STV Centenary, 1916 – 2016

2016 marks the centenary of the all-party Speakers’ Conference of 1916, which recommended the Single Transferable Vote (STV) voting system for electing the UK’s MPs. Continue reading

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Six voting systems

One of the defences offered for FPTP is that it is traditional and has worked well for many generations, so why change it?
Most of us know it doesn’t work well but it is less well known that it did not become universal within the UK until the 1950 General Election, which is within the lifetime of many people. Until then, many towns had two MPs, elected by F2PTP.
It hasn’t even become traditional since then. We have six voting systems in the UK! They are:
• FPTP for Westminster and some English and Welsh local elections;
• F3PTP and variations of it for some English and Welsh local elections;
• STV for local elections in Scotland and all N Ireland elections except to Westminster;
• AMS for Welsh and London Assembly elections;
• SV for Police and Crime Commissioners and directly elected Mayors;
• Closed lists in Great Britain for the European Parliament.

So FPTP isn’t traditional and it can’t be working all that well, or politicians wouldn’t have chosen other systems for so many elections.
The good news is that MPs usually reject FPTP when they choose a voting system to elect representatives other than themselves. One day, they may recognize, or be shamed into admitting, it isn’t the best way for them to be elected.

Glossary
FPTP = First Past The Post
F3TP = First 3 Past The Post. (F2PTP is also quite common and F5PTP has been known.)
STV = Single Transferable Vote in multi-member constituencies or wards
AMS = Additional Member System
SV = Supplementary Vote

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The (representative) Parliament we might have had!

You can visit http://www.lewisbaston.com/the-2015-election-under-3-4-member-single-transferable-vote/ to see what the result of the 2015 General Election might have been if STV had been used and the voting pattern had been similar to the pattern in the actual FPTP election.

We are not saying this is exactly what would have happened but it does show what could happen. Although the author, Lewis Baston, had to make several assumptions to produce this projection so accuracy cannot be guaranteed, he is a very experienced political analyst.

If you support one of the two major parties in one of its strongholds, you may be concerned to think your party would probably lose seats in your region, but look at the regions where your party is less strong and see how it could win more seats there.

More Labour MPs in the south and rural areas and more Conservative MPs in the north and inner city areas would help each party to understand better the problems of those areas and reduce the north/south and town/country divides.

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Conservative leadership election

In brief, Conservative MPs whittle the candidates down to two and then the party members choose between those two.

The whittling down is by a crude, and rather cumbersome, variation of Alternative Vote (AV) known as the “Exhaustive Ballot”. Yes, curious isn’t it? The Conservative Party campaigned against AV in the 2011 referendum!

The MPs start with a ballot paper that lists all the candidates – five this time – and they can each vote for one candidate.

The candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated.

Then the MPs vote again on the four remaining candidates. Again, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated, to leave three this time.

Finally, the MPs vote all over again on the three remaining candidates. Yet again, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated, to leave the final two this time.

So, unless any candidates withdraw, MPs vote three times. It’s a good job there are only five candidates!

The system is described more fully at http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org/conservative-leadership-election-explained/#comments.

The good news is that the party uses a system that is much better than the First Past The Post (Winner Takes all) system) it supports for electing MPs. The bad news is that the system it uses is so slow and inefficient.

If the Conservative Party used a preferential voting system like proper AV, there would still be up to three stages of counting but only one stage of balloting and the result would have been known today. All they would have to do would be to number the candidates in order of preference.

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Conservatives for reform

We are very pleased that Conservative Action for Electoral Reform (CAER) has relaunched its website on http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org and also has a Facebook page. We urge all readers – especially but not only Conservatives – to visit the site and Facebook page and to encourage CAER.

This is more evidence that the electoral reform movement is all-party.

The Conservative case for reform is stronger than ever now, especially in Scotland, Wales and the north of England, and among Conservatives everywhere who are worried, post EU referendum, about the very existence of the UK.

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From EU “Bureaucrats” to unrepresentative British Parliament? No thanks! We want something better

STV Action is proud to be one of 39 organizations and individuals who have signed a letter http://www.makevotesmatter.org.uk/open-letter-for-proportional-representation to The Independent online calling for an early PR election, so that Parliament will really represent voters and the Government that negotiates the UK’s exit from the UK can speak for the nation instead of a mere 36.9% of it.

“The fundamental choices we make in the next two years will shape the United Kingdom for decades to come.” The Government that makes those choices for us must have a real mandate from us to make them.

In particular, the letter calls for a voting system:

• That those who are entitled to vote have a vote that counts, and counts equally no matter who they vote for, or where they live;
• That the share of seats a party gets should closely reflect the share of votes the people give them.

The second requirement no longer wants “seats to match votes”, and says “closely” reflect rather than “exactly”. Although we would prefer “reasonably” instead and “closely” might turn out to be a Trojan horse, we believe that the Single Transferable Vote (STV) is the only system that meets both these criteria.

Other signatories include Make Votes Matter (which organized the letter), Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party), Tim Farron MP (Leader, Liberal Democrats), Hywel Williams MP (Westminster leader of Plaid Cymru), Nigel Farage MEP (Leader, UKIP), Neal Lawson (Compass), and a number of local electoral reform groups.

To promote the call for a PR election, the signatories urge readers to sign a petition that can be found at http://www.makevotesmatter.org.uk/brexitpetition and we also urge STV Action readers to sign it and to tell all their contacts about it.

Please see https://docs.google.com/document/d/18YChBsvCPI3vBW0HEV3nA8Du3BejjO8UekV-0cc5qOU/edit for Make Votes Matter’s Press release and http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nigel-farage-calls-for-snap-general-election-to-be-held-under-proportional-representation-a7113526.html for The Independent’s article.

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Post EU referendum thoughts

The EU referendum turnout was 72% compared with 65.1% and 66.2% in the 2010 and 2015 general elections. Every vote should count in an election like a referendum.

For the crucial exit negotiations, we need a Government that is truly representative of us. The best way to achieve this would be by an early STV/PR general election. STV Action’s Editor told 38 Degrees that when it asked its members what its post-referendum priorities should be.

Owen Winter and Make Votes Matter have launched a petition for an early PR election. Please click on http://www.makevotesmatter.org.uk/brexit-petition to see the petition and sign it.

The Electoral Reform Society has said the public engaged with the referendum (72% voted) and should continue to be engaged with constitutional issues.

These matters were all covered more fully in STV Bulletin of 24 June 2016. Please e-mail Editor@STVaction.org.uk or contact the Editor through the Contact page if you would like a copy free of charge.

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Electoral reform – the other constitutional issue

The EU referendum is all but over now but every vote counts so, if you haven’t voted yet, it’s still worth voting before the polls close at 10.00 p.m. this evening.

How unlike our general elections, where our votes are worthless except for those lucky enough to live in one of the few marginal constituencies and, even then, only for those who feel able to vote for one of the two, or occasionally three, candidates who have a genuine chance of winning.

If you campaigned in the EU referendum, it may have been your first experience of political campaigning because you felt strongly about a major constitutional issue.
Electoral reform is the other major constitutional issue because, without it, we don’t get the Parliament and Government we voted for. For example, the present Conservative Government was elected in 2015 by only 36.9% of the voters and the most recent Labour Government was elected in 2005 by only 35.2%.

If you are an experienced party campaigner, you probably found yourself with some unusual allies as both the major parties were divided on the EU. So it is also with electoral reform, so discuss electoral reform with your new colleagues (and perhaps even friends) and see whether you can work together on this as well.

Electoral reform is the only way for voters to take real control.

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PR conference resolutions

Electoral reformers are proposing resolutions to this year’s Labour and Liberal Democrat conferences. Please see http://www.makevotesmatter.org.uk/labour4pr and at http://lder.org/conference-motion-prioritising-proportional-representation for more details.

We wish them success.

If you are a member of the Labour Party or Liberal Democrats, we urge you to help the movers of these resolutions get them on the agenda and then to get them passed.

Please e-mail Editor@stvAction.org.uk if you would like more information about these resolutions or would like to help promote either of them. There is a deadline of Monday 27 June for the Lib Dem resolution.

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If Brexit wins

Owen Winter, who started Make Votes Matter, has written an excellent article in Huffington Post about the legitimacy of Government if the UK votes tomorrow to leave the EU and he postulates on what might happen next. Please click on http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/owen-winter/eu-referendum-brexit_b_10559188.html to see the article.

When you read the article, you may also want to like and/or post your own comment.

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STV offers choice

Many of the Conservatives who voted for David Cameron last year would like the UK to leave the EU but they voted for him because he was the only Conservative candidate in the single-member constituency. Similarly, many of those who voted for Boris Johnson would like the UK to remain in the EU but they voted for him because he was the only Conservative candidate in the single-member constituency.

With STV in multi-member constituencies, Conservative (and, indeed, Labour and other) voters would have had a choice of candidates within their own party and they could have chosen between pro- and anti- EU candidates. They could also have chosen genuine “Don’t knows” who could have listened to the parliamentary debate before deciding.

The result would have been proportionate, not only between political parties but also between Remain, Out and Undecided. Then Parliament would have been representative of these views. It could have taken a considered decision on this complex question without resorting to a referendum, in which campaigners rely more on emotion than facts and exaggerate their claims (some would say, “lie”) and in which John and Jane Public are asked to make a very important decision without the time and resources to research the facts.

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