Why Glaswegian Labour voters should tactically 2nd vote Green in May

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Mar 172011

Labour generally does extremely well in Glasgow region constituencies – it took all of them in 1999 and 2003, and lost only one to the SNP in 2007 by a few hundred votes. It also does very well in the number of 2nd preferences, 23,000 ahead of the SNP in 2007 and polling nearly double the SNP in the first two elections.

Because of the way that the list seats are awarded in Scotland Labour is unlikely to get a list seat here. It would need to lose both Kelvin and Cathcart and gain another 10,000 or so list votes to qualify for a list seat.

However, Labours avowed Scottish rivals the SNP and our über-rivals the Tories pick up quite a few. The Liberal Democrats also tend to pick up 1 though given that somebody suggested they be hung an extremely unusual part of their anatomy at Mark Steel’s gig last night I suspect they may find that difficult.

If Labour is going to regain power at the election the best course is too elect as many Labour MSPs as possible. The flip side, of course, is to make sure that as few SNP MSPs get elected as possible – ideally by transferring their seats to a party we could conceivably form a coalition with. Working the SNP or the Tories is right out, and while I wouldn’t rule out working with the Lib Dems – it worked pretty well for the first two parliaments – I do think it would be quite difficult to do so this time round. The Socialists and Solidarity are still dealing with the fall out from their split and are unlikely to get any MSPs. The Greens are also likely to pull a Labour government in a more radical, progressive left direction – something I think a lot of Labour voters would like to see.

Patrick Harvie has done some good work in Holyrood, particularly on transport and climate change but also recently on the wider Tory-LibDem-SNP lead cuts agenda with constructive, costed counter proposals. If a reasonable fraction of Labour voters used their list votes this way then the Greens could conceivably take a seat off the SNP, something which if it had happened in 2007 would have left both parties level and possibly keeping the SNP in opposition. So there’s both high politics and low politics reasons for suggesting this, although I will admit to a certain amount of self-interest in this.

On a related note, the Greens are currently going to be excluded from the TV debates – something which esteemed Nat blogger Lallands Peat Worrier wrote about recently – and there’s a petition to right this injustice.

Addendum, 2011-04-27: The poll situation has changed somewhat, as has the d’hondt calculation as described in this Better Nation post. Tactically voting Green to deprive the SNP of a seat doesn’t make sense anymore.

Improving Our Democracy? (or why I’m #no2av despite hating FPTP)

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Feb 162011

The last parliament ended in scandal, dishonor and disillusionment. The Liberal Democrats, long time champions of electoral reform, achieved a degree of power after the election and their leader got the Electoral Reform brief.

The proposals, however, will make Parliament weaker and likely to be less representative than the existing system. They’ll increase the power of the executive and make it even easier for vanguard cliques (eg. New Labour, the Notting Hill set, the Orange Bookers) to use patronage to force through agendas unpopular with the wider party, let alone the country.

There’s two parts to the bill, the first is the reduction in the number of MPs, but not a reduction in the number of ministers, parliamentary private secretaries etc. which who are obliged to vote with the leadership or face losing their paid government jobs (the “payroll vote”). That’s a pretty clear strengthening of the power of government. Backbenchers get less power, the government gets more.

The second part is the Alternative Vote. While I’m convinced First Past The Post (the current system for elections to Westminster) is unrepresentative, unfair and unfit for the 20th century – let alone the 21st – the Alternative Vote will increase 3rd party representation beyond it’s current low levels at the expense of the already-under-represented second party.

First Past The Post can lead to the “wrong” result such as the 1951 UK general election where the Conservatives won a majority with fewer votes than the Labour party, I’ve yet to come across a more egregious election result than the 1948 Alberta General Election where one party one 51 of 57 seats on 55% of first preferences, up from the 51 of 57 on 50.46% of first preferences. The 2004 Queensland state elections provide a more recent, if slightly less extreme, example where the Australian Labor Party took 63 of 89 seats on 47% of first preferences.

This is because “AV will tend to exaggerate landslides even more than FPTP because a strong tide towards a party reflected in first preferences will tend (at least according to a reasonable hypothesis) to also affect second preferences – basically, a party that is popular will tend to move up in voters’ esteem across the board”, according to a report produced for the Electoral Reform Society.

That was also the conclusion reached by the Jenkins report in 1998, and by Professor John Curtice when he modelled past Britsh election results with 2nd preference distribution based on actual polling data.

It’s pretty easy to see why that might be the case, given a three party system with A polling 42% nationally, B polling 35% and C 23% for first prefrences on the following distribution which roughly matches what happens in the UK:

Seat Party A Party B Party C
1 50 30 20
2 50 30 20
3 40 35 25
4 40 35 25
5 40 36 24
6 36 34 30
7 36 34 30
8 36 40 24
9 25 45 30
10 25 35 40
First Prefs 37.8 35.4 26.8
Seats 7 2 1

Under AV, assuming that each party split its second preferences 50/50 then the following would happen:

Seat Party A Party B Party C
1 60 40 Eliminated
2 60 40 Eliminated
3 55 45 Eliminated
4 55 45 Eliminated
5 52 48 Eliminated
6 51 49 Eliminated
7 51 49 Eliminated
8 48 52 Eliminated
9 Eliminated 57.5 42.5
10 Eliminated 47.5 52.5
Seats 7 2 1

AV wouldn’t result in a net change.

If, however, the voters from Party C showed a slight preference in line with the rest of the country and split 60/40 for party A then the result would be as follows:

Seat Party A Party B Party C
1 62 38 Eliminated
2 62 38 Eliminated
3 58 42 Eliminated
4 58 42 Eliminated
5 54.4 45.6 Eliminated
6 54 46 Eliminated
7 54 46 Eliminated
8 50.4 49.6 Eliminated
9 Eliminated 55 45
10 Eliminated 45 55
Seats 8 1 1

With an increased landslide for Party A.

If Party C split contrary to the “national mood” 60/40 in favour of Party B then it would result in a hung parliament:

Seat Party A Party B Party C
1 58 42 Eliminated
2 58 42 Eliminated
3 52 48 Eliminated
4 52 48 Eliminated
5 49.6 50.4 Eliminated
6 48 52 Eliminated
7 48 52 Eliminated
8 45.6 54.4 Eliminated
9 Eliminated 45 55
10 Eliminated 35 65
Seats 4 4 2

Which more accurately reflects the first preference results for A and B but is probably unlikely – what polling has been done on 2nd preferences for centrist 3rd parties seems to indicate they go with the “national mood”.

Supporters of the Alternative Vote will argue that this is ok because “each MP would have the support of half their constituents”. This is true, however it means that a party which could get roughly close to 50% of first preferences evenly spread across all constituencies and then pick up a minimal number of transfers could achieve massive majorities. I don’t think that’s fair, fairer than our current system or even acceptable. I’m more inclined to think that it’s potentially disastrous.

The “A wizard did it” approach to policy making.

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Jan 212011

Currently I’m listening to Andrew Lansley talking about the ill conceived top reorganisation the Tory government promised it wouldn’t do (but will anyway, despite it not being in their manifesto and them not winning a majority). His answer to just about any question, as Ben Goldacre points out , is “GPs know their patients”. Which may or may not be true, depending on the GP and the patients in question, but is a bit like saying it’ll all be fine because you have bought a lottery ticket and you’ve got a good feeling.

George Osborne (and Danny Alexander, when he’s allowed to answer questions and not just take punches) answer just about any question about Tory government economic policy is “there will be record private sector job creation”. This is more like saying it’ll all be fine because you’ve got a good feeling you’ll find a winning lottery ticket in the street.

There’s quite a lot that could be done in terms of NHS reform, and making health care more holistic (NPRs Fresh Air was talking about a different approach in New Jersey this week) but assuming that a wizard will come along and wave their wand it’ll all be fine is not sensible. Unless your goal is to allow private companies an opportunity to profit. Not that I’m saying that it is. Obviously. Because then rocks would fall and everybody would die.

The state of our education system

 General, Politics  Comments Off on The state of our education system
Dec 112010

I am becoming increasingly concerned at the level of teaching at our great universities. Charlie Gilmour is studying history at Cambridge but “did not realise it was the Cenotaph”. I could understand the young whipper snapper not knowing about Michael Foot but, well, I’ve been there. It’s pretty bloody obvious. It’s a big granite thing with the words “the glorious dead” on it. Still, he’s only in 2nd year, maybe they’ll teach that bit later on.

More worryingly, our Chancellor also studied history (at Oxford). There they seem to have failed to teach the history of the Great Depression in the UK entirely. Which is odd, for a course in Modern History. I mean, I know he only got a 2:1 but still. You’d have thought some of it would have stuck.

No wonder the Tory – Lib Dem government feel the need to ensure the future of our education system by properly funding it. Oh, wait, the fees are just replacing the complete withdrawl of all funding for wishy-washy hand wringing useless courses like Modern History. Or Economics. Or Social Work. I guess they’re betting on nobody being able to remember who ruined the country because nobody’s teaching it and we’re too busy making sure our disabled friends can get out the house now and then to watch BBC4 (assuming it’s still going).

On this evidence, they’re probably right.

Turkmenistan gets gift of brutal dictators death in office

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Dec 212006

Saparmurat Niyazov dies in office. This is worth celebrating, hopefully it will give the people of Turkmenistan a chance to move towards a form of goverment not involving insane personality cults, giant gold statues and talking books. Probably the best Holiday present they could get.

 Posted by at 13:46

Send me a postcard darling, send me a postcard

 General, MLP, Politics  Comments Off on Send me a postcard darling, send me a postcard
Sep 042005

More fucked up going’s on in New Orleans, Haliburton gets 10%. Via the esteemable mr starchy.

I am ceasing to be surprised by anything that happens there from here on in, up to and including Pat Robertson and George Bush announcing on TV that Jesus Christ has arisen from mutating algae and that their plan is now complete, and Haliburton is to organise Judgement Day (towel heads, commies, faggots and poor people need not apply).

 Posted by at 02:30

God Has A Dream

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May 302005

Last time I was in the US, I finished reading George Orwells Down And Out In Paris And London and wandered/got sucked into (delete as applicable) Borders. While there I picked up some Satre, a book of the teachings of Buddah, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s God Has A Dream (ignore the Oprah endorsement, it actually is quite good).

I finally got around to reading it on the train through to Edinburgh today, and finished it on the way back. And goddamn it’s good. It’s positive without being unrealistically optimistic, religious without being Religious, and very easy to read (120-odd pages which I read in a little over 90 minutes in total) while still being one of the deepest and most profound texts I’ve read in a while. I’ve always admired Tutu for obvious reasons, but his love and compassion resonate in every paragraph and every sentance.

Somebody needs to buy the audio book and play it at night under Bush and Blairs pillows. And your own.

 Posted by at 21:31

Non, merci beaucoup

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May 302005

<nelson> ha ha </nelson>

Now, I’m staunchly pro-European (ending centurys of internicine warfare can’t be bad, right?), but I’m really glad that the French have rejected the constitution, and I hope that the Dutch vote shortly will finish it off. Not because I think having a written constitution governing the EU would be bad, but because I think ~400 pages of intense legalise is not appropriate for a constitution. I think one of the strengths of the US constiution is that it’s reasonably short, easily understood by most people and, most importantly, contains not just the mechanisms for governance, but the principles upon which that government is to operate. I’m not saying that it’s perfect, but it’s a damn sight better than what we were being offered.

I think a (much) shorter document which enshrined democratic government as the only legitimate government, which recognised that our freedom is best protected through honest, fair and equitable partnership with other free peoples, that protected our basic rights against authoritarian government and was as much about the responsibilities of a government to it’s people as it was about it’s powers over them would easily find acceptance across all member states and would thus provide the necessary framework to take The Project forward with a legitimacy and commonality of purpouse which has been sadly lacking from the (corrupt, undemocratic) state which it is in today.

Certain points would, of course, prove trickier than others, particularly the necessary elevation of the European Parliament as the supreme decision making body and the associated removal of the Council of Cronys Ministers which would probably upset some people, but it would, should, must be doable.

 Posted by at 21:12