"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Labour's "Last Chance Saloon"

Not my words but the title of a paper written for Yes to AV campaigners in the Labour camp.

There's a headline in the Daily Mail  this morning:  'Fears move to poll reform will give BNP voters more say at ballot box'.  Oh really?

Predictably most of the commenters have accepted the article as truth and responded along the lines of, 'well if that's the case, I'm voting yes'.  But AV will only entrench the type of government we have now; it isn't true Proportional Representation and if AV is adopted we shouldn't kid ourselves that there'll be another chance to change the voting system in our lifetimes. We will be left with a European-style voting system which has created coalition after coalition and unstable governments.

Our present coalition is an example of what we can expect - manifestos worth even less than they are under FPTP, policies torn up as two or three Parties horse-trade amongst themselves to write new agreements that see their pet projects carried out, whether people voted for them or not.

Shortly after the last GE when a referendum on AV was being mooted many voices were raised pointing out that under that system Labour would have retained power.  According to The Last Chance Saloon Labour would have increased its seats in every GE since 1997. Ask yourselves why, after years of opposition, the Labour Party suddenly swung behind the Yes to AV campaign.

Here's their Executive Summary from the 16-page analysis:
  • This paper shows that the Labour Party is likely to benefit from the introduction of the Alternative Vote
  • With changes of the boundaries – to make more equal sized constituencies – the Labour Party will suffer electorally. This will be remedied by second preferences from Liberal Democrat and to a degree Green voters, which Labour is likely to win.
  • By opposing the Alternative Vote – or by campaigning half-heartedly for it – the Labour Party is likely to deprive itself of a chance to gain seats, and even of unseating the Government in the next General Election.
  • In every election since 1997, the Labour Party would have gained more seats under AV than under First-Past-the-Post. There is only one academic study that gives Labour fewer seats than actually won under First-Past-the-Post, and this was in an unrepresentative year.
  • The Supplementary vote (a variant of the Alternative Vote) has – contrary to many myths – benefitted the Labour Party in the London Mayoral Election. Had Ken Livingstone won second preferences from 0.04 voters he would have beaten Boris Johnson, although Livingstone only won 36% of the first preference votes against Johnson’s 42%.
  • The introduction of AV would lead to a slight over representation of Labour and a modest underrepresentation of the Conservatives.
  • Analyses showing that the Conservatives could benefit from the introduction of AV (as recently suggested by John Curtice) are not based on empirical evidence but on assumptions.
  • The Conservative think-tanks are publishing studies which seek to undermine the case for AV. Most recently, study by Centre-right think tank Policy Exchange described AV as ‘the system that no-one wants’. This campaign against AV, is circumstantial evidence that the Tories fear that the introduction of AV would strengthen Labour.
From the body of the report:
The assessment and the conclusion that AV would almost electorally annihilate the Tories were also reached in a more thorough – and more academic - study carried out by Patrick Dunleavy and colleagues13. According to their analysis, the Conservative Party would have won only 19 percent of the seats – although they won 31.4 percent of the seats in 1997. The Labour Party, having won 44 percent of the votes would have won no fewer than 68 percent of the seats, a majority of 245 compared to the actual majority of 179.
I have to ask myself why UKIP is supporting Yes to AV, particularly since, according to Guido, they're being excluded from the campaign:

There's more to this than meets the eye and people have to stop being so reliant on newspaper headlines for their 'truths'.


  1. Whatever, we need change, that's for sure.

  2. Not just change but positive change, OR - it won't come from AV. I think we're being sold a pup.


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