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

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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2 Responses to Conservative leadership election

  1. denismollison says:

    Like David Hill, I would advocate Condorcet for electing a single individual. AV can exclude a clear Condorcet winner, with the final decision between two extremists. I suspect that the Conservatives’ `AV in stages’ was intended to avoid that; though of course it could be gamed by those against electing the Condorcet winner (I think that was supposed to have been why Michael Portillo lost one of their elections). Their recent change to bring in the members for the final round potentially revives tactical voting among MPs, trying to keep the most serious rival of their preferred candidate out of the final round. In the interests of fairness, perhaps the MPs should be using STV to choose the two whose names go before the members?

  2. Thank you.

    Once, with 3 candidates and a small electorate of only 15, when I was fairly certain how all the other voters would vote, I was successful in voting tactically in an AV election to ensure my 2nd choice would win instead of the candidate I strongly opposed.

    I’m no expert on Concordet, but I think tactical voting would have been unnecessary with that system so I like the idea of Concordet, but I think the central theme of the original posting is valid; i.e. AV would be better than exhaustive ballots, even if Concordet might be better still.

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