Polly’s logic leap

Does money succeed in buying elections? This research suggests that it matters more than ever, with fewer doorstep volunteers. In both 2015 and 2017 it’s hard to imagine that the millions spent on relatively few voters didn’t swing the result. Many seats were won by low margins: Gower in south Wales relied on a swing of just 0.04%. In 2017, 10 constituencies were won by under 100 votes and 52 seats were won by under 1,000. Big money almost certainly “bought” key seats – critical to the result in 2017. The report calls for state funding of parties: rewarding mega-donors with “honours” has for years poisoned voter trust in politics.

Both the forensic detail and the broad thrust of this report make an undeniable case for urgent reform. It raises the great underlying electoral issue: the incentive to cheat will be propelled by the first-past-the-post system for as long as a handful of marginal voters, often as few as 200,000, decide the whole country’s fate. A proportional system would see every vote weighed equally, each as valuable as the next, no “safe” seats, no marginals. The only good lesson of the otherwise dismally fought referendum campaign was a reminder of the fairness in valuing each vote everywhere the same. When every vote mattered, more people came out to vote.

The leap being to assume that a PR system reduces election expenses or the ability to purchase the election. Where every vote has to be scrapped over nationally I’m not entirely sure that that would be the case to be honest.

21 comments on “Polly’s logic leap

  1. “Big money almost certainly “bought” key seats”

    Big money? So money itself has an agenda in the left’s eyes, along big pharma, big oil etc?

    More likely to have been free money in the form of free university education, scrapping of student loans, more welfare, big pay rises for civil servants……

  2. Before worrying about the ability of party cash being used to persuade the undecided, Polly should be worrying about the integrity of voters rolls and postal ballots, or are some votes more useful to her agenda than others?

  3. Eh? Yet Trump won despite being massively outspent by Hillary in an election that is basically FPTP.

    “Take the example of personally addressed letters in marginals, signed by David Cameron: they went to every voter in St Ives, mentioning “here in St Ives” five times – yet the Electoral Commission allowed the cost to be charged to the party nationally, because the local candidate’s name was not used. The Tories took that seat off the long-standing Liberal Democrat MP. ”

    That’s a hell of a stretch considering that the Lib Dems collapsed at the election to assume that there’s a link.

    I worked on the last election and in our seat, Labour spent little, had few boots on the ground. Their local “machine” was dismal and yet, they halved the majority.

    I think electoral spending and boots on the ground is now largely irrelevant. Look at all the surprise results post-social media: Brexit, Trump beating Jeb. Trump beating Hillary. Corbyn getting elected leader. The teams with the resources to do media management didn’t win. Because the power of millions sharing things by word-of-mouth is so much bigger.

  4. I guess it might be a little too much for insular Polly to go and have a look at how PR works in, you know, Places Foreign that use it.

  5. Polly’s thinking appears to be ‘No more marginal seats = no need to put much effort in during an election.’

    From the excerpt: “The only good lesson of the otherwise dismally fought referendum campaign was a reminder of the fairness in valuing each vote everywhere the same. When every vote mattered, more people came out to vote.”

    When the public had well defined options they voted. When we have the two main parties with barely a fag paper between them on policies perhaps we don’t see much point in it. Consensus politics has been a stitch-up against the public.

  6. Look at all the surprise results post-social media: Brexit, Trump beating Jeb. Trump beating Hillary. Corbyn getting elected leader. The teams with the resources to do media management didn’t win. Because the power of millions sharing things by word-of-mouth is so much bigger.

    This is a good observation and I reckon there’s two separate but linked things going on.

    The first is Michael Gove’s point about how nobody trusts “experts” anymore. Gove was right in the narrow sense, but he’d have been even righter had he applied it in a broad sense.

    The public has little faith in our institutions. From the council that can’t even collect your bins regularly anymore, to the policeman who turns a blind eye to Islamic shenanigans (while prowling Twitter for badthink), to the expenses-snorting MP, to the lying journalist, to the handwringing drip of a clergyman, to the aggressively stupid academician, et cetera, et cetera, the prestige that used to be associated with positions of respect in our society has largely been spent.

    This means that newspaper editorials, open letters, arguments from authority in whatever form, have far less impact than they used to.

    The second is the internet.

    If anything, big money political campaigns of the traditional sort might be counterproductive these days. A public that has grown weary and suspicious of the elite classes and their shiny-slick, airbrushed and lensflared media messaging may well respond to advertising bombardments by voting “FUCK YOU”.

  7. “The only good lesson of the otherwise dismally fought referendum campaign was a reminder of the fairness in valuing each vote everywhere the same. When every vote mattered, more people came out to vote.”

    Really Polly? Cos I voted Leave. And I’ve been well and truly shown every day since then just how much my vote is valued, just how much you believe in democracy.

    So more people coming out to vote is a good thing is not? How about respecting their decision in the referendum then.

  8. “In 2017, 10 constituencies were won by under 100 votes and 52 seats were won by under 1,000”
    No Poll, just no! Those seats were won by counting every vote cast. The winning g candidate might have won less than 100 more than the defeated candidate; every vote did count though.

  9. Trump played the media pre-election. Yes, the Hildebeaste spent way more. But every day, the legacy press had a “Guess What Trump Did Today” story. They thought they were destroying him; they were getting him elected.

  10. What Ironman said.
    Value (for Polly) – pro-Guardianista vote valued at 2 units, anti-guardisnista vote valued at 0.02 units

  11. @knowing me. Indeed. Institutions have lost the power of authority as they ahem progressively squandered it on touchy feely stuff or made pronouncements that haven’t stood the test of time. The Bank of England under Carney is more professional but his being wrong has eroded confidence.

    On the wider point of Polly. The comments below the line are amusing with many pointing out the Attempt that Corbin made to buy the election with targeted appeals to students who turned out for him like never before. Responses either compare this with tax cuts, unfairly in my view as tax cuts reduce the tax taken from me, or say it wasn’t a bribe and the Russians are taking over. Leftie hypocrisy all over again…

  12. Rifkind fils in The Times has an ‘opinion’ piece on how the evil Rooskies won the Presidency for Trump by spending $100,000.

  13. @Chris Miller. Exactly, given the Dems just spent $55m fighting a single congressional seat (and losing) versus the $49m spent in the entire UK General Election, the US certainly appears to be disproving Polly’s point. Meanwhile the fact that apparently by spending $100k on Facebook Russia managed to swing the Presidential Election would appear to undermine the entire theory of US election spending. Give every congressman $100k of Facebook ad credits and then they don’t have to spend 4 hours every day whoring themselves out to corporations and others offering influence in return for cash.

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