With the truly appalling outcomes for Labour and Lib Dems – compared to where they need to be to be competitive in the General Election in a few weeks – maybe it is time to start thinking about electoral reform again.
Let’s start with that old trope from the LibDems – “fair votes”. Kenneth Arrow got a Nobel prize for proving there’s no such thing. Stop using the term. You decide what are the key welfare criteria you want from your system, then you can choose a voting system that delivers those (and probably not the “unimportant criteria”).
Now, we know there is a strong desire in the UK to preserve the link between “an MP” and “a constituency”. Fair enough. But the Alternative Vote – defeated in the referendum a few years ago – is not the only, or indeed perhaps even best, replacement for first-past-the-post (FPTP)
Tony Marley – co-author on the BWS book with me – has written a lot about the maths behind voting systems. People don’t realise Best-Worst Scaling works as a voting system. Plus I reckon it’d be attractive in the UK.
Here’s an example of how it might work, and deliver a different outcome to that observed in the results just published in the Local Election for the TEES VALLEY.
FIRST ROUND RESULTS:
- CON – 40,278
- LAB – 39,797
- LD – 12,550
- UKIP – 9,475
SECOND ROUND RESULTS (TOP TWO GET 2nd PREFS):
- CON – 48,578
- LAB – 46,400
So what happened? It’s pretty obvious most UKIP 2nd prefs went Conservative – their boost is suspiciously close to the UKIP vote. Of course we know UKIP has also poached from Labour in LEAVE-dominated northern seats, but I doubt many “kippers” put LAB as 2nd pref.
Where are the rest of the 2nd prefs?
About 7,000 are missing in action. Maybe people just refused to put a 2nd preference or gave them to fringe parties.
But I bet they knew what party they hated most.
Here’s how it might have played out under BWS:
- LAB and LD voters encouraged to put Conservatives as “least”
- UKIP put Labour (primarily) as “least” – some will put LD
- CON put LAB as “least”
- CON “lose” around 52,000 (LAB/LD) votes
- LAB “lose” around 50,000 (CON/UKIP) votes
LIBDEM gain – or, if UKIP and some CON voters hate the LDs sufficiently (for their pro-Europe stance) even more than they hate Labour, then the “least” Labour vote leaves their net total beating the LIBDEMs. Either way the Conservatives don’t win – the UKIP/Conservative vote simply isn’t enough to offset both Labour and the LDs.
Of course with turnout around 21% a LOT more potential votes are up for grabs if people are energised to believe their vote(s) matter.
Worth thinking about.