Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Graphs! Why Electoral Reform Is Needed (even if you don't think AV is the right step to take) #AVreferendum

Close, isn't it, between the top three?  Pity their seats in Parliament don't reflect this:

It's no surprise really, that Nick Clegg sold out to the Tories in order to secure the smallest chance of some meagre electoral reform he once described as "a miserable little compromise".

The problem is that the Lib Dem supporters are spread fairly evenly over the country, as opposed to the Tories who you'll find more in rural areas, and Labour supporters concentrated in urban areas.  So the Lib Dems come second everywhere in our "First Past The Post" system.

It's even worse for the smaller parties who have some significant support, but not concentrated in any one location.  The Greens should have 6 or 7 seats by proportion of the vote.  They have just one, and they were extremely fortunate to get that.

So you get this sort of ratio between votes received and seats won in Parliament:

This is not a fair system.  You cannot honestly disagree with that.  You might argue that AV isn't the right change to make, and I'd agree it's not ideal.  It's not a big improvement.  But it's the only option we're being given, and it's an improvement, however small.  (You might disagree with that bit.)

If we don't make that change now, we'll be giving the main parties a mandate to claim that the public are happy with the way our elections are run.  And I certainly don't think you can agree with that claim.  Not on a voter turnout of 65.1% in one of our closest elections in years.

If you want all these bar charts in one handy image, you can find them here.  Data from the BBC website.


  1. (for the avoidance of confusion, I'm responding to earlier comments which have now vanished, at least from where I'm looking - whatever would John Stuart Mill have said?)

    You said that AV would benefit the Greens but not the BNP. Yes, that's certainly correct. But I thought that at the time you were talking about PR, since you were discussing votes per seat. A switch to PR would be of greater benefit to the BNP than it would be to the Greens. AV isn't proportional. I don't know how realistic anyone's guesses are about the consequences of AV are, but at the last election, the BBC were expecting that AV would skew things more towards Labour, less towards the Conservatives, and about the same with respect to the LDs.

  2. They haven't disappeared. They're over here. I think I'll actually stop double posting - it's just that there will be a fair amount of silly comic-drawing accompanied by blog posts, so I decided to post on both sites. I might just post the comics over there and link to the blog posts over here.

    You're right, AV is very nearly as shit as FPTP. But if you look at other countries that have had referendums, the ones that made minor electoral reform have often gone on to make further changes, whereas in the ones who rejected the options presented, the issue was pretty much put to bed. Most argue that it should also boost the LDs a bit, and as they're the most pro-reform of the three big parties, this can only be a good thing.

    The one major advantage of AV is people will be putting their real first choice first, rather than the least objectionable candidate who looks like they might have a chance of winning. This will give a much better impression of the real level of support for the minor parties, which hopefully in turn will put more pressure on creating a *more* proportional system.

    While you have to be careful to avoid setting up a completely proportional system which lets all the nutters in, I'd rather have a fairly-proportional system where 1 or 2 BNP members squeeze through (out of 600 MPs in total), along with a significant number of more sensible minor party MPs, than the one we have now.

    I also think it's possible to worry too much about whether a system will let the BNP in, as it completely ignores the social issues that are really allowing them such success in gaining such support.


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