Blimey

The scale of the crisis was shown last night by a new poll that puts the Tories down five points on just 24 per cent, 11 behind Labour.

UKIP – up six points in a month – was on 22 per cent, double the level of Lib Dem support.

I rather doubt that will be the GE result but fun all the same, no?

46 thoughts on “Blimey”

  1. I think I lost my faith in British politics when the SDP got whatever it was 25%, and like 3 MPs or something. Not because I was much of a fan of the SDP, but because it showed how fucking daft the whole system is.

    One system I’d like to try is: keep the Commons as is, FTP. Replace the Lords with a house appointed by lottery, half every year, to serve two years each. This will act as an approximate sample of Teh People. And a separately elected executive, so we don’t have this farce of having to vote for Sir Bufton Tymme-Server because we want Cameron, or Lucinda Wyndde-Turbynne Benn because we want The Labours, or whatever.

    Or ignite a giant pile of tally sticks under the Parliament and be done with the whole sorry business, that would work too.

  2. UKIP are going to do very well in the Euros 2014. If they can come up with even a half-believable 2015 Manifesto, all the more likely because of Dave’s war against the Conservative Right causing so many defections of experienced local government politicians to UKIP, a lot of erst-while political commentators will have some explaining to do. According to the Polls, the popular vote is split equally between the centre Left and the centre-Right. The Euro results could decisively tip the balance towards the centre Right. 1992 again, Anyone?

  3. Yes the FTP – Constituency system seems daft from the perspective of the popular vote. But the the perspective of strong government it is mathematically interesting. By dividing the electorate up into consttuencies and then aggregating the result a very strong majarity can be produced from a tiny difference of opinion in the electorate. In principle a party could get all the seats in parliament with only 1% difference in the popular vote.

  4. Dinero-

    The problem with FPTP though is that it actually measures inhomogeneity of the vote; it actually rewards parties whose votes are concentrated in specific districts rather than evenly spread, thus strangely it deliberately rewards those who are not representative of “the people”. That is at very least problematic.

    In a sense, it’s a kind of corporatism, with the corpi being regionally defined. That’s not so surprising, as our electoral system used to be openly so, with votes for “towns”,”shires”, “universities” etc.

    We’ve reformed that last thing somewhat now, so that instead of a university getting a vote, only people with PPEs can get into fucking parliament.

  5. > IanB. Agreed, so we got here by accident , but it also looks like a system deliberately designed to avoid hung parliaments.

    Another issue I see is that the more popular an idea is the more parties will form to represent it. So the vote is spilt across more than one party, another reason the result does not representative of “the people”. As we are seeing with the Conservatives and Ukip.

  6. And I’m not entirely sure if it won’t be the result at a General Election. Politics at the moment is like putting your money on some illegal slug race. They’re all ugly little bastards who make your skin crawl and it’s not entirely clear who the winner will be.

  7. I’m an ex member of the Tory party – very ex, these days.

    I never much liked them, but at one time they at least appeared to be the party most likely both to get elected and to do something – however small – towards making people more responsible for their actions.

    At the recent local elections I voted other than Conservative for the first time, and UKIP got my vote (and a lot of others).

    I’m not very impressed by them, to be honest, but the Conservative Party no longer represent anything like my view of the world, and unless that changes I’ll reluctantly be going UKIP at the next GE too.

    (I wrote to my MP – Con, smallish majority – to tell him this, and that I have voted Tory for the last 25-odd years, and he didn’t bother replying.)

    Following on from IanB’s suggestion for an alternative system, I would like to see pretty much everything – laws included – devolved to much smaller areas – say cities, or counties.

    So Liverpool can bring in 10 year sentences for burglary, and Brighton can bring in 10 year sentences for failure to recycle. That way we might get some way towards giving the people who pay for the whole fucking edifice some say, and good laws might drive out bad.

    No chance, of course.

  8. Ian B said: *And a separately elected executive, so we don’t have this farce of having to vote for Sir Bufton Tymme-Server because we want Cameron, or Lucinda Wyndde-Turbynne Benn because we want The Labours, or whatever.*

    Then don’t vote in that way. Personality politics taking over can be resisted by people not voting based on personalities. The rotten-ness of our politics was confirmed when Labour’s manifesto pledge for a referendum was tested in court and found to be wanting.

    Until the public start voting for people who will do what they say (or perhaps spoil their ballots in massive numbers) politics will remain in a mess.

  9. The best system would be STV in multi-member constituencies. The LibDems even had it in their manifesto. But they promptly abandoned it in favour of a referendum on AV – what Clegg had described as a “miserable little compromise”.

  10. Gareth-

    The problem isn’t what I do, and it’s not much use bemoaning the electorate. People follow incentives, and the current system is hugely incentivised to vote on party lines; because what really matters to everyone is government policy, and government policy is decided by the winning party.

  11. Or-

    Each constituency elects two MPs, the first and second place ones, First And Second Past The Post.

    Each of these MPs has a number of votes proportional to his popular support; if the first got 42% and the second 27%, they have respectively 4 and 3 votes in the lobbies.

  12. Gareth,

    Then don’t vote in that way.

    But that’s not how it works in an FPTP system. Voting Green or Socialist Worker is seen as a “wasted vote” and due to the anonymity of voters, no-one knows how anyone else is going to vote, so people vote tactically for the least worst of two candidates. It’s been observed and named Duverger’s Law.

    It causes people to express votes that give no clear indication of what they really want (which an AV or PR system does).

    It’s why we’ve had so few seats outside the 3 main parties, and as Ian B points out, nearly all of them (except Martin Bell and Caroline Lucas) have been parochial rather than philosophical. You might win by finding some local grievance like closing Kidderminster A&E, and win around it, but create a party that will deal with the structure of the NHS on a national scale, and you won’t.

    And Caroline Lucas is hardly a great advert for democracy, winning a seat with 31.3% of the vote because the sane party votes got split.

  13. Funny you should say that Ian(1), I had a similar experience myself. In my case it was David Steele asking John Major some procedural question about the military only to have Major say something along the lines of “come back when you’ve got some MPs.” Cue hilarious laughter. At the time David Steele represented about 23% of the electorate. I didn’t vote for Major again.

    My plan is do away with general elections and only have bye elections. Every MP serves four years but a different four years. If the government is set on doing something unpopular, after a while they don’t have a majority anymore.

  14. I’ve been trying to convince people that we should move to a direct democracy, with the option to transfer your vote to another person (and to reclaim it at any time) and voting being done entirely online. So, assuming you were interested in having a vote, you could either wield it yourself, or find someone with similar views to yourself willing to wield it for you and thus save you the effort of voting. I envisage that a professional politician might charge a small fee each year to vote in your place and keep you notified of how they are voting on each issue. The cost should be comparable to the current system, and you’d get far greater representation of the people.

  15. How about constituencies based on the counties? Would there be any less representation of people than there is already when dealing with a mere few tens of thousands of individuals?

  16. Is the problem the electoral system, or something far more basic? It won’t matter how effective a democratic system we have if the positions we’re electing people to fill are actually jobs we don’t want done.

    As I’ve said before, I don’t really see the point of a layer of government in Westminster. It’s too high a level to be effective at getting the bins emptied, and too low a level to be good at public goods.

  17. As I recall it, and it’s a long time since I looked at this sort of thing and don’t have time now to research it, the problem with all non-FPTP systems is something called Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem (for which, said A. got a Nobel gong).

    Anyhoo, this AIT says, I think, that there is no system, no formula, which will ensure that votes cast are accurately reflected in parliamentary seats, so the chosen non-FPTP system is invariably the one that best suits those with the most muscle at the point that system is introduced.

    Separately, Lud’s 2nd Theory of Political Patronage states (and I can say this for a certainty) that all non-FPTP systems are designed with contempt for the electorate in mind, since they are all intended to avoid Nazi-type scenarios (frustrated outsiders going postal).

  18. I went into this at some depth at about the time of the AV debacle, and came to the conclusion that FPTP, like democracy, is the least worst system. AV and STV ending up disproportionatly rewarding people with low preferences for low preference people. Obiously PR is the worst of all, as you end up with the greatest amount of cronyism and slate-system voting. And EL above has it right; nearly all non-FPTP systems are really designed to make sure that the majority view is never really enacted just in case the majority turn out to be feeling a bit racist. I do, in fact, have some sympathy for this view; the majority view can be relatively easily conned in the short term through the medium of lying. A surprising number of dictators were swept to power by popular support originally.

    But Ian is also right about the fact that if my decent local constituency MP also belongs, for a weird reason to a party with a mental leader I cannot elect one without endorsing the other, and ditto if there is a party with the right ideas and the right leader but the local representative of same is a howling shit or a useless wanker.

    So the answer is probably some form of separation, but buggered if I can see how to do that without confusing power mandates, or making everything ludicrously expensive. Or opening the way for ever more snouts to trough at the public purse.

  19. 1. Radical reduction of the power and scope of the state.

    2. Technical committees that address specific identified problems.

    3. Referenda on the resulting proposed legislation.

    4. Sunset provisions for every law.

  20. The problem is not the voting system, nor the size or number or demographic make-up of constituencies, nor even the number of party stooges in the House of Lords. The problem is not even Europe, (at least not directly).

    Oh, these are all good topics for debate, but only after the apocalypse when we, (at least the survivors), are endevouring to set up a new system of governance.

    Until that happy day, no voting system. no party, (new or old), no bicameral governing system, has a hope in hell of disturbing the entrenched bureacracy and the cronyist business interests that support it and can happily stifle any attempt at change, let alone innovation.

    The fact is, the governing elite can nullify any mere democratic chamber by using the time honoured carrot-and-stick approach and even good old Nigel – whom I have a lot of time for – will soon find himself completely stymied by the machine and reduced to promising real change after the next, (next), election.

  21. Indeed. This is still a nation of the Upper 10,000.

    Not even the upper half a million, but a mere 10,000.

    And the only reason I can think of why that might be the case, is Us. We allow it.

    Look at UKIP. I remember it’ founding. 20 blooming years ago. Now you might say it took Labour as long to feel its oats. On the other hand, in the US the TEA party emerged almost literally overnight as an electoral force.

  22. Edward Lud,

    Anyhoo, this AIT says, I think, that there is no system, no formula, which will ensure that votes cast are accurately reflected in parliamentary seats, so the chosen non-FPTP system is invariably the one that best suits those with the most muscle at the point that system is introduced.

    Actually, that’s not quite it. The point of AIT is that when voters have three or more distinct alternatives (options), you can’t get a fair outcome that meets a pecific set of criteria.

    AV, being a miserable little compromise, is a far smaller change than people made out. It’s FPTP with a small ‘patch’ to overcome a couple of the issues with FPTP – spoiler candidates being the biggest.

    In essence, under FPTP you can have a constituency – call it Tunbridge-Wells Central – which leans significantly rightwards.
    When you have Mr A Tory versus Ms L Dem and Mr L. Abour, Mr Tory wins easily.
    Say we have 55% Con, 35% LD, 10% Lab.

    Now Mr U. Kip stands. He appeals to much of the same crowd as Mr Tory. Not so much the lefties.
    Next result:
    Mr A Tory: 27%. Mr U. Kip: 28%. Ms L Dem: 35%. Mr L Abour: 10%.
    No change – except that because we’ve had an increase in choice to the voter (a plus in the free-market world), we’ve ended up, due to our choice of voting system – with a Lib Dem representing people who’d strongly prefer either a Tory or UKIPper.

    If we had a multi-round knockout system, with Mr L Abour obviously knocked out in round one, and one of Mr U Kip or Mr A Tory knocked out in Round 2, whoever remains out of the Tory and the UKIPper will win the final run-off.

    As running several ballots over weeks is impractical, AV simulates it by asking who you’d vote for if your first choice was knocked out. And who if your second choice is knocked out. Etc. Then it has all the data it needs to carry out the multi-round knockout instantly. Thus the name “Instant Runoff Voting”, which is the formal name for AV.

  23. > Andey Cooke

    Your numbers are very contrived to give a predetermined result. What if Ukip in your example got to the last round. The conservative votes would never be counted and there would be a LibDem win.
    The logic of the process used by AV is completely flawed. Small parties do not get extra representation as they get knocked out in the first round, and contrary to the name “alternative vote” voters do not get an alternative vote if their first choice gets to the last round. The winning candidate is the product of the arbitary order that the candidates are knocked out.

  24. TheJollyGreenMan

    We don’t need to reform the voting system, we need to reform the voting qualifications. How about starting with only persons contributing to the treasury on personal tax, not VAT, level. Only bone fide taxpayers allowed to vote!

  25. Your numbers are very contrived to give a predetermined result. What if Ukip in your example got to the last round. The conservative votes would never be counted and there would be a LibDem win.

    Umm. No there wouldn’t – unless the Conservatives preferred the Lib Dem to UKIP. Because if the Conservative got knocked out, the Conservative voters would go to their next choice – presumably UKIP.

    The only way that the Lib Dem could win is if he/she got more votes in the final head-to-head round than whoever else (out of UKIP or the Conservatives, in this example) got there. And those who supported whoever didn’t get there would not have their vote wasted or split; they’d vote for whoever they’d have voted for if their first choice hadn’t stood in the first place.

    The logic of the process used by AV is completely flawed. Small parties do not get extra representation as they get knocked out in the first round,

    One of the key reasons that smaller parties don’t get any traction is the “wasted vote” argument.
    One of the main reasons we don’t have much choice in this country is the issue of Duvergers Law squeezing out alternatives.
    Under AV/IRV/call it what you will, voters could get to vote for whomever they actually wanted to, rather than be pressured to vote for a choice they don’t really want in order to prevent a choice that they really really don’t want. We’d actually get to find out the real level of support for certain parties in this country. For some reason, that doesn’t seem to be a popular idea with the politicians themselves …

    and contrary to the name

  26. Your numbers are very contrived to give a predetermined result. What if Ukip in your example got to the last round. The conservative votes would never be counted and there would be a LibDem win.

    Umm. No there wouldn’t – unless the Conservatives preferred the Lib Dem to UKIP. Because if the Conservative got knocked out, the Conservative voters would go to their next choice – presumably UKIP.

    The only way that the Lib Dem could win is if he/she got more votes in the final head-to-head round than whoever else (out of UKIP or the Conservatives, in this example) got there. And those who supported whoever didn’t get there would not have their vote wasted or split; they’d vote for whoever they’d have voted for if their first choice hadn’t stood in the first place.

    The logic of the process used by AV is completely flawed. Small parties do not get extra representation as they get knocked out in the first round,

    One of the key reasons that smaller parties don’t get any traction is the “wasted vote” argument.
    One of the main reasons we don’t have much choice in this country is the issue of Duvergers Law squeezing out alternatives.
    Under AV/IRV/call it what you will, voters could get to vote for whomever they actually wanted to, rather than be pressured to vote for a choice they don’t really want in order to prevent a choice that they really really don’t want. We’d actually get to find out the real level of support for certain parties in this country. For some reason, that doesn’t seem to be a popular idea with the politicians themselves …

    and contrary to the name

  27. and contrary to the name “alternative vote” voters do not get an alternative vote if their first choice gets to the last round.

    Well – it’s true that in any knockout contest, if your preferred contestant makes it through, you don’t get to swap over to a less preferred candidate. Mainly because the one you most want to win is still in the contest.

    You only need to find an alternative to support if your main choice ain’t there any more. That’s how all run-offs work, whether instant or otherwise.

    The winning candidate is the product of the arbitary order that the candidates are knocked out.

    One – the order isn’t arbitrary – it’s based on their relative first-choice popularity.

    Two – to win, you have to have got more votes than whoever lost at any stage. Regardless of the order of elimination.

    In FPTP, the winner is the arbitrary result of however many candidates stood on an ideologically rather similar platform. You could get a Tory win in Liverpool in FPTP if you packed the ballot paper with enough Labour candidates. You could get a Labour win in Windsor if you had enough Conservative candidates to split the vote.

    Those are extreme examples, but they illustrate how the parties are incentivised to minimise the choice to the consumer/voter to prevent spoilers.

    What if you could have a pro-EU Tory and an anti-EU Tory standing without any risk of splitting the vote? A progressive Tory and a traditional Tory? Wouldn’t it be better if the Lib Dems could choose between an Orange Book candidate and a Beveridge group candidate? Or Labour between Blairites, Old Labour, Blue Labour, whatever-colour-they-bloody-like Labour?

    We’d be in danger of letting the politicians know what we actually did support. And of getting politicians who matched up with that.

  28. Ed Lud

    And the only reason I can think of why that might be the case, is Us. We allow it.

    Look at UKIP. I remember it founding. 20 blooming years ago. Now you might say it took Labour as long to feel its oats. On the other hand, in the US the TEA party emerged almost literally overnight as an electoral force.

    The difference is that while the US has the FPTP system it also has primaries, which gives voters more of a choice in which sort of republican/democrat candidate that they’d like.

    So, where in the UK you have tactical voting for Con/Lab (as UKIP is a “wasted vote”), in the US you first choose between say, a fan of Jerry Falwell and a fan of Ron Paul. It’s therefore much easier to influence the primary process.

  29. Tim, a good point, I’d forgotten about those. Nevertheless, I also think there’s a grand old British tradition of gratefully putting up with whatever we’re given, which the Septics wouldn’t stand for.

  30. > Andy Cooke
    Your example is confused as you call Ukip the spoiler candidate for Con, but in your example Ukip has more votes , so that is the wrong way round.
    Anyway if the conservative voters second choice was LibDem then lib dem would win, so the Spoiler senario is not delt with at all. Ukip took some votes from Con and LibDem won just as in FPTP.
    If however Ukip went out first then Con would win, so the result is not determined by the voters preference but instead by the order in which the candidates go out and thus the AV is not logical.

  31. Dinero,
    If the Conservative’s second choice was Lib Dem, then surely the Lib Dem should win. Because most voters would prefer her to the UKIP candidate in your example.

    UKIP and Conservatives act as spoiler candidates for each other in this scenario – as the votes are so close.

    At the end run-off, it falls down to who would prefer who, independently of the route they got there. If it ends up as UKIP vs Lib Dem and most voters prefer the Lib Dem, then the Lib Dem wins. If its Con vs Lib Dem, whoever is preferred wins. All regardless of how many other candidates enter.

    If UKIP go out first and it just so happens that their first-choice voters prefer Con to Lib Dem (although the Con first-choice voters, you say, prefer the Lib Dem to UKIP), then yes – the Conservative would win. Why is that illogical? It depends on how much first-choice support they have as to who gets through each round.

    Just like in FPTP it depends how much first-choice support anyone gets as to who wins outright. And that depends on the arbitrary lineup of the candidates and how close they are. The more candidates you get, the more random the result and the less likely it will produce an outcome that the majority of the voters will prefer. Thus FPTP is certainly not logical – it optimises under conditions of minimum choice and competition.

    Run-off voting with elimination of the least popular candidate at each stage overcomes that problem.

  32. Its illogical because one vote either way changes the outcome, and that one vote may not be actually be for the party that goes on to win. And yes the same applies in multi round Run off voting.

  33. In your example there is only one percent difference between the support for Ukip and Con, and where that support goes to, Ukip or Con, determines whether or not it is the >Libdem< candidate that wins or not . That results from an incoherent tallying system because AV doesn't work.

  34. All voting systems have their flaws. FPTP can easily result in someone winning with less than one percent over the next person; this is similar. Just happens at an earlier round in the runoff.

    Meanwhile, the FPTP system would result in – if this poll of Con 24, Lab 35, LD 11, UKIP 22 was the GE result – a Labour landslide majority of probably over 100, and approximately one UKIP MP.
    Now that’s an incoherent system.

  35. But in FPTP hat one percent vote would actually have to be for the candidate that goes onto win. In AV it is chaotic. The problem is second votes are only counted when the candidate is still in, and so the order of elimination effects the outcome.

    There is another system where all the votes are counted , I think its called Borda count.

    I’m not critiquing in favour of FPTP.

  36. Didn’t some guys in wigs visit this problem a while ago?
    You do need a government competent to run a country. You also need a way of looking after the electorate’s interests.
    There’s no reason to believe the talents to do the latter coincide with talents to do the former. In fact having a government made up of people elected to look after the electorate’s interests is a direct contradiction in imperatives.
    And the 200+ year old & counting experiment in the alternative has produced the most successful nation on the planet. There could be a clue somewhere there.

  37. Dinero,

    The problem with Borda Count is that it’s also vulnerable to clones (ie vote splitting) – the more choice you get and the greater the competition, the more chaotic the output becomes. For very similar reasons to FPTP.

    It’s also possible to damage your first choice by expressing lower preferences – in AV, because the lower preferences are only counted once the higher choices are eliminated, that’s avoided.

    Basically – every system has its problems. AV is better than FPTP for encouraging competition without vote splitting, and in not punishing an honest choice (ie not encouraging tactical voting). Unfortunately, Borda Count runs into similar problems in both spheres.

    My attraction for AV is similar to that of mine for the free market – it’s flawed, but encourages competition and expression of demand and more so than most of the alternatives on offer.

  38. Under Plurality Voting (aka, illogically, FPTP) the most popular candidate gets elected. Under AV the least unpopular candidate who can avoid elimination gets elected. I can’t see why that would be an improvement – do we want to encourage politicians to be slippery and bland?

    STV in multi-member constituencies is so obviously superior that Cameron wouldn’t allow a referendum on it. Under STV, candidates try to build minority support: under AV they seek majority acquiescence. So under STV elected members represent people who, for the most part, actually wanted them elected.

    Politicians will tend to do things they think will get them elected. If you don’t like what MPs do, it’s worth considering changing the incentives.

    Incidentally, Arrow won his “Nobel Prize” mainly for his work on General Equilibrium Theory.

  39. Changing the incentives, Paul? Now that’s language I understand. I think we ought to consider surcharging MPs.

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