13 July 2016

My Understanding of NEC Ruling (So Far!)

There are 3 ways to vote in the Labour leadership contest.

1. As a current full member whose membership started before January 12th 2016 and whose membership is continuous thereafter.

2. As a "registered" affiliate supporter through membership of an affiliated union or organisation. (Costs vary but much less than £25) and registration is possible until August 8th 2016 (to be confirmed).

3. As a newly registered supporter (cost £25) in a "48 hour window" between July 18th and 20th. (Times & dates to be confirmed this Thursday 14th July).

All of this might still change, it seems very chaotic on the hoof decisions are being taken!

The exclusion of new party members (less than 6 months) might have taken away automatic voting rights from around 150,000 of Labour's 530,000 current membership. This 150,000 would have contained the heaviest concentration of Corbyn supporters. Maybe 80%+ of these 150,000 new members support Corbyn.

But don't despair. A lot of these members may still get a chance to vote. Either through being existing union members and registering as affiliate supporters for free OR by paying the £25 supporter fee. Although it is still unclear whether some members will be excluded from this latter option.

It is also still unclear whether those who newly join an affiliated union or organisation will be able to vote. An August 8th 2016 cut off point has been mentioned. And this certainly would be cheaper than the £25 option, maybe as little cost as £2. But it seems incredible that the NEC would allow this opportunity to bypass the £25 fee. Unless they have no way of influencing affiliated groups to stop it.

In the Summer 2015 Leaders Election around 422,000 votes were cast, out of a total electorate of about 550,000 eligible members, supporters & affiliates.

Corbyn got 251,000 first preference votes, all his opponents together 171,000. It is important to stress that these were first prefs. Corbyn would have got more once further prefs of other eliminated candidates were added in.

58% of these 422,000 votes were by full members, 17% affiliated & 25% the £3 registered supporters.

So the total votes in each category were approximately as follows:-

245,000 members
72,000 affiliates
105,000 supporters

The £25 charge & tiny 48 hour registration period seems certain to drastically reduce the registered supporter category this time. My guess would be to less than 25,000. And if new members of affiliated organisations & unions are allowed to register (until August 8th??) it would seem crazy to pay £25 for a vote you can get as an affiliated supporter for much less.

So, depending on the rules, I expect the affiliate category to be much larger this time. And this I suspect is where the real battle will be.

Those 245,000 member votes came from a total party membership at the time of around 290,000.

With 150,000 new members excluded, the "six month plus" membership is probably around 330,000. So members vote prob only a little higher - around 275,000 on a similar turnout.

So in summary,

In this 2016 election, I expect around 30,000 more voters in the members category and around 80,000 less voters in the registered supporter category than the 2015 election.

This leaves the affiliate supporter category, and depending on the rules, we could see an explosion of extra votes here as the potential 150,000 excluded members go here to get their vote. This is an extra hoop they are being made to jump through, so it will be interesting to see how many follow this route (or whether they are blocked in some way).

The other unknown factor is how seriously the unions organise their vote. In 2015, apart from Unite, the unions made little effort. Some didn't endorse any candidate from the start, but this time most seem to be mobilising behind Corbyn. There is also the newly affiliated FBU and Baker's Union who strongly back Corbyn. I assume their members will now also get a chance to be affiliated supporters.

There are potentially 4m affiliated voters if all registered. Obviously as demonstrated last time, only 72,000 actually registered and then voted. Depending on the factors mentioned this could go as high as 200,000ish. Though I doubt much more than this unless the unions seriously organise their members. It will be interesting to see how much each side campaign in this category and unions tend not to be that co-operative to outside campaigners for perhaps obvious reasons. The Unite website crashed last night, which gives you an idea of where Corbyn supporters are looking to get their vote registered.

The big argument of the Labour right used to be to garner the less politically engaged votes through the supporter category. It now seems they have completely given up on that strategy with the new higher fee and tiny registration period. So, despite all the shenanigans I expect a similar number of votes - between 400,000 and 500,000 - mainly depending on the affiliate numbers (100,000 to 200,000ish). So 250,000+ votes again should give Corbyn victory.

So, I am intrigued as to what the Labour Right strategy is to defeat Corbyn?

At the moment I can only see them blaming the "union vote" for defeating them, when in actual fact most of this vote is likely to be the newer members excluded by the cut off point becoming affiliate voters.

I think Corbyn can win amongst the full membership even excluding those newer members who joined in last 6 months. Let alone the other categories! But any election is unpredictable, and this time Corbyn won't have the element of surprise or the novelty factor. A hard fought election lies ahead. I just hope it's not as nasty an election as I fear it might be. The tactics that will be used against Corbyn and his supporters could be brutal.

06 July 2016

10 Reasons Why Remain Voters Should Be Cheerful About Brexit

1. EU Reform.
Finally we are getting some real noises about the sort of progressive EU reform we've been asking for. From the Czechs to the Germans, Danes and French. Governments and EU officials are unhappy about Brexit and asking why are EU citizens so unhappy that they want out. I don't believe a Bremain vote would have kickstarted anything like this. There is talk about looser arrangements for some countries, deeper integration for others, the powers of the EU parliament enhanced and Commission powers reduced. Ironically Britain whether under Cameron or Brown fought against this, so it is now more likely to happen.

2. The Breakup of the UK.
This is actually a good thing. British nationalism is no better than any other nationalism, in fact it is probably worse. The sort of civic nationalism arising in Scotland is internationalist and progressive. It is being held hostage by Westminster. I'm also optimistic about a new England ruling itself. New nations to the North and West will drag the economic centre to the more deprived parts of England and away from the overheating South East. And the pessimism of those that only see a Tory dominated England is so defeatist and completely untrue. The English Left will be liberated to concentrate their efforts solely on winning again in England (like they have many times in the past). I would also add that smaller political units generally tend to be more democratic. This was a genuine fear about the sprawling over-enlarged EU gaining more and more powers.

3. The Loss Of The UK's Financial Services.
This is a tricky one to argue in favour of, because it does involve arguing in favour of a temporary recession. But so much of our economy in financial services is causing all sorts of problems - an over-valued pound, housing bubbles, huge household debt, exacerbating the north-south divide. So much of our resources is being sucked into London, it is starving the North.
Recessions can cause huge damage to an economy, but are also needed to restructure. An overvalued pound is destroying the high tech industries we need for the future. Lending only to housing not business has no future. Freed from the EU, governments can foster new industry easier and alleviate absolute poverty. In a country with our wealth, no-one should be so poor they are without homes or begging on the streets. It is all about allocation of resources - investing in housing, infrastructure and industry will reduce the amount of lattes, mountain of consumer goods and domestic help the wealthier can afford, and they will squeal very loudly about it. But if the result of a slightly lower GDP is an improved quality of life for all, I'm all for it. Let's reduce car use and green over large parts of our cities and towns. We'll be poorer on paper, but have richer lives as noise, pollution, danger and stress are lessened.

4. The EU is S#&t.
Let's be honest here, even those voting to Remain had serious doubts about the EU. Most wanted fundamental reform and were kidding themselves that this was going to happen anytime soon.

5. Some Leave Voters May Have Done The Right Thing For The Wrong Reasons.
Immigration is a complex subject. Some are opposed purely for racist and xenophobic reasons, we all accept that. And that is terrible and the rise in racist incidents since the referendum are awful. My hope on this, is that it is temporary. These feelings were always there and we are now seeing them manifest. We must quickly as a society make it known that this behaviour is not tolerable.
Also leaving the EU might make no difference to levels of immigration anyway. A point I made often while arguing for a Leave vote, and a strong Labour Leave campaign would have de-toxified this issue and perhaps reduced post-brexit tensions. Only those campaigning for Leave would have been believable when arguing that a Leave vote was not the solution to immigration issues.
There are genuine concerns around how quickly infrastructure and housing can be built, or even about how much land we want to cover in more roads etc.
The simple overlooked fact is that immigrants are people. Generally fairly young and healthy and probably more economically productive. So their tax revenues should more than cover the cost of extra services and infrastructure (in theory). But the effect on the population can be mixed from area to area. There does seem to be a class effect. The liberal middle classes were heavily for Remain, yet the working classes were more for Leave. Why was this? There are two reasons I can immediately see.
What realistic opportunities does free movement bring to unskilled Brits only able to speak English? Only the middle class were likely to work or learn in Europe or benefit from cheaper labour costs here. For those on low incomes in Northern towns, only the competition from EU immigrants is visible. Competition for jobs, public services and infrastructure from eager Europeans and sometimes more able and skilled Europeans.
When English is the world language widely spoken in Europe, free movement for the working class was only ever likely to be one way.

6. Inequality
Brexit has opened the door to capped banker bonuses and a financial transaction tax. The falling pound has already caused losses for "gold brick" investors from abroad buying up UK (mainly London) properties and scandalously leaving them empty while people are homeless. Lower house prices can only be good for the young and poor of this country.

7. Democracy
Rather than relying on an EU that hasn't passed a law protecting worker's rights since 1997, we now HAVE to beat the Tories here in the UK. Progressives need to get their act together and cooperate. Electoral pacts & electoral reform are long overdue.
Also, every permanent resident should get citizenship and full voting rights in the country they reside. Current free movement policy goes against the principle of "no taxation without representation".

8. Environment.
A one sized fits all approach has been slanted toward French farmer's needs. The CAP pays our wealthiest landowners to clear woodland hills and scrubland which helps flood our towns and villages. The EU dumps surplus produce on world markets causing African farmers to lose their livelyhoods. There is little environmental in specialisation of agriculture and the added air miles of produce travelling throughout Europe.

9. The Beginning Of The End For UKIP.
UKIP have our biggest contingent of MEPs and their scrapping will cost UKIP millions. Farage has resigned perhaps in anticipation that the long term future for UKIP is bleak. They now have no reason to exist.

10. Maximum Chaos In The Tory Party.
Although it may not look like it at the moment, the Tories will have real problems from Brexit. The final four years of this parliament will be dominated by it, with little room for anything else. We need a general election soon, but there is little chance the Tories will concede one. The Tories have lost their big scapegoat, yet leaving the EU in 2019 means they are still bound by it's laws until then.

22 January 2016

Why It Is Time For Britain To Leave The EU.

1. Politicians are treating voters with contempt.

There is just an assumption from the elites, that they'll just ramp up the pro EU propaganda and we'll all just fall into line. For democracy's sake, the establishment need to get a shock.

2. Britain is holding the EU back.

This is not just about the 60m people on this island, it is about the 500m on the continent. True socialists must give them equal consideration.

Has the UK given a helpful contribution in the refugee crisis? Environmental legislation? Financial transactions tax? Banker's bonus cap? Solidarity over Euro crisis? Fiscal transfers? Taxation?

I have no doubt the EU would have reached better solutions on these issues without the UK blocking and vetoing.

3. Britain will cope outside the EU.

It won't be a bed of roses and I think voters need to feel the lost benefits of being outside the EU, not just hear about them to fully appreciate what the EU is for. But bilateral deals will happen, although it could get complex....

4. We need a real debate.

Only a real risk of a Leave vote will force the arrogant elite to respond.

Why no contingencies for Brexit?

Why are the EU so quiet on how they will respond to Brexit?

We need real discussion on these issues otherwise the referendum will not satisfy those who are unhappy and we'll get a neverendum.

5. We need real negotiations.

This opportunity to push for real EU reforms that benefit all members is being missed. Lets stop the waste of having two parliaments in Brussels and Strasburg. Lets democratise the structure, giving more powers to elected MEPs and less to Eurocrats. Lets get the accounts properly signed off by auditors. Lets change the wasteful CAP. etc. etc.

And lets have transparency about trade deals like TTIP. And solidarity with poorer countries like Greece.

Britain could have won plaudits for standing up for a democratic EU.

Instead it is making "demands" and wants "concessions" for naked national interest. It looks petty and spiteful. There is no vision. No concern for the big issues the EU is currently facing and no solidarity.

Because of these worries and a concern that EU trade deals will scupper future returns to public ownership of our key services. I have come to the conclusion a long period outside the EU will help British people come to terms with their place in a 21st Century world and allow the EU to further come together in "ever closer union", which will be essential for it to overcome its present difficulties. The UK has not been a constructive member of the EU. Leaving might be the only way to change that. Better for everyone concerned.

15 August 2015

The Labour Leadership & Jeremy Corbyn

Let's just for one moment leave aside the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn.

Can any supporter of one of the other candidates truly say their candidate is of the sort of calibre and appeal that Labour are going to need for the mammoth task of winning in 2020?

Are Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham & Liz Kendall all the party can offer? They all seem very poor candidates. The evidence is in their lack of ability to motivate support behind them. Their campaigns have been dire. Even some of their biggest supporters admit that. If they cannot motivate support now, how are they going to do it in a general election?

This is not about ideology for me. Dan Jarvis is on the right of the party but he at least convinces that he could challenge the Tories.

The electability criticism was a powerful attack on Jeremy Corbyn when first used, but now it seems Jeremy is actually the most electable of all the candidates according to some new polls.

The next big criticism is that he cannot unite the party.

But could someone like Yvette Cooper or Liz Kendall unite the party when they refuse to work with a candidate destined to be first choice for leader of around half the members of the party?

But a lot of the parliamentary party will refuse to accept Jeremy as leader, I hear you cry?

Actually none of the candidates have that many direct backers in the PLP. Burnham around 70, Cooper 60 and Kendall 40, not much more than Corbyn's 36 nominations.

Yes I know only around 25 of these nominations are directly for Corbyn, but most of those extra nominations were Burnham supporters & will fall in line. Burnham has said he is open to being in Corbyn's cabinet. A prominent role for Burnham will mean around 110 MPs onboard, at least half of the other 120 MPs will respect the party membership & unify behind this big part of the PLP. But this still leaves around 60 very unhappy MPs, maybe half of these will be hell bent on destabilising the party.

In the first instance I imagine there won't be much for these rogue MPs to rebel against. Voting against the government is not that controversial on most issues.

The big rebellion will be played out in the all too willing media. Constant briefing against the leader, rumours of plots etc. But all of this will be massively disrespectful to the membership who will have just given Corbyn a huge mandate.

There is a big difference between arguing against the party line on a point of principle and just causing mischief for the sake of it. True that Corbyn was a serial rebel, but he always respected the party and generally his rebellions were on issues backed by a significant number of the membership.

In these 30 or so constituencies with rogue MPs, members will have to ask themselves whether they really want to keep reselecting those who seem hell bent on ignoring their wishes and arrogantly not even acknowledging the members existence.

It will be difficult, but shaping the party into a strong democratic movement over the next two years will strengthen Labour's chances of electability.

Jez We Can.

11 August 2015

Labour Has Always Been The Party I've Felt At Home With And Jeremy Has Brought Me Back Into The Fold.

I've only ever been a member of one political party - Labour.

I really wanted to see Ed Miliband become PM in May and I was gutted for Labour's Nancy Platts in Kemptown.

Yet I had for a number of years drifted away from Labour as they moved further to the right. I did publicly support & vote for Caroline Lucas in May but I could not join the Green party. Something held me back. They didn't feel quite right for me.

Now, I am absolutely delighted to once again be a supporter of the Labour party. Jeremy Corbyn has given me real hope that Labour now have the artillery to win a general election. He has drawn be back into my Labour home. And I look forward to becoming an activist once again within a Labour movement confident of it's socialist roots.

But best of all, Corbyn is outlining clearly how to do it.

After initial short term borrowing, council homes could be big income generators in the medium to long term helping to pay down government debt. Corbyn will free councils to raise funds to build as many homes as their community needs. Private house builders are reluctant to build on brownfield sites because their profit is slightly less. In fact they seem reluctant to build at all when sitting on landbanks is such easy profit. Councils will have no such incentive.

Education is more than just individual advancement. It benefits the whole of society. Corbyn recognises this and why it should be paid for by general (progressive) taxation not by individual loans that are bound to hit the poorest harder.

And austerity rewards the irresponsible lenders by placing all the blame for debt on borrowers driven to desperate measures by out of control inequality. Corbyn will passionately make the case for a true "all in it together" philosophy where lenders do share some of the responsibility.

I could go on, but the point is Corbyn is outlining the case for a strident Labour party. We have tried timid Labour, it has lost 2 elections badly. I want to passionately want Labour to win. Like Blair, Corbyn can make that case, but times have changed since 1997 and it requires a new argument. Corbyn has refreshed Labour and I now desperately want to be on board and help them win elections once again.

07 June 2015

Labour Need Clever Populist Policies That Deliver A Left Philosophy

Labour are almost certainly going to lose the 2020 general election. The electoral geography and political realities are the worst they have been for Labour since their foundation.

The offer to the public in 2020 needs to be so huge and widely supported that tweaking policies here and there is just not going to cut the mustard.

Labour need a 1997 level of win in votes just to achieve a small majority.

These are facts, not pessimism. And if Labour do not face up to them, 2020 is already lost.

Of course, a lot could happen in 5 years to change this. The Tories although in a strong position, face some tough hurdles - the EU referendum, Scottish cessation, continued brutal public spending cuts, their promises on the NHS and the deficit, their muddle on human rights and housing.

All of this could trip them up. The economic credit bubble could once again burst. But Labour can't count on voters turning to them. Voters are turning to more radical options - SNP, Greens and even UKIP.

Labour need to think big to address their big problems.

Labour have completely lost Scotland and Southern England. If they're not careful, the rest could follow.

The two biggest problems - Labour are not trusted with public spending/ taxation AND thanks to a hopeless situation in Scotland, Labour have to win most votes in England. Something they haven't done since 2001.

The constitution is a complete mess. The Tory solutions are weak - English only committees and devolving services locally but without control of funding. This beats Labour, who are scared of saying anything much, but there is a big opportunity here for Labour.

English voters think they are getting a raw funding deal compared to Scotland. While Scots feel too much fiscal power lies in England. A big offer here could please both.

The over centralised UK has been obvious for decades, ever since Thatcher abolished a lot of local government in the 80s, the power has moved one way. Local government is capped and restricted in almost everything it does. The Tories have found local government a great way to hide central government cuts. By devolving services without the funding to pay for them. The Tories are being clever.

Labour could trump the Tories offer. I've thought long and hard about the UK's devolution problem. I used to think regional devolution was the answer. This was started in London with the GLA. The English regions would be similar in population size to Scotland. But the new Scottish tax powers has now made that problematic. You can't really have different income tax rates between Newcastle and Manchester. The Tories greater City Mayors is another fudge.

The only solution I can see satisfying the English public is an English parliament, with the same powers as the Scottish parliament.

This has huge advantages for Labour.

It would win them votes in England. And if all fiscal powers were devolved, would win them support in Scotland too, who resent Westminster deciding tax rates and spending for the whole UK.

But also the new English parliament could replace the House of Lords and use it's chamber and would have to be elected in the same way as the Scottish parliament, by PR.

PR would stop the fragmentation of England between North and South by stopping one party dominating with a minority of the vote. The UK parliament would control security and foreign affairs, with taxes and spending devolved to each country. Further devolution to councils would be decided at country level.

The other solution for Labour is to grasp the nettle of tax and spending. Offer the British people a referendum on tax and spending levels, arguing 37% support in a general election is not enough of a mandate to decide the direction of the country on this issue.

Do we want Scandanavian services and welfare or US levels of social problems. Labour should trust the people. An offer of a referendum would kill this as a negative issue for Labour, because whatever the people decide they would abide by. It would free Labour up to campaign for fairer and higher levels of tax and spend. But people would know the final decision would be theirs.

This would win support across the political spectrum and be difficult for Tories and their right wing press to campaign against. Also it would satisfy both left and right within the Labour party itself.

So, a parliament for the English and a clear referendum to decide taxation levels and the consequent public spending. This could put the Tories on the back foot and be a bold enough vision to show Labour was ready for power once again. The fairness of a PR elected English parliament would appeal to Green supporters, while the concept of an English parliament would apeal to Ukippers and Tories.

Without powerful promises such as this, the left could continue to fragment. Certainly lots of left voters will not want to support a Labour party chasing Tory and Ukip support by being mean to immigrants and the vulnerable. Without a centre-left Labour party, I see little future for Labour.

05 June 2015

The Single Non Transferable Vote

Thanks to another blogger (Thank you Paul Z Templeton) I now know the name of the voting system I have been advocating (SEE TITLE, I know, I should have known this!).

Paul is a big advocate of another system - the Single Transferable Vote (STV). But I'm not so impressed with STV.

The main problem I have with STV is the complexity of the system.

I know it is easy enough to rank candidates in order 1,2,3, but I think it is really important for the legitimacy of the system that the counting process is also easily understood.

Also, preference voting itself, tends to favour centrist candidates. Centrist campaigning is one of the big flaws of our present first-past-the-post system as well.

Virtually all those elected are centrist non-entities, or at least pretend to be, which is even worse. Our extremists are hidden in the FPTP or STV systems.

By definition, in a more proportional system, the majority will still be fairly centrist, but minorities will also (shock, horror!) get a MINORITY of the seats. This allows more radical (and yes sometimes extremist) views to get a hearing. But we ALL get more honest and open MPs as a result.

Presently our candidates are forced into compromising their principles. The most honest candidates have to be really careful that their policies always appeal to most (if not all) of the population. Which I think leads to bad politics, because necessarily unpopular or radical policies are just hidden till after the election and not properly debated.

Looking to Irish politics is not a good advert for STV. STV has not enabled Ireland to form long lasting social and economic policies. The countries that do best in terms of social, economic and environmental policies have the most proportional systems. Which brings me on to the next flaw of STV, it's lack of proportionality.

To keep the number of candidates on the ballot down to manageable levels and to keep candidates local, there is a necessity to limit the magnitude of multi member districts to 3 to 6 seats in STV systems. This limits the proportionality considerably, with effective thresholds that are far too high - from 14% to as high as 25%. This shuts out minority parties and views from being elected and heard.

This is where we get to the key advantages of the Single NON transferable vote (SNTV), which is the system I am advocating.

Because surplus and split votes are not transferred, parties have to manage their wasted votes themselves by limiting the number of candidates they stand, to those with a good chance of election and targeting different candidates at different constituencies within the multi member district. These are both desirable aims.

This enables SNTV to operate at much higher magnitude districts (10-16 seats), which guarantees high proportionality (effective thresholds from 3% to 7%), but still provide ultra local candidates and manageable ballot papers.

Looking at where SNTV has operated worldwide. Where it is used exclusively, it provides extraordinary proportionality and ensures minorities get a say.

The weaknesses in terms of wasted votes tend to happen where districts are too low magnitude or too many "no hope" candidates are allowed to stand.

It is important for SNTV to work well that the nominations process acts to filter out candidates with no chance of winning.

This is easily achieved by setting a high bar in terms of the number of supporters required to get on the ballot paper. I suggest each candidate needs 500 local electors who have donated to their campaign in the 12 months preceding an election.

I prefer this to garnering signatures and large deposits, because someone's wealth should not be an issue. And each donor could donate as little as £1 and it shows much more of a commitment to a candidate than a signature.

Overall, I think that to be inclusive to ALL voters, we need a voting system that is very simple to understand, provides ultra local candidates and proportional results. SNTV does all these things. A simple X by the candidate of your choice and the candidates with the most votes are elected. Simple and fair.

28 May 2015

Flexibility Is The Key To A Good Voting System

My proposal is that every elector gets one vote for one candidate and the top candidates in votes are elected to the seats. So if there are 16 MPs in a county, the 16 candidates with the most votes are elected.

The more I look into the practicalities of this, the more I like it.

It is very proportional and very easy to understand. The candidates with the most votes are elected. No complicated formulas or party lists. No safe seats, expensive boundary reviews or 2 classes of MP. And most of all no silly results with parties amassing millions of votes for little or no MPs.

The clever part is how this system deals with "split votes". Which is at the root of the problem for most systems.

Rather than the smaller parties having the largest burden of split votes and thereby being completely shut out of parliament, every party has to manage the problem of potential split votes or face losing seats.

And it is easily managed by parties by them adjusting the number of candidates that they stand and by having candidates target local areas. Both good for the working of the system.

Thus providing ultra local candidates to those voters that vote for local candidates and keeping numbers of candidates on the ballot paper down to manageable levels.

Also, the voter knows that EVERY candidate on the ballot paper has a real chance of being elected. This is REAL choice. Wasted votes are kept to a minimum because all parties have to aim to minimise surplus votes and only stand candidates with a real chance of election.

No hoper candidates would harm other candidates in the party by wasting party support.

Also the proportionality and the fairly low threshold give independent candidates a chance, but only if they pass the strict entry criteria - 500 electors in the county having donated at least a pound to their campaign in the 12 months before the election.

This also makes it difficult for the larger parties to just "parachute" in candidates from elsewhere. They will need to have built up local support in the preceding 12 months to garner enough support for every party candidate to make the ballot paper.

Easy enough if you are a serious candidate with decent levels of support but this will stop joke and time waster candidates clogging up the ballot paper.

It cannot be right that all you need is a spare £500 deposit to stand. This purely money based system that we have now goes against the principle of democracy. By having to garner 500 real electors willing to donate £1 to a campaign, it will demonstrate really strong support for a candidate before they get on the ballot paper. There might even be an argument for making this donation threshold even higher, maybe 1000 donations. The idea of setting the minimum donation at £1 is to make it affordable for all electors to back a candidate.

Thereby everyone on the ballot paper will have a strong chance of being elected. To be elected you need to get approximately 4% of the vote or more (depending on the size of the county and how the vote splits this threshold might be as high as 8%).

It is the "self correcting" aspect that is the genius part of the system. It is the flexibility of the system that is its strength, allowing voters to decide the rules of the system rather than faceless bureaucrats. Voters decide how local the candidates will be and also the areas they represent within each county.

In Sussex, to guarantee finishing in the top 16 places and become an MP, you'd need 5.88% of the county vote. (1/17 Thanks for correction, Christine. See comments below)

This is the optimum vote. If you get above this you're elected. If a candidate gets far more than this they are safely elected. But whereas safe seats in FPTP are useful for a party, too many surplus votes in this system can damage a party's chances by wasting party votes that could have elected other candidates.

There will be wider choice for the voter with around 17 to 23 candidates on the ballot paper. This is still a manageable level. You can have this many candidates in current byelections.

Each party would likely stand one more candidate than they think they would win in seats. And there would likely be at least one independent stand.

In a 16 seat county, that might mean 23 candidates. Very unlikely to be more than that, because parties would avoid wasting votes.

Parties would judge support by opinion polls. I know polls infamously can be wrong, but they are accurate enough for this purpose (within 6% accuracy).

Voters would be able to choose from ultra local candidates from the more popular parties in the local area or for smaller parties maybe standing for a wider area in the county. Independents might be ultra local or wider. It all depends on size and concentration of support.

Officials wouldn't have to agonise over which streets to include in some arbitrary boundaries, it would all be decided by voters and parties responding to that and boundaries would be invisible and flexible.

All the officials would do is set the number of seats in a county according to the population. This would also mean poorer areas with low voter registration wouldn't be shortchanged on representation.

If we look at our Sussex example using party votes from the general election projected onto likely candidates we can see that the vote needed to be elected is lower than 6.25%.

This is because votes for party candidates are not going to be perfectly spread.

In Sussex the 1st place candidate would be elected with 6.75% of the vote and the 16th placed candidate elected with 3.82%.

The 6 candidates falling below this figure were unelected with combined totals of 18.4% of the vote. These votes elected no-one, so could be called the "wasted" votes under my system.

If we now compare these figures with the percentage of the county vote the current Sussex MPs have under first-past-the-post.

These varied from the highest vote for an MP of 4.07% (Peter Bottomley) to the lowest elected at 2.19% (Simon Kirby) of the Sussex vote.

The total votes not electing anyone in Sussex under first-past-the-post are 50.31%. So the majority of votes could be said to be wasted votes.

So, we can see that under my proposed system, MPs are elected with more votes and there are less wasted votes. We also get a highly proportional result. The Tories in Sussex with 48% of the vote, get 50% of the seats, (whereas they get 88% of the seats under FPTP). LABOUR 19%,19% (6%). UKIP 14%, 13% (0%). LIBDEMs 11%, 13%, (0%). GRNS 7%, 6%, (6%).

So, voters could vote for an ultra local Tory or Labour candidate, or maybe a UKIP, LibDem or Green candidate covering a wider area. The choice is for the voter. Their votes will determine how many candidates are local.

The election will always be close between the election of a candidate in 16th place and non elected place immediately below this - a fraction of a percent. So every candidate can be considered worth voting for.

But if you live in say Worthing, you are probably very likely to vote for a candidate covering your area rather than say a Brighton and Hove candidate and vice versa. Although you could vote cross county if you liked that candidate. There is that freedom.

It would be interesting to see this system in practice. I'm confident it would work. Even if there was a lot of cross county voting and wide disparities in votes between candidates in the same party. It would still deliver reasonable proportionality and legitimacy. If a candidate does get a low vote and fails to get elected, whose fault is that?

This system is fair, simple to understand and still provides local MPs if voters vote that way. In short there is still a direct link between elected candidates and voters. It would be cheaper to run than our present system and it provides proportional results without 2 classes of MP.

Indeed MPs are likely to be elected with more votes than now and there will be less difference between their support.

Nationally at the moment MPs are elected with anything from 12,000 votes to over 40,000. In my system it is unlikely any MP will be elected with less than 25,000 votes. In my Sussex example the lowest would be 32,265 votes to garner the 16th and final elected place.

So, spread the word. Lets elect our MPs county by county by placing an X next to our favoured candidate. Simple and easy. A "Fairest Past The Post" system.

25 May 2015

All Voting Systems Are Crazy (Except Mine).

Currently with our voting system of first-past-the-post (FPTP), the number of seats a party receives bears little relation to their number of votes.

In the 2010 election campaign, the polls briefly showed the Lib Dems on the most support, yet they were predicted to finish a poor third in seats. The third placed Labour party were predicted to get most seats.

In this general election 5 million votes delivered just 2 seats out of 650 for the Greens and Ukip but 1.5 million votes delivered 56 to the SNP.

Not to forget we now regularly get "majority" government on 30 something percent of the vote. And FPTP is terrible at representing the population. There is a massive under-representation of women, ethnic minorities and the working class.

Most democrats would concede that this is unacceptable. Only the vested interests of Labour and Tory politicians perpetuate this system. It is a democratic disgrace.

Yet the Electoral Reform Society supports another seriously flawed system, the Single Transferable Vote (STV).

This is a system where a candidate can actually increase their number of votes, yet DECREASE their chances of election. Once again unacceptable.

I won't bore you with the details, but if people rejected the Alternative Vote for being too difficult to understand, STV has no chance of being understood!

STV is also (like FPTP) prone to have "wrong winners" (where 2nd in votes wins most seats) and STV is not even that proportional. (though admittedly it is fairer than FPTP). And like FPTP it doesn't lead to representative social groups being elected.

Then there are list systems of PR and I quite like these, as they are proportional and more representative of the population, but it does mean voters feel more distant from politicians.

Whatever the value of a "constituency link", it does allow voters to "link" a politician to a small geographical area. Perhaps this is an illusion of "accountability" when 75% of seats are "safe", but at least a direct link between voters and elected is there.

Finally there are systems that mix more than one of the above systems together but they create 2 classes of MP, with completely different levels of accountability and this mixed system still has the flaws of the systems it combines.

This is where my proportional "fairest" past the post system comes in (see previous post).

Like now, every voter gets one vote. Like now they vote for the candidate of their choice. Like now, the candidates with the most votes are elected. And voters can choose candidates for as local an area as now. The difference is, we get one vote to elect 16 MPs from the county. We can only choose one candidate from our preferred party. So this means each candidate has to appeal to different areas of the county or risk taking votes from their comrades and preventing their election.

The beauty is, my system is self regulating. Voters decide the size of constituency that politicians are accountable to when they decide who to vote for. These areas can overlap or "float" within the county boundaries. Candidates will respond to communities and their level of support to determine where to focus their campaigns.  Parties will try to evenly spread their candidates to achieve just enough votes to be elected but not too many that would split the party votes to thin and risk losing seats.

Parties will naturally target their candidates in geographic areas (although they could do it in other ways - e.g. policy differences) and they will only stand candidates with a good chance of winning to avoid splitting their own vote and losing seats. This automatically ensures proportionality and keeps the ballot paper to a manageable number of candidates.

And because parties stand more than one candidate on the ballot paper, it would be really noticeable if there were no women or minorities or if all the candidates were middle class. Much more pressure to "balance" their offer.

The results are easy to understand. Candidates have to finish high enough in the race to qualify for election. The voters decide who makes the cut.

People like the idea of a race. Our present system has 650 races with first place in each getting to parliament.

My system would have about 50 races, with the top 12 to 16 placed finishers in each race qualifying for parliament (depending on the size of county, counties or boroughs used).

But my system would also deliver fair representation for parties and independents in line with their number of votes. It would also not have arbitrary boundaries decided by faceless bureaucrats.

The big problem with our current boundary based system is, no matter how hard you try, the boundaries will be unfair to those parties who don't concentrate their votes "in the right places".

It is also open to abuse. You may have independent boundary reviewers, but the rules they abide by are written (and skewed) by politicians. Also officials are heavily lobbied by party machines and incumbent MPs.

It is perfectly possible to have drawn different boundaries at the last election (all equally sized) that would have given either Ed Miliband or David Cameron (depending on political taste) a huge landslide victory without changing a single vote. That's how much difference boundary reviews can make. The voters are almost irrelevant and that can't be right.

If you don't believe me, google "gerrymander wheel".

Finally, a party would have to get 50% of the vote (or very close to it) to govern alone under my system. But do we really want one party rule with 35% of the vote? And as multi party voting seems set to increase, how low can we go before this absurdity makes alice in wonderland look sane?

22 May 2015

Fair Past The Post

What most voters want.

1. A Local MP.
You vote for one candidate that represents your local area and is directly accountable to voters at a geographical level similar to now.

2. Simplicity.
You have one vote by placing a X next to the candidate of your choice. The candidates with the most votes are elected.

3. Fairness.
The number of seats is in line with the number of votes.

Our present system of first-past-the-post, delivers on the first two principles, but not the last one. Basically what people seem to want is a proportional version of first-past-the-post and it is a possibility.

A slight tweak to our system would deliver all three principles. Let me explain.

The population of the UK is around 65 million. Our current number of MPs at Westminster is 650.

That rather neatly works out at around 100,000 population for each MP. 

For example, Sussex has a population of 1.6m and returns 16 MPs to Westminster.

This sort of size area is perfect for what I am proposing. Most of the non metropolitan counties return between 8 and 16 MPs.  Metropolitan counties vary more, but can be ideally sized by combining several boroughs. An area returning 12 to 16 MPs is the ideal and could be achieved by combining 2 smaller counties if appropriate.

My idea is to continue voting for one candidate but to allow candidates to stand across the whole county and votes across the whole county area to be counted.

So, in my Sussex example, the 16 candidates with the most votes across the county are elected.

It is a bit like how we elect ward councillors in multi member wards except voters will get one vote instead of multiple votes.

Using the results of the last general election we might have got the following results in Sussex using my system.

P. Bottomley CON(Worthing) 56,954
P.Kyle LAB(Brighton+Hove) 54724
S.Kirby CON(Brighton+Hove) 51722
D.Cooper LDEM (Sussex) 51338
F.Maude CON(Crawley+Horsham) 48953
G.Bastin UKIP(East Sussex) 48498
C.Lucas GREEN(East Sussex) 42143
S.Owen LAB(East Sussex excl. B+H) 40995
G.Jones UKIP(West Sussex Coastal) 40911
C.Ansell CON(Eastbourne+Lewes) 40140
N.Baker LDEM(Eastbourne+Lewes) 38324
C.Oxlade LAB(Crawley+Chichester+
Bognor+Arundel) 36068
N.Herbert CON(Arundel & S. Downs) 34331
A.Tyrie CON(Chichester) 32953
N.Ghani CON(Wealdon) 32508
N.Soames CON(Mid Sussex) 32268

These are the 16 candidates that would be elected under my system. With a further 6 unelected.

T.Macpherson LAB (Worthing+Horsham+Mid Sussex) 32173
G.Barker CON(Bexhill+Battle) 30245
A.Moncrief UKIP(West Sussex Mid+North) 25406
N.Gibb CON (Bognor+Littlehampton) 24185
A.Rudd CON (Hastings+Rye) 22686
J.Richmond GREEN (West Sussex) 20584

The result is very proportional

CON 48% votes 50% seats (8 of 16)
LAB 19% votes 19% seats (3 of 16)
UKIP 14% votes 13% seats (2 of 16)
LDEM 11% votes 13% seats (2 of 16)
GREEN 7% votes 6% seats (1 of 16)

Whereas the actual result under our present system was 14 Tories, 1 Lab and 1 Green. Over half of Sussex voters had no impact on the result under our present system and the majority of counties are similar.

Of course, these are the votes under FPTP. Under a PR system the voting is even more fair because it would remove some tactical and protest voting.

The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed in the above example that the Tories fielded 11 candidates (8 were elected), Labour 4 (3), UKIP 3 (2), Lib Dems 2 (2), and Greens 2 (1). This led to a total of 22 candidates standing for 16 seats.

Why would the parties not stand more candidates than this?

This is where the beauty of my system comes in.

At the moment it makes sense for parties to stand as many candidates as possible (as many as they can afford in lost deposits).

This results in "split votes" between ideologically similar parties and ideologically similar candidates resulting in millions of voters electing no-one while other candidates win with far less than 50% of the vote.

Under my system, the parties can manage this by only standing candidates that have a real chance of being elected. If they stand too many candidates, their party could lose seats by "splitting" their own vote between candidates.

What my system does is spread the problem of split votes equally between ALL the parties rather than just those ideologically similar.

Another unique feature of my system is it removes the need for difficult and expensive drawing of boundaries. All you need to do is to allocate the number of MPs to be elected in line with the county population.

It is for THE CANDIDATES themselves to determine the areas where they want to target local electorates.

In the example above, you can see parties have given a geographical label to each candidate and each candidate would concentrate their efforts there and be accountable to that area of the county.

Why would they do that? Because if every candidate campaigned across the whole county, it would risk wide disparities in their votes and reduce the number of seats they won. Parties would aim to spread their votes fairly evenly between their candidates to maximise the seats won.

The easiest way to do this would be to target each geographical area with a different party candidate. This is where "the local link" is maintained and accountability with voters strengthened.

The larger parties would target "constituencies" of a similar size to now, whereas the smaller parties would target bigger areas, right up to the whole county area being targeted for the smallest parties.

To make absolutely sure that no unnecessary joke or ego candidates clogged up the ballot paper, I would abolish the current £500 deposit and replace it with a condition that every candidate has a minimum of 500 electors in the county who had donated at least £1 each to their campaign in the 12 months running up to the election.

This would remove any time waster candidates, who at the moment just need a big ego and be willing to a lose a £500 deposit.

Democracy is too important to be the plaything of wealthy joker candidates. Any serious candidate with really wide support would be easily able to muster 500 paid up supporters from a county with around 1.2m electors. In practise an independent candidate with significant support from the electorate would probably stand more chance of being elected than now. They would need just 6% or so of the countywide vote. There is not a single elected independent MP in GB at the moment.

In conclusion, voters keep the close geographical link with a candidate. They keep the simple vote and counting process and they get the proportionality they want between parties. What is not to like?