The elephant in the room


In my last blog post I wrote about the AV referendum and party political self-interest. Before that I wrote about AV, preference and how parties hold their internal elections.

In this post I will just explain the chart at the top of the page.

It shows the number of parliamentary seats each of the three main national parties gained in the UK 2010 General Election under first-past-the-post (FPTP) – these are the blue bars. The red bars show the number of seats each party would expect to gain under Alternative Vote (AV), based on a mock election involving 13,000 people. Finally the yellow bars show the number of seats which would be obtained under a proportional system.

The proportional system, where the number of seats is proportional to the number of votes gained nationwide, is what I would call “fair”.

Labour and Tory parties both benefit significantly under the current FPTP system and proposed AV systems.


    • koenfucius on April 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Isn't a problem with what you call "fair" that it would disadvantage regional parties? A party might poll 60% of the vote in a certain region, but barely a few % nationally. Even worse for independent candidates not affiliated with a party – their share of the national vote would be negligible, and so they would not stand little chance of being elected.

    • SomeBeans on April 16, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    @Koenfucius practically PR systems are usually based on constituencies of some sort – and so capture regional parties.

    Independent candidates stand little chance of election under the current system, I think there may be one in Northern Ireland this term and there was one in Wyre Forest in the last parliament.

    Regional parties are strongly represented in the devolved assemblies.

    The current system favours regional parties over parties who have widespread uniform support.

    • koenfucius on April 19, 2011 at 11:16 am

    @Somebeans (trying again – Blogspot has eaten my comment twice already. Grr!)

    I think the reason why independent candidates stand little chance is little to do with the voting system (but more with the whole electoral system in which party machines can devote more resources than individuals).

    In my view, what you call a "fair" proportional system, allocating seats on the basis of a national vote favours *national* *parties* – and hence disadvantages regional parties and even more so independent, non-party-affiliated candidates.

    So I'm not sure "fair" is a useful term: it may be unfair that a party polling, say, 10% of the vote nationally, gets nothing like 10% of the seats in parliament; but is it not equally unfair that someone who gets 50% of the vote in a specific area, but nationally less than 0.1%, doesn't stand a chance to get elected?

    How "fair" a proportional system is depends a lot on how big the constituencies are.

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