April 27, 2010
In related news, freedom is slavery
David Cameron apparently sees no irony or contradiction in claiming that progressive voters should vote Conservative. For the most oxymoronic statement of the British election campaign, Mr Cameron wins a shiny new dictionary, from which in deference to anyone who falls for this the word “gullible” has been carefully removed.
In a particularly delicious irony, Cameron argued that “if you care about civil liberties” you should vote Conservative, apparently unaware that his shadow home secretary wants to allow B&B owners to discriminate against gay couples. Fail.
April 24, 2010
I’ve been wrestling with a couple of problems – call them X and Y – for a while now, and have been completely unable to find a satisfactory solution to either.
It turns out that if I give up on problem Y, then X not only ceases to be a problem, it becomes a solution.
April 20, 2010
The people screamed
I was checking up on New Zealand’s history with proportional representation and came across Elections New Zealand’s history of MMP (Mixed Member Proportional, NZ’s current electoral system).
The whole thing is worth a read, especially in the context of the current British election (in “the 1978 and 1981 elections … the Labour opposition actually secured more votes overall than National, but the latter won more seats in Parliament and remained in government” – sound familiar?). It describes how popular anger forced the main parties to offer electoral reform against their will, and it’s pretty open about the teething troubles as New Zealand transitioned from FPP to MMP. But my favourite bit is this rhetorical flourish from the opposition leader of the day when the results of the electoral reform referendum became known:
“Although only 55% of electors took part, an overwhelming 85% voted to change their electoral system. In the second part of the poll, 70% favoured MMP. As Labour leader Mike Moore put it: ‘The people didn’t speak on Saturday. They screamed.’”
(I also like the publicity material from the first MMP election, especially the school poster which pleads, “Please read this. You’ll probably have to explain it to your parents.”)
April 18, 2010
The Guardian: “A BPIX poll for Mail on Sunday puts the Lib Dems in the lead in the general election campaign for the first time ever – polling 32%, a bounce of 12% over the past week. The Tories were down seven points on 31%, while Labour dropped three to 28%.” (Scroll down to the 6:18pm entry.)
Acknowledging that there are the proverbial two chances of this being the actual election outcome, let’s feed these numbers into the BBC’s seat calculator gizmo:
I know I banged on about this yesterday, but this outcome is even more borked than the one I discussed then. Not only does the the party with the fewest votes (of the big parties) get the most seats, now the party with the most votes gets the fewest seats. The representation in Parliament is the exact opposite of the number of votes.
Even the Daily Mirror, which backs Labour and would love to see Labour as the largest party, concedes: “Talk of unfair. The case for electoral reform would be unanswerable.”
April 17, 2010
First past the post versus democracy
The BBC reports a poll for The Sun which shows the Conservatives leading the popular vote with 33%, the Liberal Democrats second with 30% and Labour third with 28%. While the poll is almost certainly an outlier, the big tell is what this would mean in parliamentary terms: Labour would be the biggest party with 276 seats, the Conservatives the second biggest with 245 and the Liberal Democrats the third with 100.
Savour that for a moment. Under the British first past the post electoral system, the party with the smallest share of the vote (of the big three) would get the greatest number of seats. The Conservatives, with 5% more support than Labour, would get 31 fewer seats. The Liberal Democrats, with 2% more support than Labour, would get barely a third the number of seats.
Next year, New Zealand will be holding a referendum on electoral reform, with one of the options on the ballot being to go back to a British-style first past the post system. The current British election shows that this would be a terrible, terrible choice. You can have first past the post, or you can have representative government: you can’t have both.