib Dem leader forever. Second, the Lib Dem leader only gets to "choose the government" if there's a hung parliament, and as Prof John Curtice has pointed out, "only in 2010 – when first-past-the-post also failed to deliver a majority – would a hung parliament have occurred under AV" since 1983 when pollsters started asked about second preferences. Third, it will be you who decides whether or not there is a hung parliament. Fourth, the Lib Dems are only in a kingmaker position if Labour and the Conservatives refuse to work with each other.

LIE 3: No2AV have made up the figure of £250m. £130m of it is for those fictional voting machines. £90m is the cost of the referendum itself (and that doesn't magically get refunded if you vote No), and the rest is for "voter education", based on the education costs of STV, not the simpler AV.

I also take issue with the suggestion that AV is "unequal" and not "one person one vote". AV elections have multiple rounds until the winner with over 50% of the vote is found. In every round it is one person one vote. I won't call this a lie, as it's more spinning the truth.

No2AV have had all this pointed out them repeatedly. For instance, I left a comment a week ago on their 'blog' piece attacking Nick Clegg. (Why can't they play the man not the ball?) It was instantly "flagged for review" and still hasn't been published. I've contacted them repeatedly on Twitter to ask why not, to no reply.

Despite all this, No2AV say they act "the spirit of open and honest debate". There's little sign of it so far.