First Past The Post, AV and Honest Men

Wonderfully, every now and then, the sterility of the First Past The Post voting system fails to stop the electorate having their way.

Two fine examples were Martin Bell who stood as an "anti-sleaze" campaigner in 1997 and  Dr Richard Taylor who stood as "Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern Party" candidate in 2001. Both were Independants. Bell was actually the first elected Independant MP since 1951.

These results are really interesting because the both show how First Past The Post could easily have failed the electorate under "normal" circumstances (and eventually did in Kidderminster) and how AV would have returned  the result.

First Martin Bell. Tatton 1997

The case of the man in a White Suite versus the Arch Sleazeball.

The bad guy? Neil Hamilton, MP in the ultra safe seat of Tatton.  The "Cash for Questions" King. All he really needed was a black hat and the whole thing would have been perfect. Bell, a highly respected journalist and reporter, stood against him.

Here is the previous electorial result.

Even under AV this was a safe seat with Hamilton having more than 50% of the vote.

Then in the 1997 election a benign subversion of FPTP took place. Both the Labour and the Lib-Dem candidates stood down. They essentially transferred their vote to Bell, as would have happened under AV. The Conservative vote collapsed. But it did not collapse completely. Here is the result (I've left off minor parties - they only got 700 votes between them)

So the excellent Mr Bell won and the whole country rejoiced. One in the Eye for crooked politicians. Hurrah!

But look again at the results. Bell won because dissolusioned Conservatives stayed at home and the Labour and Lib-Dem votes "transferred" to him. But both supporters of Labour and the Lib-Dems were denied their true aspirational vote. With FPTP, if either the Labour or Lib-Dem candidates had stood (as was their right) not only could Bell have been defeated, but Hamilton may well have still won.

That would have been on in the eye for Democracy courtesy FPTP.

With AV, even if all candidates had stood, the preferences would have ensured that Hamilton still lost. Nobody would have been denied their right to vote for the party of their first choice either.

Bell only stood for one term, which was a shame for British Politics. But at least he did us all a favour by turfing out liar and a cheat.

Second: The case of the Good Doctor versus the Evil Government.

Dr. Taylor campaigned largely on a single issue - the restoration the A&E dept of Kidderminster Hospital, which had been closed in 2000 due to cuts in the NHS (That is Labour cuts by the way). The sitting MP was a Junior Labour minister David Lock.

Lock was not quite the evil bad guy aka Neil Hamilton, but still clearly the enemy.

Lock, like Hamilton had a large majority. But during the election, the Liberal Democrats pulled their candidate. Many Tory voters switched tactically to Taylor. Both in crude ways enforced AV onto the election.

Here is the result of 2001.

Notice there is no Lib-Dem Candidate and also the reduced support for Conservatives. If either the conservative vote had held up, or the Lib-Dems had fielded a candidate, Taylor would have probably lost. But due to people personally "fixing" the broken system of FPTP by transferring their vote or completely sacrificing their party's vote share, the good guy won - with an absolute majority

In 2005 the Lib-Dems pulled their candidate again, although a petulant local party stood a "Liberal" candidate. Taylor still won.

This time he did not gain an absolute majority, but he would certainly have also won the seat under AV.

Again one in the eye for the evil governemnt - twice in a row.

In the 2010 election, the Lib-Dems fielded a candidate (as is their right and duty) but then this happened.

If this had been AV I would put my money on Taylor still being the MP.

So the wishes of the majority of the electorate were denied because their votes were corralled into a false race to a non existent finishing poll. The guy who won simply had a slightly bigger pile than any of the other piles. If any owner of one of the other piles had stood down (or had their vote transferred under AV) the result would have been different - and fairer.

I expect as far as the government were concerned Taylor was a real pain in the ass and they probably all put out the flags when he lost. But really we need MORE people like Taylor and Bell not less. We need people who will not just tow the party line.

With AV we are more likely to get them and keep them. First Past The Post simply entrenches the sterile old guard and denies us a dynamic and adaptive democractic representation.

Vote for AV on Thursday.

1 comment:

Logan said...

Re 2005 in Wyre Forest: the Liberals here are a bit of a special case. Fran Oborski has been a very prominent local figure here since about 1689, consistently on that "Liberal" ticket, and her vote was substantially a personal one. She didn't stand suddenly in 2005 just to hamper Taylor.