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Poor, Poor, George

This problem is compounded where elections are unfair by design, like the UK’s first-past-the-post system. At the 2019 general election, the Conservatives took 56% of the seats on 43.6% of the vote. They gained one seat for every 38,264 votes cast. Labour needed 50,837 votes to win a seat, the Liberal Democrats 336,038 and the Greens 866,435. In 229 out of 650 constituencies, votes against the successful candidates outweighed the votes in favour.

OK, so let’s all combine to vote out the Tories!

Progressive candidates, regardless of their party line on electoral pacts, have a powerful incentive to attend the meetings, as a no-show would greatly reduce their chances of success, both in the primary and in the general election. When all eight meetings have taken place, the total vote is released. The campaign will then urge progressives to unite behind the leading candidate: not only voting for them, but leafletting and canvassing for them. Local people, in other words, will then be able to trust other people’s tactical votes.

There’s no obligation on the losing candidates to stand down at the election. But their parties will be disinclined to put much effort into their campaigns, knowing that the constituency is swinging behind another.

Ooooh! Super!

And then it all turns to shit of course:

It seems to me that this approach could, in the future, perhaps, also provide openings for independents peeling away from Labour.

But now we’ve got not Tory, not Labour, but some other. Which means we’re back with multiple candidates.

Which is how we got here in the first place of cuorse – there are many sets of ideas about how the country should be run. Which is why there are many candidates.

30 thoughts on “Poor, Poor, George”

  1. At least first past the post keeps the loonies (the real loonies) from having influence over policy.
    Look to the Fatherland and their energiewende for what happens when the minority lunatic fringe get their wanking spanners on the levers of power.

    It’s bad enough with the tossers we’ve got…….

    This wasn’t an issue for the left when it was UKIP though was it?
    12.6% vote share, millions more votes than Dum Libs (7.9%) / Scots Nazis (4.7%) and the greens (3.8%) but no seats.

  2. Correct. Moonbat predictably ignores the 644k votes cast from the Brexit Party resulting in zero seats, a number equating to nearly 13 Labour MPs using his highly selective mathematics.

    He also fails to acknowledge that tactical voting is for by-elections, not general ones that actually matter.

  3. One of the main differences between a by and general election is turnout. A by election will struggle to get 45 let alone 50% whereas a general ( except under Blair where it dropped dramatically ) is 65ish%. Tactical voting is a weapon in a by precisely because of the lower turnout.

    I used to be firmly in favour of FPTP because it kept the Liberals out. 2010 rather disabused me of that idea, but I don’t like any of the alternatives.

  4. I’d really enjoy being at one of those meeting. D’y reckon they’ll end in fights? It’s all right saying all get behind a single candidate. But they’ll all want to be the candidate.

  5. I voted against PR, as I never liked the prospect of the UK government depending on various forms of Unionist militants in Northern Ireland or English-hating celtic grudge-merchants. I also don’t like the idea of all the policies being decided after the election in the smoke-filled rooms – I really hated having Ed Davey controlling energy policy, with the end result of killing fracking stone dead (many thanks, you useless twat).

    However, since I now want the entire Conservative Party razed to the ground, and the ground then salted and pissed on, I may now be more open to the idea of voting system reform.

  6. I hadn’t known Monbiot lived in Totnes, but wasn’t surprised. The best description of the place I’ve seen was “Totnes is where all the hippies who found Glastonbury too commercial and reality based moved to”.

  7. “At the 2019 general election, the Conservatives took 56% of the seats on 43.6% of the vote…
    They gained one seat for every 38,264 votes cast. Labour needed 50,837 votes to win a seat…”

    At the 1997 general election Labour took 63% of the seats on 43.2% of the vote.
    They gained one seat for every 32,340 votes cast. The Conservatives needed 58,187 votes to win a seat…

    This was different though. Because reasons.

  8. What we need is PR.

    Like Italy. Which has had 69 different governments since WWII. An average of a new one every 1 year and 1 month.

  9. Bloke in North Dorset

    On the other hand, Andrew C, Belgium went 500+ days without a government. So there can be pluses.

  10. We vote for MPs to represent us in Parliament, not for political corporations to “run the country”. Yes, millions of us think that’s what we’re doing, and even act accordingly, but it isn’t. Formalising that delusion, however tempting it might be to give our favoured political brand a leg-up, would be disastrous. Do we really want a handful of Greens to be the kingmakers, as they are in the “Scottish Parliament”? Or coalitions of nonentities for whom nobody actively voted strutting around as if they owned the place? (The Minister for Climate Guff and Environmentalist Onanism up here garnered fewer votes in his “region” of Glasgow than the Tory list. The Tories. In Glasgow. And he thinks he’s the Lord High Pooh-Bah of Everything.) I’m not saying FPTP is perfect, but for the love of God, let’s not make it any worse.

    Now, all that said, AV isn’t PR. I voted against it in 2011 but, like, apparently, David Starkey, I’m having second thoughts. The Single Transferable Vote has its attractions.

    AndyF: Yeah… funny, that.

    jgh: Before Parliamentary parties started interfering in local politics (i.e., Labour aside, the 1960s), the Progressives were the “Tories” on the Glasgow Council.

  11. Otto, 1992 GE was 77% turnout, 2001 59%. Turnout dropped by 18pp in 9 years, over two events (1997 was a fall of 6pp). WTF?

    Eyeballing that chart suggests average turnout ’45 to ’92 suggests the average is 75%. ’50 being a bit of an outlier.

    Your 65% figure is a post-2001 phenomenon.

    I’ve never seen any reasons given for the apparent shift between the two regimes. Mind you, I might not looked that hard.

  12. Ducky McD: I’ve always understood that the drop from 1992 to ’97 was largely due to conservatives staying at home: they’d had enough of the Tories’ sh*t, but (despite the relentless propaganda) weren’t impressed by NewLabour either. The party’s popular vote fell by five million over that period. And inevitable disapointment with the messianic Blair led the phenomenon to spread to Labour by 2001. By 2005, it was able to win on 9.5m votes, about 100k fewer than the Tories had managed eight years previously.

    Of course that’s a massive generalisation – 1992’s over 30 years ago, so there are tens of thousands who voted then who simply aren’t alive any more, and tens of thousands voting now who couldn’t back then – but I think it’s a reasonable working hypothesis. In fact, I suspect that because it was a long time ago, because people have been scunnered* with the political class for so long now, these lower turnouts have become “culturally normalized”, for want of a better term. People are just less used to going out to vote.

    *Scotch word. Polite way of saying “pissed off”.

  13. The last three elections in Totnes, the Conservative was elected with more than 53% of the votes cast. A “progressives united” candidate would still have lost even if all the votes gained by the different parties with different policies had been delivered to the lowest-common-denominator leftie (likelihood zilch).
    Monbiot lives in a fantasy world.
    FYI the 2001 General Election was the most “unfair”, Labour took 62.5% of the seats on 43.2% of the votes, it got 1 seat for every 26,031 votes, the Conservatives got one for evey 50,652 votes, 95% more. But that doesn’t matter because Monbiot’s team won.

  14. From memory the two 1950 elections had a turnout of 80% and showed how engaged the population was, they also produced hung Parliaments.

    DMcD that is quite true about modern turnout and indeed was part of my point. Sam is also right : more people stay at home because they have become disengaged from the political process. If I was a cynic ( which I am ) I would say that this had been a deliberate policy by the Blair terror regime and those copying it. Just after the 1997 election Normo Tebbs wrote numerous columns and was on the telly demanding to know what happened to all the missing voters.

  15. @ Ottokring
    Not quite right: the 1950 election gave Attlee a majority of 6 but that wasn’t enough to govern effectively as several of his MPs were old and/or sick so he could lose votes in the HoC if some of them didn’t manage to get there to vote. the 1951 election gave the Conservatives a majority of 16 (17 on election night but they had to elect one of those 17 as Speaker and he was henceforward neutral).

  16. Sam, I’ve seen that one, and it’s plausible, but I don’t find it particularly convincing. The problem is that it can explain the period before ’92, particularly as there’s a fair amount of variance there. The chart’s annoying, as someone whacked the EU Ref number in, giving a false peak in 2016, which tends to obscure the fact that post 2001, it’s almost pure trend.

    I don’t really buy into the apathy or scunnered argument either. I suspect the reverse is true; the higher turnout reflected higher dissatisfaction with both the offers from Labour and the Conservatives. Thatcher’s privatisations killed two birds with one stone; political posturing from the unions and the costs of the nationalised industries.

    Assuming this, then 6pp drop 92/7 is the dropping of clause 4. The subsequent fall is confirmation of “No Return to the 70s”. The ’97 Manifesto is the one banging on about New Labour and the Old Left – so some number of Labour voters must have buggered off as well. Not just Conservative.

    The cost was the fall in turnout – and technology changes meant people ended up a lot better off, so they actually weren’t paying attention when Blair made some pretty damn major constitutional changes.

    It’s a theory. Doesn’t explain why there’s some millions consistently not bothering earlier either.

  17. @Addolff – “At least first past the post keeps the loonies (the real loonies) from having influence over policy.”

    We seem to have plenty of loony policies, so I would very much doubt that.

    We should switch to STV. Even AV would be a step in the right direction. FPTP allows the worst candidate to win (one who would be beaten by every other candidate in a head-to-head contest), so it very bad. However, it is a mistake to advocate *PR* as that is a property of a system and not itself a system. A closed party list system is PR but arguably even worse than FPTP.

    @bloke in spain – “Anyone trust elections after the proliferation of postal voting?”

    It’s not at the level of being untrustworthy yet, but postal voting should be reserved for rare cases when individuals could not be expected to vote in person, as it is too easily corruptible.

  18. Like Italy. Which has had 69 different governments since WWII. An average of a new one every 1 year and 1 month.

    This is a very misleading statistic. A “new” government is formed every time a minor party moves into or out of alliance, but that doesn’t mean much at all. Berlusconi, for example, ruled Italy for years. He wasn’t being replaced every year by someone new.

    At the fissiparous end of PR the minor parties don’t get more power. Because if they start to throw their weight around they get replaced. Hence the constant “change” of governments which aren’t actually changes of government.

    And Italy would be just the same under FPTP anyway. Their provincial, social and economic divisions run deep, and that causes the multiple parties, not PR. Stable homogenous countries with PR (say Sweden) don’t have Italy’s issues.

  19. @ Ducky McDuckface
    In “safe” seats, only the committed turn out to vote because everyone knows that 1 vote here and there will not make any difference to the result. There *used* to be an exception in mining seats where miners turned out to vote almost without exception even though they knew there would be a landslide majority for the Labour candidate. In rural constituencies it involved a lot of time and effort for those living and working on remote farms to travel to the nearest polling station.

  20. Japan’s turnout has been falling even faster, and is struggling to stay over 50%. American’s has, inexplicably, been steadily increasing, and may soon….. get as high as 50%.

  21. Since voting in Oz is compulsory, we get about 90%. But postal voting, voting in advance and so on are increasing, so I suspect BiS will eventually be proven to be right.

    I tend to follow the Gilbert and Sullivan principle in voting: ‘Who always voted at his party’s call, and never thought for himself at all’. Except of course when it comes to the vile Greens!!!

    By the way Chris, thanks for the reference to Karl Popper. I was going to vote against the Voice anyway, as I’ve mentioned about a million times before. But Popper proved I was right. Not that it would have changed my mind if he’d proved me wrong, of course.

  22. Couple of points

    I think Charles is being too sanguibe about postal voting. In certain parts of the country it is an absolute shambles.

    Chester Draws and Italy. It is just the nature of coalition government : sometimes the breaches are so bad that an election had to be called which usually solves nothing. We can see this in Clogland just recently and as mentioned in Belgyland where they had no federal govt for 500 days. It is also not a new phenomenon, many of the dictatorships in Europe ( and Latin America ) between the wars came about due to instabilities in coalitions govts.

  23. @Chris Miller

    Arrow’s impossibility Theorem does not prevent some systems being clearly better than others. We should not use a system which is worse than a practical alternative, even if the system we do use is not perfect.

    And Popper is wrong because he does not know what he is talking about (or uses language in a non-standard and confusing way). He says “proportional representation confers, even if only indirectly, a constitutional status on political parties which they would otherwise not attain. For I can no longer choose a person whom I trust to represent me: I can choose only a party.”. This is nonsense. Proportional representation is a property of an electoral system and many have this property. He is thinking of party list systems. His criticism of them is correct. Closed party list systems are indeed even worse than FPTP. But STV elections can be operated such that parties have no special place in them – their power lies exclusively in their ability to advertise and promote their candidates. Yet STV provides proportional representation.

  24. @ Charles
    STV is not proportional representation. It is a variant of FPTP.
    Without a Party List it cannot be genuine PR: how otherwise do you allocate seats to parties that get no directly-elected MPs/MEPs/whatever?

  25. @john77 – “STV is not proportional representation. It is a variant of FPTP.”

    I suggest you read as it explains that it is a form of PR and how it achieves that.

    “otherwise do you allocate seats to parties …”

    You don’t. You disregard parties completely and rely on a fair system electing a fair selection of representatives. The same way you elect the right number of women vs men, black people vs white people, tall people vs short people, accountants vs policemen, etc. Political parties are a corrupting force and their role should be minimised.

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