Sunday, 31 May 2009

People Power At The Polls

The use of STV in the Irish Republic means that most people who lose their seats lose them to members of the same party as themselves. This is not a quirk. It is because local parties put up people from each of their own internal factions, who are then really standing against each other.

How much simpler and more honest to have them in different, if any, parties, with each voter voting for one candidate in a multimember constituency, and with the requisite number elected at the end.

In any case, it must be said that the British electorate is at least as sophisticated in using even so blunt an instrument as First Past The Post. The general mood last time was for a Labour Government with a reduced majority. And that was what happened. There are not many countries in which the public could have pulled that one off.


  1. This is of course a more sustainable position than your most recent on the issue of STV.
    However your experience of the theory and experience of the Practical are obviously at odds.

    Parties indulge in tactics. The object of the exercise is to maximise the vote of the Party. Therefore its in the Partys own interest to make use of its "factions". Not just in a philosophical sense but in the use of geography of the constituency.
    Experienced tally men will know a partys strength in different wards.
    remember that all literature will advise supporters to vote the ticket 1,2,3,4.

    Clearly if there is a big name in a constituency, he might attract a bigger vote than the others on the ticket.
    The DUP uses this tactic. Note North Antrim and Paisley.
    On the other hand Sinn Féin (note West Belfast and Adams) favours the spreading the vote tactic.
    with 50% of the vote in north antrim the DUP got 3 of 6 seats.
    but in west belfast with 68% of the vote sinn féin got 5 of 6 seats all due to managing the vote better.
    Excellent analysis is provided on

    ....a site with connexions to queens university belfast school of politics. the main contributors have Alliance Party pedigree but it is very academic.
    some of the nuance might be "lost in translation" but I recommend it.

    You can of course find MANY cases which support your thesis.
    Of course in a constituency ALL PARTIES can get the tactics right to maximise the vote. And much academic thought (including my own Dissertation) has gone into looking at individual cases.
    For a political anorak like myself, there are many more and bigger inconsistencies in STV than the fate of individual politicians.

  2. Well, quite.

    But that is still one of the most blatant and the most easily understood.

  3. Real people power is being able to vote on the big issues of the day - the Lisbon treaty, the bank bailout, Trident renewal, etc.

    The Irish government was bound by the Republic's constitution to let citizens vote on Lisbon.

    British governments always argue that there's no precedent for referenda (ignoring the Common Market vote in the 70s and devolution in the 90s and 00s...)
    but I believe that we are all mature enough to make big decisions - or else, why let us vote at all?

  4. Well, there obviously couldn't have been a referendum on the bank bailout, and if there were to be one either on such a matter or on something like Trident then there would be no point in having a Parliament at all.

    As with the Lisbon Treaty, Parliament should not hand over the final say to the media in general and the BBC in particular (which turned two thirds No at the start of the 1975 referendum campaign into two thirds Yes on the day), but should instead just say no and let that be that.

    It is very notable that Cameron says he wants a referendum if he comes to power before Lisbon has been ratified, not that he simply wouldn't ratify it and that people who didn't want it ratified could thus vote Tory and be done with it.