danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)
Where does  Brexit leave voting reform?

Very difficult to tell. It will depend on the how the cascade of crises we're about to have tumble. That is probably true for many things.

My view is obviously coloured by the fact that I think our poor voting system is one of the contributory factors in the Brexit vote. If you think that I'm an out of touch Guardian reading, metropolitian liberal elite wanker who is part of the problem then my diagnosis is unlikely to be persuasive.

There are I think a number of binary positions to consider that build up to some scenarios.

Brexit either will or will not happen before 2020.

The government either will or will not collapse.

The Labour Party will recognise that it has lost the firm support of many traditional voters or it will not.

Scotland either will or won't become independent.

The Party system either will or won't break down.

As a reaction to the shock to the Party System can progressives or conservaties gather round a vote winning leader or a vote winning platform or not? Are social liberals and economic liberals allied or opposed? Do they converge or diverge?

Amongst that there are some scenarios that favour voting reform or constitutional reform more widely.

For example, the government collapses before Christmas, without Brexit, the Labour Party runs on a manifesto of putting power back in the hands of people with a constitutional convention, electoral reform and regional devolution.

Or the less favourably, the Tories don't implode and quietly don't invoke Article 50, we get to 2020 and the North of England votes for UKIP, Scotland votes for independence, and the Tories continue to run the country just has they have been for the decade before.

I think we need electoral reform but it is difficult to persuade people that it the solution to the problems that they have in their lives because they don't see the connection between voting mechanics and how power is operated and how power is used to apply resources to solve problems.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I have not been successful in my bid to be elected to the Electoral Reform Society Council.

Once again I managed a respectable mid-table exit from the STV election. I expect I shall stand again next time round.

I picked up a decent number of first preferences. It's always gratifying, humbling and surprising to be someone's first choice for something. Thank you to those of you who gave me a high preference.
danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I am standing for election to the Council of the Electoral Reform Society. My election statement is below. Two other Unlock Democracy Council members are also standing, James Grindrod and Stephan Carter. We hope that having some cross over of membership of the two Councils will help the two organisations work well together.

You can still join the ERS and vote in the election. In order to vote you'll need to be register by the 24th July.


The last Council election had about 650 voters so your vote could well be influential. Also you can experience voting using STV.

Danny Zinkus Statement ERS Council Election Statement

Read more... )
danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)

I’m going to take a look at the checks and balances within the Strictly Come Dancing Electoral College. The purpose of the College is to select the couple who will leave the competition. I think there is a slight systemic bias in favour of weaker couple. This is probably reduced in practise by a correlation between the popular vote and the quality of the performance.

There are four elements to the Strictly Come Dancing Electoral College.  The judges’ scoring, the public vote, the combination of the these two elements and the dance off.

The judges’ scoring is very straightforward. Four judges award marks from 1-10 based on whatever criteria they like. The scores are amalgamated to give each couple a score from 4-40.  There is no special role for any particular judge. A point is worth a point regardless of how it is given or by whom.  Four 9’s are worth the same as  two 8’s and two 10’s.

The judges’ scores inform a leader board, top scoring couple at the top, lowest scoring couple at the bottom.  Points are awarded based on this ranking. The highest scoring couple scores points equal to the number of couples remaining in the competition. So if there were 8 couples left the top couple would score 8 points. The second place couple would score 7 and the lowest place couple would score 1. Couples who are tied, tie up, i.e. the two couples are awarded jointly the best place.  Two couples on the same score, 1 point behind the leader get joint second, rather than joint third. Everyone else moves up a place.  This tends to favour weaker dancers. There is a good chance that two or more couple will end up on the same score. This pulls the bottom placed couple up and they end up with more than 1 point. We’ll see how this works to their advantage when we turn to the public vote.

Four judges scoring independently provide a bit of balance to each other.  The judges’ scoring also give the public votes something to mill on.

The second stage of the Electoral College is the public vote.  Couples are ranked in order of their public vote on the night.  This ranking is converted into points in the same way as the ranking from the judges’ scores are converted into points. Given the very small possibility that couples will be tied on votes the rules on tie-ing up don’t favour unpopular couples in the way they favour poorer dancers.

This gives us two leader boards both converted into points.  To create the final leader board the points are added together to create a Combined Leader Board.  This balances up the professional opinions of the judges with the popular view of the public at large. (Sort of, I’d prefer that we used preferential voting for each round of the public vote.) In practise it is difficult for someone who finishes top to end up in the dance off.  It’s actually fairly easy for the bottom placed couple to avoid the dance off.

The bottom two couples enter the dance off. There are no tied places here.  In the event of a tie the couple with the largest public vote ranks higher.  This is where the rules on tie-ing up favour weaker dancers too.

Firstly, a couple who finish bottom of the judges scoring but top the popular vote will finish ahead of a couple who top the judges scoring but finish last in the public vote.  In a week with 8 couples the top ranking dancer would score 8 from the judges and 1 from the public vote. The bottom ranked dancers will pick up 1 point from the judges leader board and 8 points from the public vote. Both couple score 9 in total. The weaker, more popular dancers ranks ahead based on the public vote.  In situations where the top ranked for dancing couples are close on Combined Points with the weak dancers the stronger dancers must necessarily have performed worse in the public vote.

The second way the College favours weaker dancers is that they are more likely to be advantaged by the way tied couples tie-up.  In a week with 8 couple and two ties, say for 2nd and 4th spots, then the bottom ranked dancer takes 3 points into the Combined Leader Board from the dancing.  There is no way the top ranked dancer can score more than the maximum points, but the bottom ranked dancer could score more than the minimum points. Imagine a tie between the top two couples and the bottom two couples in an 8 couple week..  In this case if the best two dancing couples finished bottom and second bottom of the popular vote and the bottom two topped the voting they would end up with a combined scores as follows. Top Dancers, Lowest Votes, 8 +1 = 9, Top Dancer Second Lowest Vote, 8 + 2 = 10. Lowest Dancers, Top Vote,  3 + 8 = 11 points, Lowest Dancer, Second Top Vote, 3 + 7 = 10 votes. Both of the top dancers go into the dance off.  

If I were reforming the Strictly Electoral College I would change the way the judges’ leader board deals with ties by creating a tie-breaker. I’d probably start with highest numbers of 10’s, then 9’s in this week’s scoring then cumulatively.  So a couple with two 8’s and Two 10’s beats a couple with four 9’s.  Starting with the cumulative number of 10’s might also work as it favours couples with consistently good scoring.

The two bottom ranked couples go in to the last stage of the College which is the dance off. They perform again. The judges vote on who to save. There are in effect five votes. Len as head judge has two.  This will tend to favour stronger dancers. The judges have the final filter and will, by definition save the best couple of the two in the dance off. Whether they save the best couple on the night or the best couple over all is a matter for their conscience.  However, they can only save the best of the two couples offered up to them. As we’ve seen with John Sergeant and Anne Widdicombe popular but poor dancers can avoid the dance off all together for weeks.

The judges can signal their disdain by awarding four 1’s to a dancer but his still puts them in bottom place and gives them 1 or more Electoral College votes in the Combined Leader Board.

I think the rules of the Electoral College slightly favour weaker dancers particularly where they have strong public backing not connected to the quality of their dancing. This does make the competition more of a popularity contest than perhaps it first appears.  In practise this is probably mediated by the general tendency of the public to vote for the better dancers and the fact that over the long term the competition is really a run off voting system. A weak but popular dancer will eventually succumb to the Electoral College as their progress through the rounds begins to threaten better dancers and the vote for better dancers stiffens.

But then John Sergeant did happen.

danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)

I don’t know what to make of the decision of the Church of England not to allow women to become bishops.  Technically, but importantly, actually a decision not to change their current policy.

On the one hand it makes heehaw difference to me.  I’m not a member of the Church of England. To be blunt, and wearing my militant atheisticalism a little more on my sleeve than I like to think I usually do, the Church of England is wrong about several bigger things than women bishops.

Except, that as an atheist, actually that’s not true.  I don’t think there is a god and I think the process most people use to arrive at the conclusion gods exist is flawed.  I do think women are equal to men, that humans are equal to other humans, and I think the process I’ve used to arrive at that position is sound.  So, being mistaken about something I think doesn’t exist seems to me to be less important than being wrong about something as important and obvious as equal rights.

But then it’s not my church.

Except it is. Sort of. Being the Established Church. Well it’s the Established Church of England but not of Scotland where I live.

But Church of England Bishops get to sit in the House of Lords and make laws that affect me. Well, they do when the policy area isn’t a devolved matter.

Anyhow, electoral reform. I blame First Past the Post. Except it’s not really relevant here. Well, it kind of is.

The constitution of the Church of England seems to have what I would call a Constitutional Conservative Anchor. The constitution is explicitly rigged in favour of the status quo. This appears to be a feature of constitutions and operates to prevent a temporary majority changing the constitution to their long term advantage.  A notable exception is our constitution. In order to change the rules on eligibility for bishophood the General Synod requires a two third majority in each of its three houses. On the plus side, this does prevent rules being passed for which there is not  persistent and widespread support. On the other it does allow a relatively small number of people to block any reform. It places the right of a minority for things not to change over the right of a majority  who want change. Everyone moves or no one does.

This is in marked contrast to the way things would work at the Westminster Parliament. There, using First Past the Post sufficiently motivated and well organised minorities can gain control of the legislative process for a time.  If you actually have a popular majority (rather than a popular plurality) then you are pretty much unstoppable. 

Were the general Synod operating more like the Westminster Parliament the pro-equality side would have won the vote. But they clearly wouldn’t have won the argument.  Those against women bishops clearly feel very strongly about it.  No matter the literally open mouthed surprise from My Lovely Wife at their views those who hold them appear to hold them very dearly.  So what would their choices have been had the decision been taken by a simple majority?  They could leave the Church.  But it is their Church.  They could meekly accept the will of others. But they think those others are not only wrong but gravely mistaken about the nature of what it means to be part of the Church. They could not so meekly accept the new rules. Accept that they are the rules but complain about them all the time, protest them, not co-operate with newly ordained women bishops.  They could seek to reverse the decision.

I imagine all of those would happen to some degree.

To restore the status quo anti the traditionalists would need to gain temporary control of the General Synod and reverse the decision and make things right again. Dealing in some way with those actual women who had actually been made bishops in the meantime.  And if they succeeded their now enemies would try to re-gain control of the Synod and reverse the reversal and deal in some way with those men who have been appointed bishops who would not have been had women been eligible at the time. Whomever is left standing at the end of the process may well have won the war but have already lost the peace.

This does not sound like a consensus to me. This sounds like an open sucking wound in the soul of the institution.

What I imagine will happen now is that the Church of England will continue to discuss the issue of the appointment of women bishops during the period when the matter is barred from a vote in Synod. They will try to reach consensus because that is the practical effect of the constitutional rules they have.  In a few years  they will vote again.  If they vote in favour of appointing women bishops then I would have confidence that this decision will be stuck with and that most people in the Church of England will accept it as legitimate. When the change comes I think it will be persistent and enjoy widespread support.

Whilst I think the current decision is wrong I think the eventual final decision will have been made in a better way and enjoy more support and more legitimacy.

So for me it’s an interesting example of how electoral systems affect both the practise and the practical outcome of politics.

I don’t imagine this is much comfort to the many women priests who continue to be barred  from practising their ministry or leading their church.

This would all be by-the-by for me. An interesting example of electoral processes in a body which means nothing to me and where I am actively against the founding tenants.  A bit like watching the internal appointment process for the manager of Rangers Football Club.

Except that some bishops of the Church of England get to sit in the legislature of my country as of right.  No leaders from other religious or philosophical groupings get a bye into the House of Lords. Richard Dawkins has to apply the same way as everyone else. Which is by sucking up to the Prime Minister.

The reform I want for the House of Lords is not for other religions to be able to appoint their leaders into my legislature.  I want the whole thing done away with and replaced by an elected body. If you want the Archbishop of  Canterbury to sit in the Upper House you get him (or her) elected.  But the Constitutional Conservative Anchor that is the House of Lords seems to be reluctant to abolish itself. So I guess I’ll just have to go about building some consensus about Lords Reform.

danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)

Two pieces of analysis on the Coming Lib Dem collapse crossed my desk this morning. The first is an analysis of the potential electoral outcomes for the Lib Dem, Conservative and Labour parties if the current polling position for the Lib Dems of about 10% translates into vote share at the 2015 General Election.

The first is from Robert Ford, of the University of Nottingham School of Politics and International Relations, the second is from Hopi Sen, Labour blogger and co-author of In The Black Labour.http://hopisen.com/2012/the-coming-libdem-collapse-and-labour/#comment-13293

Ford trials two scenarios for the shifting of Lib Dem voters and looks at the results.  The first is a universal national swing. Lib Dems lose seats to the Tories, the Tories lose seats to Labour in Con-Lab marginal with high 2010 Lib Dem votes. The end result is that the Labour party ends up 6 seats short of a majority in the House of Commons with the Lib Dems on 11 seats. 

Which allows the Labour Party to form a majority coalition with the Lib Dems, or for the Conservative Party to form a (rather unlikely) coalition with the Lib Dems and the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland.

The second scenario looks at the votes cast if the current split of 2010 Lib Dems votes hold true for defected to Labour, the Tories, to Don’t Know (further re-allocated) and stayed Lib Dem.

This scenario sees the Lib Dems reduced to zero seats in the House of Commons and the Labour party sweeping to a Hung Parliament, 14 seats short of an absolute majority.

The SNP finish on about 7 seats.  I’ll let those with a calculator do that sum.

Hopi Sen broadly agrees with the analysis but questions some of the detail about how Don’t Knows split between Labour, Lib Dems and Conservative. He also asks some questions about UKIP. Things will be messier than just one axis of change.

In real life lots of stuff will happen that goes against the general rub of the green and actual results might vary and in such a close election might prove significant.

On this analysis the results look far from being a Labour landslide.  It doesn't take much to shift for both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party to end up on functionally the same number of seats and for the Lib Dems to end up more influential than they were in 2010.  If this strikes you as a perverse result, well that's First Past the Post for you.

And raises the question touched on in an earlier post of mine, who do you vote for if you want constitutional change and electoral reform?

It seems clear to me that if you want Devo-Max and you concede that the Yes to Independence campaign won’t win the 2014 election then I think the party to vote in any seat where the SNP came second to the Labour Party is the SNP. 

Which doesn’t help me much. I live in a three way marginal, and the SNP are 4th.

danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)

I’ve just had the most amazing conversation.  Angus Reid Scottish artist is a work in play about a Call for a Constitution.  He’s written a poem, based on a statement of shared values discussed at a series of workshops he ran. The poem is currently on display at 12 locations


Each poem has a large, large piece of white paper next to it and people are invited to put their hand on the paper and draw round their hand and sign it.  I’ve just seen the First Minister’s hand on it, near the Lib Dem MSP for Orkney and various others.

He’ll be talking about his work and the process of engaging people in democracy at the Scottish Parliament on 25th September and at each of the other 11 venues around the country.

The experience more than makes up for a conversation I had on twitter about political economics and entrepreneurship in a post-Independence Scotland (at least that’s what I thought it was about.) Which confirmed once again that twitter is a poor medium for nuanced conversations of any sort, but certainly for politics and economics and science or those areas where they overlap.

Here is the poem. I hope it cheers and enthuses you as much as it did me.

If I as a writer of poetry

Were called up to give a form of words

To model the nation’s behaviour

It would be this

Ownership obliges

Everyone to respect and to care for

The sacred

To respect and to care for

Freedom of conscience

 And to recognise

The gift of every indvidual

To respect it

Care for it, nourish it

To care for and protect communities


To care for the land

And whereever

The land has been abused to restore it

So that it can support all forms fo life

Five principles, five fingers on the hand.

danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)

I like to think about strategy and I like to think I’m a hard headed pragmatist. Maybe I am but I’m also sentimental and I’m a story-teller. In recent months I’ve been inspired by two statues, outside two houses, of two men. Really I’ve been inspired by the organisations they built. I’m inspired by how they built their organisations and about the story that tells me about how the Reform Movement can prosper in the UK.

The first is a a statue of John Wesley in Bristol. It stands in the courtyard of the New Rooms, the  chapel and meeting rooms and hostel built by the Methodist community in Bristol. Being a Methodist in Bristol was hard work in the 18th Century. If you were against slavery Bristol was not the place to go for an easy life. The New Rooms are designed with no low windows, so that it was harder for mobs of irate Bristolians to break them. The pulpit is only reachable by going up into the gallery and then down into the pulpit, to make it harder for irate Bristolians to drag the preacher out of the pulpit and beat him.

The New Rooms are very elegant, simple and beautifully light, they are a lovely place to contemplate God, or in my case Reform. Above the chapel is a hostel and office space. Here the Wesley’s stayed when the were in Bristol. Any one of the hundreds of Methodist preachers could stay there as they criss-crossed Britain bringing their message of faith and social justice to the peoples of Britain. Every Methodist preacher in Britain passed through the New Rooms and ate a meal at the table in the refrectory.

Then the preachers would continue with their circuits, gathering their congregations. They would gather their congregations whereever they could find them and talk to them outside, in the sunshine or the rain. They would talk with whomever would listen.

The New Rooms were a nexus for the Methodist movement. It is where the conversations happened.  All the little conversations about who is doing what, and all the big conversations about how their community worked, and lived. They broke bread together and shared their lives, both in word and deed. Then they went out to talk with people who wanted to talk, and to talk with people who didn’t want to talk.

The second statue is of John Cartwright, the Father of Reform. His statue stands in the garden of a square where he made his final home in Bloomsbury.  Cartwright created the London Corresponding Scociety, The Hampden Clubs and others like them, which brought working men and women together, physically and through correspondence to talk about Reform, about Universal Suffrage and how they might achieve it. The clubs and societies he founded were often persecuted and eventually outlawed. He was due to speak at a large public meeting of the Manchester Patriotic Union in 1819. This became the Peterloo Massacre. Cartwright died in 1824, eight years before the Great Reform Act of 1832 widened the franchise and for the first time Britain approached democracy.

What links these men and what I find inspirational about them and useful for the Reform Movement is that they both set out to create spaces for conversation.  Spaces for people to talk who didn’t already have a voice. They each put time and effort into walking the land talking to people, encouraging and facilitating a wide, diverse and deep conversation. They encouraged other people to go out and facilitate their own conversations. Out of that conversation, out of the structures they put in place for conversation grew organisations that lead to profound social and political change in our country.

In the 21st Century we don’t necessarily need to gather congregations or found clubs. I don’t see myself tramping from town to town for the next ten years.  The method of the 18th and 19th centuries are not necessarily the methods for the 21st.  The lesson I take from John Wesley and John Cartwright is this.  The Reform Movement needs to talk.  The Reform Movement needs to talk amongst itself.  We need to talk about our goals and our aims and our methods. We need to talk about our values and aspirations.  Then, we need to go and talk to people who are not in the Reform Movement. We need to ask them about their values and aspirations.  We need to talk with them about our common goals. We need to have thousands and thousands of conversations.  Conversations between two people. Conversations amongst hundreds of us gathered togethered. Quiet pints in dark pubs, Skype calls after hurried dinners,  rowdy curries after conferences, emails, blogs, pamphlets, facebook status. Conversations with friends, with colleagues, with allies, conversations with those undecided or uniterested or focused on something else, conversations with enemies.

What I take from Wesley and Cartright for myself is this.  My role in this is to be one of the people who helps the conversation to happen.

danieldwilliam: (Default)

The ERS are conducting a members’ survey.

One of the questions is

Can you tell us the 3 democratic values or principles that are most important to you?

The space for the answer implies that a concise response is required.

I struggled with the question. Here are the notes of my struggle.

For me, there are in a democratic society two tensions that need to be paid attention to. 

I think you get better decisions if you involve more people in the decision making process and if the decisions are made as close to those who are going to affected by them as possible. On the other hand, some endeavours are best undertaken at a scale larger than can be effectively managed by getting all the people affected in a room and talking the issue through. There are specialist skills and knowledge required in many decisions. There is a tension between taking decisions as closely as possible to the people and our society organising itself in the most efficient and effective way. A solution for this is that we collectively delegate responsibility for managing our common endeavours to individuals or small groups.

The second tension is between the will of the majority and the individual. These are the questions about where the rights of the community to influence the lives of individuals start and finish and the rights of individuals to conduct their lives in ways that cause distress to the community. Some of these rights are the right not be interfered with. Others are the right to actively do something. Freedoms from and freedoms to. Often it is expedient to ignore these rights

There is a third issue, I don’t think it’s a tension, because for me the principle is obvious and non-negotiable. People should have an equal share in the management of their communities. The practicalities are harder.

The structures and institutions that we put in place affect how much of share people get in practise.  Representative democracy focused on a large chamber where people stand up and talk which is mediated by short television interviews suits a certain type of person. Governing ourselves using internet forums would suit a certain type of person. Whatever systems and institutions we create we are going to advantage some people and disadvantage other.  We should seek to minimise this effect when we design them and we should seek to find other ways for those disadvantaged to participate in our collective decision making to ensure that they are given fair and equal practical access.

There are some pretty big questions floating around here.

What is clear to me is that these tensions are not resolvable in all cases for all times into a single set of rules.  We should not be afraid of the cost or effort required to govern ourselves or to reflect on the quality of thought and conversation that we all bring to our collective government. The tensions implicit in common government require constant dialogue and reflection.

But I was asked for three values – so here are mine, as pithily as I could put them. They are the starting point for my conversation with democracy and come with an implicit reminder to myself that unless these values are taken out and tested and examined in real life every day they are just platitudes.

When making community decisions we should ensure that all individuals have an equal share of power, both in theory and in practise.

That we should make decisions as closely as possible to those people affected by those decisions and where delegation of decisions, management or administration  of our common endeavours is required we should ensure that those whose take on those delegations are accountable to those whose power they have borrowed, in theory and in practise.

That both individuals and communities have rights that ought not to be violated and duties that ought to be fulfilled no matter how expedient it would be otherwise, we should agree on these foundational rights and duties in advance and express them as clearly as can, so that everyone can understand their rights and obligations, in theory and practise, and where a dispute exists about these rights and duties these should be resolved by disinterested individuals in as open a way as possible.

danieldwilliam: (Default)

So, that’s the analysis of the Unlock Democracy Council elections by Constituency.




London and South East

 Some broader picture points.

Turnout was quite low.

The West had the best turnout at 22.8%, London and the South East 16.9%. Overall turnout was 20.7%.

Whilst the allocation of seats by elector could not be bettered, the allocation of seats by actual voter favours London and disfavours the North with 68.57 votes cast for each seat elected in London and 110 votes cast per seat in the North. This is obviously a feature of the differential turnout.

Spoilt Ballots were 1% of the total cast which compares unfavourably with UK Westminster spoilt ballots of between 0.11% and 0.35% between 1945 and 2001.

Out of 19 members of council, 9 have not served on the council before.

Unlock Democracy operates protected seats for gender (1/3rd at least of men and women) and ethnicity (at least 2 self-identified ethnic minorities).  All of the gender protected seats fell naturally and one of the ethnic protected seats fell naturally leaving 1 councillor elected as a result of protected seats.

Once again, thanks to Lalland Peat Worrier for his method of presentation

danieldwilliam: (Default)

Finally, to the North, and home.

Of the 1,413 electors 330 voted giving a turnout of 23.4%. The quota was 82.

These brave Northern electors were charged with selecting 3 members of the council from 7 candidates on offer. They set off to do so with alactrity.

Elected with 97 1st Preferences is former vice-chair Stuart Hill.  

Hill’s surplus votes and the transfers from Dane Roberts and Stephen Hesford put Peter Hirst on 86.68 and elected second. Zinkus-Sutton sits on 61.48, significantly, but not untouchably ahead of Wil Savage and Andrew Ducker. Hirst’s handful of surplus votes break kindly for Zinkus-Sutton and he moves to 64.12, some 16.56 votes ahead of Savage.

Even a slightly uneven split of transfers from Andrew Ducker in favour of Wil Savage wasn’t enough to for Savage to catch Zinkus-Sutton and Zinkus-Sutton finishes in 3rd place on 77.12, 12.56 votes clear of Savage to take the final North seat.

Again, this is a seat where the top placed candidates on 1st preferences went on to win election and despite a valiant effort from Andrew Ducker no on managed to change their ranking during the transfer process.

North Constituency Chart

danieldwilliam: (Default)

To London and the South East and the worst turn out in a pretty dire set of turnouts for a pro-democracy campaign group. Of 2,845 electors, only 480 or 16.9% cast a ballot.

18 candidates stood for 7 places. Quota of 59.25

Chris Carrigan, who also sits on the Council of the Electoral Reform Society was elected first. He tops the first preference polling with 53 a few votes short of the quota but it’s not until round 6 with the exclusion of Kevin McNamara that Carrigan picks up the necessary votes (60) to be elected.

In a curious twist of the Single Transferrable Vote count Carrigan’s surpluses are not distributed immediately and Tom Miller is excluded. Miller’s preferences break heavily towards Finola Kelly and she is elected with 64 votes.

This is the only constituency where the final ordering of candidates didn’t follow their first preference rank.

Carrigan overtaken by Kelly.  Susan Murray moves from 6th place in round 1 to 5th place.  Andrew Blick falls from 5th on first preferences to 7th.

However, of the 7 top ranked candidates on first preferences none failed to secure election.

Outside of the top seven there were tussles between Tom Miller and Debbie Chay and between Henderson, Colwell and Walsh with priority changing hands between candidates as transfers swung from round to round. Looking at the kinked shape of the graphs I am reminded of the economics lectures on oligopoly. A somewhat unhappy occurance whilst contemplating Unlock Democracy election results.

Elected for London and the South East

Chris Carrigan
Finola Kelly
Stephen Carter
Rosemary Bechler
Susan Murray
John Stafford
Andrew  Blick

In John Stafford I think we see a rare and very welcome Conservative in the ranks of Unlock Democracy officials.

London and SE Constituency

danieldwilliam: (Default)

We next skip merrily to the East Constituency, of Yorkshire and the Humber, the East Midlands and East of England and we bring out the big guns.

Out of 1,746 22.7% cast their vote giving 392 votes, electing 4 members with a quota of 78.4.

Elected on the first round with a whopping 102 first preferences is current chair Vicky Seddon. Second preferences from Seddon help Charter 88 founder and former New Statesman Editor, Stuart Weir, into the second seat.

Third placed Diana Wallis sits on 65.14 votes after preferences are distributed from Weir.  Behind the former MEP in fourth place is Liz Carlton on 45.18, and in fifth place is Nan Sloane on 34.47. With no one else polling more than 15 votes and 6 other candidates this looks like it’s going to be a relatively comfortable result for Diana Wallis and a long slog for Calton to pick up the last seat ahead of Sloan.

And so it proves and I think you can really see the nature of the race for 3rd and 4th places on the chart.

With a few candidates with relatively few votes none of the next few transfer rounds prove decisive. Transfers break more or less equally between the remaining candidates and both Wallis and Carlton nudge closer to election.

Both Wallis and Carlton hold on to the gap they had after the 3rd round. Wallis reaches the quota and Carlton finishes on 72.5 votes to Sloan’s 60.78. Had Holvey’s preferences bucked the general trend of being evenly distributed Sloan could have caught Carlton.

A final note of interest is that Owais Rajput was elected to council as the only protected candidate.

East Constituency Chart

danieldwilliam: (Default)

Starting my brief electoral analysis with the West Constituency, of Wales, South West and the West Midlands.


This election looks to have been over pretty much as soon as the first preferences were counted.


Out of 1,615 voters 22.8 % cast a total of 366 votes, electing 4 members and a quota of 73.2 first preferences saw 3 of the 4 councillors elected.  Mary Southcott top billed with 99 first preferences followed by Eithne George on 83. Round 3 of the count saw the exclusion of Christine Herbert-Mosavie, who in an election with a  ban on active campaigning failed to submit a personal statement and gathered only 3 first preferences.  The final candidate elected on first preferences was Phil Starr, former Chair of Charter 88.


This left Alan Debenham and Philip Davis contesting the last seat.  Debenham had out polled Davis on first preferences by 39 to 23.  Out of a total of 43 redistributed votes he picked up 12.57 to move to 51.57 with Davis picking up 8.08 to move to 31.08.  With only a further 43 votes up for grads Davis would need to nearly ¾ of them to catch Debenham and this proved too much for him. Davis narrowed the gap but couldn’t overturn it. Davis finished on 49.91 votes. Debenham elected with 64.68.

West Constituency Chart

danieldwilliam: (Default)
I have been elected to the Council of Unlock Democracy. I'll be serving the North Constituency as the third member and most northerly member.

This follows my unsuccessful attempt to be elected to the Electoral Reform Society council last year.

It's quite a responsibilty.

The second item is that I'll be providing some brief electoral analysis.  I'll be using a format developed by the most excellent Lallands Peat Worrier to chart the election results.

The charts show the accumlated votes for each candidate as the count moves through each round. I think they give a better indication of how close the election result was at a glance in a way that a quick look at first preferences doesn't.

I'll be starting with the West Constituency.
danieldwilliam: (electoral reform)

I was asked what I thought of this anniversary of the 5th May blogpost by Milena Popova.

I don’t disagree with the analysis of the last 18 months. The Yes campaign was badly run. Most of the post referendum analysis started with “It wasnae me.” Unhelpful when you want to re-group and what you need is some discussion on how to keep a mass reform campaign going.  The sort-of-promised support for local groups doesn’t appear to have materilised (1)

So I share the frustration with where the pro-electoral reform campaign is now and how we got here. Does that mean that I agree that we should say the Viaticum over the body of Electoral Reform? I’m not nearly so pessimistic about the longer term outcome, or even the medium term outcome.  As Warren Buffet might say “Look at the fundamentals.”

Current and Future Usage of Electoral System.

The citizens of the UK are increasingly exposed to electoral systems other than First Past the Post(2).  Scotland uses the Additional Member System of PR for Holyrood, the Single Transferable Vote for local elections (and the Alternative Vote for local council by-elections.) Wales uses a form of PR for Assembly Elections. Northern Ireland uses STV for Assembly elections. London has the same electoral system as Scotland for its Assembly elections and uses the Suplementary Vote for Mayoral elections. A few more cities in England will also be using that system for their own mayoral elections over the next few years. Perhaps 1 in 5 voters are already regularly using PR for devolved chamber elections.

For European elections most of the UK uses the D’hondt form of PR to elect MEP’s(3)

So the British electorate is already exposed to a variety of electoral systems.  Directly elected police commissioners and an elected House of Lords increases the breadth of alternative voting methods in use. In fact, so many different electoral systems do we have in use in the UK that barely a year goes by without somebody somewhere using a non-FPTP electoral system and a different one each time. (4) (6)

The British electorate is increasingly able to use different electoral systems. They get to see how different electoral systems affect how their votes turn into representation. They see what different systems do to the choice they are offered and what they do to politicians’ behavior. Politicians too are growing up using and being elected through different electoral systems. They are more used to the compromises required by different electoral systems.

I think the direction of travel is towards more widespread use of different electoral methods. Lords Reform and local councils in England and Wales are both potential next steps.

Using different electoral systems is important for campainging reasons. It removes a number of the stronger arguments of the status quo camp. We’ve always used FPTP, it’s the British way – increasingly we don’t and increasing it isn’t. Other electoral systems are too complex and you can’t predict the results. Millions of Britons now use them annually and do so effectively. You can’t be sure what sort of madmen you will get and the coalitions will be a shambles. I think many Britons can see how their votes translate in the representation they are getting. They can see that in Scotland PR has lead to stable, even dull, government without a swivel-eyed lunatic fringe appearing. (10) They have more experience of the way coalitions work, or don’t work. They can see the differences for good and bad of the different electoral systems.

Electoral reform, to some extent, is already happening.

Lords Reform

There are a number of ways Lords Reform is important for electoral reform more broadly.

Firstly, it gives an electoral foothold for a variety of political parties other than Labour or the Conservatives. UKIP, the Greens, the SNP and the Lib Dems could all expect to pick up seats in an elected House of Lords using STV. This is important for two reasons. It gives those parties credibility (7), it gives them paid positions supported by the State in the form of salaried members and staff and Short Money, it gives them a platform. Secondly, each of these parties is in favour of electoral reform in principle.

Secondly, at some point a  UK government is going to be dependent on UKIP, Lib Dem, SNP or Green votes in the House of Lords for something. At some point the quid pro quo for not sparking a vote of no confidence will be movement on electoral reform. 

Thirdly, an elected House of Lords using STV would mean the whole British electorate was using STV for one half of a general election. (8) 

Fourthly, an elected House of Lords using STV already is electoral reform.  That’s STV in use in the UK at a Westminsiter general election. I know some genuine electoral reform activists who would consider that not only good progress but the perfect outcome. Let’s just sit with that for a moment. STV used at a UK general election in my life time.

Broad Electoral Trends.

The electoral trend since the war has been steadily lower turn outs and a steady increase in the vote share of the Not-The-Labour-or-Conservative-Parties-Party.  There seems no reason for this trend to reverse.  I’m sure the Liberal Democrats are going to suffer a drop in vote share at the next General Election.  I expect they will lose many seats (9).  I also expect this to reverse somewhat after the 2015 election. I also expect UKIP to continue to poll well.

At some point we are going to end up with another coalition. Probably not in 2015 but perhaps in 2020. Probably involving the Lib Dems but it might be a centre-right coalition of UKIP and the Conservative party.  If you are negotiating a coalition with one of the main two parties and you have an interest in electoral reform what is the big take away from 2010? Don’t faff about with referenda for your third choice electoral system. Insist on legislating for STV.

The more elections we have where smaller parties poll millions of votes and get a handfull of seats the stronger our case for reform.

Campaigning Network.

A network of pro-electoral reformers and reform organisations was created. It still exists. It needs some careful nurturing.  My experience in Edinburgh was that a fair few people who had never taken part in a political campaign got involved.  I’m still in touch with quite a few of them.  Many of them are still pro-reform campaigners – for a given value of campaigning.

We’re all a bit more experienced. We know better how to organise. We know better what happens if we don’t trust our instincts when we are badly lead. We have a long, long list of things we’d do differently if we had the chance. Next time round we won’t be campaigning for our third choice option.

I don’t want to appear Poly-Annaish about the strength of the existing reform network. It’s in dire need of some attention from the ERS and UD. It could easily evaporate into an effective nothingness, especially if there is nothing for it to do or to celebrate in the next twelve months. However, it still exists. It still breaths.  The evening before the anniversary of the 5th of May I was at a meeting of the Edinburgh group. I know there are internal reformers actively engaged in making the two reform organisations better at organising reform.

I think the fundamentals are good for electoral reform in the UK. We already have a variety of elections using different electoral systems and we are adding more. We have a big chance and a big success in House of Lords reform. We may have STV introduced next year for elections in 2015. The electoral trends favour our arguments and give us opportunities and we have the remnants of an organisation that is trying to promote reform.

So, is Electoral Reform dead? I’d echo Mark Twain, rumours of its death are greatly exagerated.

(1) and I write this as one of the convenors of one of the more successful local campaigns who has both an Electoral Reform regional office and the former Chair of the ERS in my city. Unlock Democracy have also not picked up the phone to check in.  (Saying that, I’ve not phoned them.)

 (2) or to give it its Sunday name, Single Member Plurality voting.

 (3) NI uses STV – FTW.

 (4) Since 2010 I have used FPTP (SMP)(5), the Additional Member System and STV.

 (5) I’m sorry I just can’t help using the proper name for FPTP – because it says right on the title page how poor a system it is.

 (6) This excludes the large number of people who use different election methods for civic organisations such as University student bodies and Unions.

 (7) if they earn it – BNP local councillors I’m looking at you.

 (8) I know the elections are going to be stagered but still 50% of our chambers will be elected using STV.

 (9) and they may, ironically, end up with as many elected Senators as they do Representatives. I refer interested readers to the history of the Democrat Party in Australia and the dictum of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the Maharal of Prague, “Sometimes influence is more powerful than power.” 

(10) Unless you count Baron Watson of Invergowrie, the notorius fire raiser of that most radical of parties; the Labour Party.

danieldwilliam: (Default)
Last night I had the good fortune to attend a briefing at Holyrood by Professor John Curtice** of work commissioned by the Electoral Reform System and hosted by Neil Bibby, former Scottish Regional Co-ordinator for Yes to Fairer Votes and now an MSP. I also got to meet Katie Ghose and Willie Sulivan from the ERS who I worked with a little on the AV Referendum.

Prof Curtice was talking to this report on the way the Scottish electoral system has operated and been used by electors. It’s not a report on why the SNP won the election.


The interesting points from the report from me are

The D’Hondt system used in Scotland is much, much proportional than the Single Member Plurality system. *** No great surprise there, using proportional representation gives you a more proportional result. What was interesting was that the this result was no more or less proportional than other results in Scotland using the same system in previous elections.

The D’Hondt system using regional lists tends to favour larger parties. What makes the result look less proportional is that the previous government Party was in fact two parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. With the disproportionality concentrated more in one party’s favour than in two it looks starker. Also, the disproportionality has favoured the SNP when it wasn’t supposed to.

Curtice appeared to take some glee in pointing out to the Labour Party that they have reaped what they have sown when they set up the system thinking that they would always be the largest party. I think there is a word of caution there for the Tories with their support for Single Member Plurality. When you pick an electoral system because it favours you in the current structure then you shouldn’t be surprised when you suffer badly if the structure changes. I for one look forward with great joy to UKIP winning some seats at the next UK General Election. If I were a Labour supporter in a safe Tory seat I’d vote UKIP.

Due to the combination of the D’Hondt method and the use of regions there appears to be a de facto threshold of 5% of the vote in order to win any seats. Not quite but nearly. Running the result on the same votes using a national rather than a regional top up would give the Liberal Democrats 7 members rather than 5 with the Greens on nil rather than 2. Using a 4% threshold the Greens would be allocated 6 seats.

Curtice has usefully run the same votes through a different but similar method of seat allocation the Sainte Lague method. This gives a more proportional result and corrects some of the bias towards larger parties. Using Sainte Lague the Greens would have been allocated 7 seats. The same votes, in the same places counted slightly differently triple the representation of the Green Party George Galloway would have won a seat. Make of this what you will.

What you can’t see from running the votes cast through different system is how people would have voted using that different system. Would more people have voted Green if it looked likely that they would win 7 seats rather 2? Who knows?

Electors seem to be quite savvy about the system. Green voters are slightly more likely to cast a blank ballot in the constituency vote where Green candidates don’t stand. Voters generally seem happy to split their vote between the constituency and list ballots; often favouring incumbent constituency candidates.

The Labour Party’s refusal to allow candidates to stand in both the constituency and list ballots has resulted in a large turnover of Labour MSP’s. Proportionately they are very inexperienced. I fear that they could be overwhelmed as the largest non-government party and carry a record of ineffectiveness into the next election. Coupled with the advantage that incumbents have in the constituency vote I think Labour may struggle for a few terms with the effect of their “winning loser” policy.

The big take aways for me were; Labour have shot themselves in both feet and if you support a smaller party, or just favour greater proportionality, a small change in the voting system could make a big difference.

** http://www.crest.ox.ac.uk/curtice.htm

*** AKA First Past the Post


danieldwilliam: (Default)

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