26 April 2010

Cameron Is Proving A Hard Sell...Even For Rupert Murdoch

Cons on 33, Libs on 30 and Lab on 27 - this would result in the Tories being about 50 seats short and the Libs getting about 100 seats. If that happens then we could be looking at electoral reform.

Electoral reform is becoming THE issue of this election and it is enormously exciting for PR geeks like me. We have waited a lifetime for this moment and nobody saw this coming.

David Mitchell in the Observer sums up the view that people want change - were not sure about Cameron and have merrily jumped on the Clegg bandwagon - much to the Tory press's anguish.

Even the most politically non astute realise that something is seriously wrong with an electoral system that gives the vote winner half of the seats that the third place party gets.

It is becoming impossible for even the Tories and Cameron to defend this - much as they want to.

How can anyone believe this system 'allows voters to throw the buggers out' when a party in third place gets the most seats. It is preposterous, an obvious two finger salute to voter's wishes, this system is indefensible and so is the alternative vote where the same thing could still happen. Only a more proportional system will solve this problem and the voters are going to demand it.

Cameron might actually end up with about the same percentage of the vote as Michael Howard got in 2005. In such a situation, how can the Tories say they have a mandate to govern. It is still possible they could get a majority of seats on 33% of the vote. It is the gap between Labour and Tory that is critical in the 100-150 Labour/Tory marginals. Cleggmania has made it impossible for the Tories to get the 20 seats they were hoping to take off the Lib Dems, but if Labour voters switch to Lib Dem in these marginals then the Tories might still make it. This would be horrific for most voters and Clegg's prediction of riots in the street could come true if the Tories try to push through their hardline policies.

But it is not just the absurdity of the electoral system that has been exposed by this campaign. The Tory press have been revealed for the nasty supporters of the status quo that they are. Their nice relationship with the establishment whether Tory or Labour (but mostly Tory) has been exposed. Lib Dem supporters are going to have to suffer 2 weeks of the sort of distortion of policy and personality that Labour supporters have had to suffer all the time. The attacks on Clegg have made it obvious where our press stands - firmly up Cameron's...

So here's looking forward to 2 questions on the referendum for PR - firstly - do we want to replace first-past-the-post with a more proportional system. Then if yes, a choice of single-transferable-vote or an open-list system. This would satisfy all the main opponents and campaigners and give a clear result of what people want. Roll on.


  1. If we do get a referendum, I think your second question is going to have to give more than those two options. AV Plus (the top-up system recommended by the Roy Jenkins report) has a lot of support with those who think (I don't agree with them) that the one-member constituency must be retained. I don't think any sort of list system is really a runner in Britain. It's regrettable that Clegg himself has publicly countenanced AV Plus, even though STV in multi-member constituencies is long-standing LibDem policy. STV is far superior in every way, but its proponents make a poor job of explaining its advantages.

  2. I think the choice has to be wittled down to two systems. A referendum bogged down explaining more systems than that would be confusing. How we decide these two systems of PR for the public to decide on should probably be done by a citizen's jury.

    I suggested STV and open-list because these are two very different PR systems but also the most well known and successful abroad.

    STV is a preference vote/multi member system that has a high effective threshold (even a 6 member STV has a 17% threshold that excludes a lot of smaller parties).

    Whereas a list system usually has a threshold much lower (around 4-5%) allowing a wider range of parties. I agree a list system would be a hard sell initially because of our experience of the closed list system for the EP (which because of the small number of MEPs (78) has a very high effective threshold in some regions of around 10-15%). AV+, as you suggest is a mish-mash - the worst of STV and AMS, but of course, still a vast improvement on what we have.