Wednesday, 31 July 2013

End Of July Opinion Polls

One thing I enjoy doing is analysing opinion polls [Memo to self - Must get out more]. Yesterday I said I would look at more polls. At the moment I have used the YouGov ones, but there are also the ones by Populus and ComRes.

ComRes came in for some criticism from the usual Republican lobby as it had a recent poll looking at support for the monarchy. Go to the comments section of the Daily Mail article and you'll see what I mean:

This is a false claim as they did not ask the entire population of the country and just used a sample and then rounded it up.. I hate the monarchy and propose a Republic so we can get shot of all the freeloading royals. A president can easily open stores or bridges etc we do not need them all. Then all the homes and land can go to the national Trust so we can all use it unlike the Royal only usage today. A loaded survey does not tell the truth about this. I cant see how this article isnt illegal. If it were an advert it would have many complaints about it and be forced to be withdrawn. It is simply not true to imply that the entire country says this as they have not been asked. It should state that a small survey gave these facts and what area it was done in . Dont we have a Press Complaint organisation???? Thats where these lies should go..

i bet 90% of those polled were old codgers and young mums...why dont we have a vote on it and get it over with once and for all..then the silent majority can have thier say.

How do we know three quarters of the country want a royal family? Nobody asked me so the numbers are just from a random sample and probably only from down south where they all pretend they adore the royal family saith the expat.

Who gets asked these questions????? Nobody has ever asked me. (Republican, in case anybody cares, which they do not!)

The simple logic - no-one asked me or my mates, the sample is too small, the sample was biassed, let the "silent majority" speak.

Now, the sample sizes used are big enough to be representative, and people carrying out surveys do not focus on the elderly or southerners, but make sure that the results are weighted to reflect the population.

Just because you and your mates didn't get asked, doesn't mean the survey is flawed. And if you mix with likeminded people, then it is easy to assume that you speak for the "silent majority" who think like you. For example, I used to work with a man who was strongly opposed to the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights (and would not accept that the ECHR is not part of the EU). He said that his dad used to tell him that he had asked his mates how they had voted in the referendum on continuing membership of the European Economic Community in June 1975. From this sample of similar people, the conclusion could be drawn that the majority of people voted in 1975 to leave. His dad once explained to him that after the referendum, Ted Heath, the former Prime Minister, simply went on TV and announced we had voted to stay in, and that was that.

With that out the way, we have recent polls from 3 organisations.

The first to look at is the YouGov ones:

Date C Lab LD UKIP
Thursday 25 July 35% 39% 8% 11%
Friday 26 July 32% 38% 11% 11%
Sunday 28 July 33% 39% 10% 11%
Tuesday 30 July 33% 40% 10% 12%
Wednesday 31 July 34% 40% 11% 10%
Average 33.4% 39.2% 10.0% 11.0%

The result of the 2010 general election is:

  • Conservatives - 306 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Labour - 258 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Liberal Democrats - 57
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Scottish National Party - 6
  • Plaid Cymru - 3
  • Greens - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

As before I will assume that there is no change of Speaker of the House of Commons, so John Bercow would be re-elected in Buckingham as Mr Speaker seeking re-election.

From the YouGov results, we get the following changes:

  • Labour gains 86 seats from the Conservatives, 21 from the Liberal Democrats and 1 from the Greena - a gain of 108 seats
  • The Scottish National Party gains 1 seat from the Liberal Democrats
  • Plaid Cymru gains 1 seat from the Liberal Democrats
  • The Greens lose 1 seat to Labour
  • The Conservatives gain 34 seats from the Liberal Democrats but lose 86 to Labour - a net loss of 52 seats
  • The Liberal Democrats lose 1 seat to the Scottish National Party, 1 to Plaid Cymru, 21 to Labour and 34 to the Conservatives - a loss of 57 seats

This gives a final result of:

  • Labour - 366 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Conservatives - 254 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Scottish National Party - 7
  • Plaid Cymru - 4
  • The Speaker - 1

Now have a look at the Populus ones:

Date C Lab LD UKIP
Wednesday 24/ Thursday 25 July 32% 39% 11% 10%
Friday 26 - Sunday 28 July 34% 39% 11% 8%
Average 33% 39% 11% 9%

This gives us the following changes:

  • Labour gains 75 seats from the Conservatives, 14 from the Liberal Democrat and 1 from Plaid Cymru, while losing 1 to the Conservatives and 4 to the Scottish National Party - a net gain of 85 seats
  • The Scottish National Party gains 8 seats from the Liberal Democrats and 4 from Labour - a gain of 12 seats
  • Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern gains 1 seat from the Conservatives
  • Plaid Cymru gains 1 seat from the Liberal Democrats but loses 1 to Labour
  • The Conservatives gain 33 seats from the Liberal Democrats and 1 from Labour, while losing 1 to Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern and 75 to Labour - a net loss of 42 seats
  • The Liberal Democrats lose 1 seat to Plaid Cymru, 8 to the Scottish National Party, 14 to Labour and 33 to the Conservatives - a loss of 56 seats

This gives a final result of:

  • Labour - 343 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Conservatives - 264 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Scottish National Party - 18
  • Plaid Cymru - 3
  • Liberal Democrats - 1
  • Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern - 1
  • Greens - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

Notice that Labour loses a seat (Bolton West) to the Conservatives, while picking up many from them. This is due to the fact that by splitting Great Britain down into areas we can see differing changes in support in different areas.

And finally, we look at the ComRes one:

Date C Lab LD UKIP
Tueaday 30 July 34% 37% 10% 12%

Now, ComRes splits England down into the standard regions, as well as giving separate levels of support in each of Wales and Scotland, thus enabling regional variations to show. While much attention has been given to the small Labour lead, it is what's happening under the surface that matters.

This gives the following changes:

  • Labour gains 51 seats from the Conservatives, 17 from the Liberal Democrats and 2 from Plaid Cymru, while losing 2 to the Liberal Democrats, 9 to the Scottish National Party and 15 to the Conservatives - a net gain of 44 seats
  • The UK Independence Party gains 18 seats from the Conservatives and 6 from the Liberal Democrats - a gain of 24 seats
  • The Scottish National Party gains 9 seats from Labour and 6 from the Liberal Democrats - a gain of 15 seats
  • Plaid Cymru loses 1 seat to the Conservatives and 2 to Labour - a loss of 3 seats
  • The Conservatives gain 23 seats from the Liberal Democrats, 15 from Labour and 1 from Plaid Cymru, while losing 18 to the UK Independence Party and 51 to Labour - a net loss of 30 seats
  • The Liberal Democrats gain 2 seats from Labour while losing 6 to the UK Independence Party, 6 to the Scottish National Party, 17 to Labour and 23 to the Conservatives - a net loss of 50 seats

This gives a final result of:

  • Labour - 302 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Conservatives - 276 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • UK Independence Party - 24
  • Scottish National Party - 21
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Liberal Democrats - 7
  • Greens - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

If this were to happen, the only viable majority Government would be a Labour/UKIP one - or a Labour/Conservative "grand coalition".

On this, UKIP and Labour both have a surge in South West England, with UKIP getting 23 seats, Labour (largest in terms of votes) 22 and the Conservatives on just 10.

And East Midlands would see a rise in Liberal Democrat support and a decline in Labour support. This would see the Liberal Democrats grab both Ashfield and Chesterfield, while coming close to winning Leicester South - and next door, Leicester West is won by the Conservatives (although, I was a bit sceptical, given that on the ComRes poll, Derbyshire North East would go Conservative).

What we can now do is take the constituency by constituency results, and in each work out the average of the three results. When we do this we find that:

  • Labour gains 62 seats from the Conservatives, 16 from the Liberal Democrats and 2 from Plaid Cymru, while losing 2 to the Scottish National Party - a net gain of 78 seats
  • The Scottish National Party gains 7 seats from the Liberal Democrats and 2 from Labour - a gain of 9 seats
  • Plaid Cymru gains 1 seat from the Liberal Democrats but loses 2 to Labour - a net loss of 1 seat
  • The Conservatives gain 32 seats from the Liberal Democrats, but lose 62 to Labour - a net loss of 30 seats
  • The Liberal Democrats lose 1 seat to Plaid Cymru, 7 to the Scottish National Party, 16 to Labour and 32 to the Conservatives - a loss of 56 seats

This gives an overall result of:

  • Labour - 336 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Conservatives - 276 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Scottish National Party - 15
  • Plaid Cymru - 2
  • Liberal Democrats - 1
  • Greens - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

So, the polls indicate s small Labour majority.

Once you can combine the results of 3 opinion polls this way, it is easy to extnnd it to more. I think there are 5 companies that produce regular (at least monthly) opinion polls.

All In God's Time

If you've been keeping track of my health updates you'll know that I am waiting to hear about the blood test I had on Monday, and maybe this will be the thing which allows doctors to get to the bottom of what has given me these health problems for the past 6 months.

So, one thing I need to develop is patience. And yes there is that predictable gag of "God give me patience - NOW".

But patience is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Note, not one of the fruits - ignore any ideas that there are 9 gifts and 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit, and that we will have some gifts and some fruits, but not all. Jesus tell us that we will bear fruit if we abide in Him (John 15:1-8).

And later, Paul tells the Romans:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. (Rom. 1:1-5).

You can't sit around and expect to be given peace, or joy etc. These things are developed, often through tough times, when your own resources have gone and you learn to rely on God.

What is your image of peace? Is it of green countryside, with the water babbling in the brook, the Sun shining in the sky, and little bunny rabbits skipping through the fields? Or is it a storm at sea, with Jesus peacefully asleep, and the disciples having to learn that they are in the safest place possible, viz. being with Jesus. (Mark 4:35-41).

I have to say that yesterday I wasn't feeling well, but had this strong sense of peace and comfort. And I was then being grateful for the good Christian friends I had been given - some I've known less than a year, some for over 20 years. And what has made those friendships strong? It's been the going through things together, it's been rejoicing and mourning together (Rom. 12:15). You learn the "inner man" not in a contrived 90 minute kickaround, but in how they respond when things are tough for you and/or for others.

One thing I want to add about patience. We might know that something is God's will for us, but we also need to ensure that we don't try to force His hand and it goes wrong.

There was an old lady I knew. You might have got a TARDIS, gone back to when she was young and told her that she and her boyfriend would end up together. And they did. In the light of that knowledge of their future, they might have gone out, bought the ring and the dress and got married. Happy days.

But the full story is different. The Second World War meant they lost contact. They both had happy marriages, and over half a century after losing contact, they met again - through a mutual friend who didn't know their story - when they were both widowed.

They could have forced their future in the knowledge that they would be together. But they would then have missed out on so much that life had in store for them.

Or you could have taken your TARDIS further back in time and told Winston Churchill that he would be a wartime Prime Minister. And with that knowledge, and with the major posts of President of the Board of Trade and Home Secretary under his belt, he could have made a bid for wartime leadership, and then wonder why David Lloyd-George got chosen instead.

No-one is ever shown their full destiny. Even when it is partly known, how do we respond? Do we wait for God's timing or decide "God has promised this, let's claim it"? How do you proceed - your way or Yahweh?

God promises Abram (later called Abraham) a son and heir from his body (Gen 15:1-6), rather than everything being inherited by one of his servants. And we learn that Abram believed and was considered righteous for believing. But then Abram tries to force his destiny, by having sex with Hagar, and her having a son (Gen 16:1-4).

But when God promised Abram a son, He wasn't talking about Hagar's son Ishmael. Abram had to be patient, and his wife Sarah gave birth to the promised son, Isaac (Gen 21:1-7).

The contrast is with David, who has been chosen by God to be King of Israel (I Sam. 16:1-15). Later, Saul - who is turning into a bad King - decides to relieve himself in a cave where David is hiding from him, and David's men are urging him to do the simple thing (I Sam. 24) - kill Saul and claim the Kingdom. After all, God has promised David the Kingdom, hasn't He? Go and claim it.

But David has other ideas - he will not raise his hand against Saul, who is, despite everything, still the anointed King. He waits until he hears of Saul's death and then mourns him (II Sam. 1). And then David asks the question of God:

After this David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” And the LORD said to him, “Go up.” David said, “To which shall I go up?” And He said, “To Hebron.” (II Sam. 2:1).

Basically, David isn't assuming "OK, Saul's dead. It's my turn". He is asking God whether he can now claim the throne.

And that is the difference - David knew his destiny, and waited for it to be played out in God's timing.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Looking At Populus Polls - And Others

If you have followed my blog for a while, then you will know that from time-to-time I look at the political opinion polls produced by You Gov.

I recently gave some details of how I analyse this, looking at the shifts in votes - e.g. how many people who voted for party X at the May 2010 general election plan to vote for party Y.

Now, YouGov are not the only polling company. Among others, there is Populus, which is now producing political opinion polls again. Looking at the timing of the last 3, it looks like there will be 2 a week - contrasting the 5 a week for YouGov.

Like YouGov, Populus splits Great Britain down into 5 areas, which more detailed share of the vote for these. Some are clear, some not. Scotland is, well, obviously Scotland; I assume the South East is London, South East England and Eastern England; Midlands is West Midlands and East Midlands; North England is North West England, Yorkshire & Humberside and North East England; while Wales & South West is presumably Wales and South West England. I outlined what I think the YouGov areas are a couple of months back.

With this, we can compare which areas the regions/nations are in:

Region/Nation Populus YouGov
Scotland Scotland Scotland
North West England North England North
Yorkshire & Humberside North England North
North East England North England North
Wales Wales & South West Midlands/Wales
West Midlands Midlands Midlands/Wales
East Midlands Midlands Midlands/Wales
Eastern England South East Rest of South
South West England Wales & South West Rest of South
South East England South East Rest of South
London South East London

By having the area defined differently, we should be able to pick up nuances.

There are 2 or 3 other polls that come out montly - what might be a reasonable thing to do is to each month look at a "poll of polls" that takes the average of each constituency's results and uses this to determine an overall result.

Time To Reshoot The Missing Doctor Who Adventures

I recently had a letter in Doctor Who Magazine, concerning the missing episodes.

Basically, as all fans know, there are plenty of episodes from the 1960s which have gone missing - the BBC junked a lot of episodes. But is there a way to bring them back?

This autumn, to mark the 50th annoversary, the BBC will show An Adventure In Space And Time, which is about the creation of, and early days of, the programme. The original cast will be potrayed by David Bradley (as William Hartnell), Jamie Glover (as William Russell), Jessica Raine (as Jacqueline Hill) and Claudia Grant (as Carole Ann Ford).

And seeing that they will deal with the filming of some early adventures led me to think - why not go further?

In the Hartnell era there are some stories that have no surviving episodes according to current knowledge:

  • Marco Polo (Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright, Susan Foreman)
  • Mission To The Unknown (the only adventure in which the Doctor and companions don't appear)
  • The Myth Makers (Vicki, Steven Taylor, Katarina)
  • The Massacre Of St Bartholomew's Eve (Steven, Dodo Chaplet)
  • The Savages (Steven, Dodo)
  • The Smugglers (Ben Jackson, Polly)

Why not reshoot Marco Polo with Bradley, Glover, Raine and Grant playing the TARDIS crew? It will not be exact, but this will be the nearest modern fans will come to see the original adventure.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Number Of Constituencies Under AMS

I have been looking at the Additional Members System recently, and wondering what would happen if it were introduced to the House of Commons. Now, I'm not going to tackle "who wins what where" issue - that can be for other people to do - but wonder how many constituency MPs there would be.

The Parliamentaty Voting System & Constituencies Act 2011 envisaged 600 constituencies, with 596 of them within 5% of the electoral quota (determined by taking the total number on the electoral roll and dividing it by 596). There were to be 4 preserved constituencies - 2 of them in Scotland (the current Na H-Eileanan An Iar and Orkney & Shetland) and 2 in South East England (drawn from the current Isle of Wight), and these are ignored for the purpose of calculating each nation's/region's entitlement.

Then came the Electoral Registration & Administraton Act 2013 which postponed the boundary review for 5 years so the May 2015 general election will be on the current boundaries.

But what if we followed this method for a House of Commons using AMS. I will assume that there are 3 preserved constituencues (surely under larger AMS constituencies, there would be no justification for splitting the Isle of Wight) and add them in at the end.

As to the proportion of constituency and regional seats then there are 5 combinations that spring to mind. Three of them are those actually in use - the London model (the Greater London Assembly has 14 constituencies and 11 additional), the Welsh model (the National Assembly of Wales has 40 constituencies and 20 additional) and the Scottish model (the Scottish Parliament has 73 constituencies and 56 additional).

This then brings me to the Jenkins Commission report, which suggested a variation of AMS, with between 80% and 85% of MPs elected in constituencies - I will refer to these limits as "Jenkins min" and "Jenkins max".

If we follow this, then Jenkins max is the maximum number of constituency MPs/minimum number of regional MPs to ensure a reasonable measure of proportionality.

With that background, how would 600 MPs be allocated in various systems?:

System Constituencies Regional Southampton Hampshire
Jenkins max 510 90 1.84 14.57
Jenkins min 480 120 1.73 13.71
Welsh model 400 200 1.44 11.41
Scottish model 340 260 1.22 9.69
London model 336 264 1.21 9.57

The reference to Southampton there is the number of constituencies that the area covered hy Southampton City Council would be entitled to, and for Hampshire the number of constituencies that the area covered by Hampshire County Council, Portsmouth City Council and Southampton City Council would be entitled to.

Currently, Southampton has two constituencies - Southampton Itchen and Southampton Test - together with part of Romsey & Southampton North. From the table above, if we adopted one of the Jenkins limits, then we would probably be looking at Southampton Itchen and Southampton Test remaining, but one or both of them expanding a bit outside the city boundaries. Under the Welsh model, then we could have something similar, or one of them being in Southampton (except for about 5 wards) with the other about half-in half-out of Southampton.

Go to the Scottish or London models, then we should expect something along the lines of York at the May 1997, June 2001 and May 2005 general elections - which had York entirely inside the city, while Ryedale, Selby and Vale of York all crossed the city boundaries - so one constituency covering the bulk of Southampton while about 3 wards would lie outside in a constituency (or constituencies) predominantly in New Forest and/or Test Valley or in Eastleigh.

There is a reason I have included Hampshire. During the last boundary review, the Boundary Commission for England divided England into the standard regions, such as South East England and then split them into sub-regions, which could be a single county, such as Hampshire, or a combination of counties, such as East Sussex and Kent.

If we follow the principle that constituencies need to be within 5% of the quota, then we get the maximum and minimum sizes of constituencies:

System Minimum Quota Maximum
Jenkins max 85,590 90,095 94,600
Jenkins min 90,973 95,761 100,549
Welsh model 109,305 115,058 120,811
Scottish model 128,766 135,543 142,320
London model 130,312 137,171 144,030

Now, return to Hampshire. Under the Scottish or London model, assume we consider it as one electoral sub-region. In that case, it would need to have 9 or 10 constituencies. With an electorate of 1,312,952, an issue becomes apparent.

If we give Hampshire 9 constituencies, then the average size is 145,884 - above the maximum allowable size. But if we give Hampshire 10 constituencies, then the average size is 131,295 - which is only just above the minimum allowed (and less than the quota). So, unless we cross a county boundary, we are forced to give Hampshire 10. But keeping the number of constituencies to a pre-determined level would mean somewhere else in South East England having larger-than-average constituencies.

Is there a way around this? Under the old Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, the basic rules were:

  • Great Britain would have around 613 constituencies
  • Scotland was to have 71 or more constituencies (this was removed by the Scotland Act 1998)
  • Wales was to have 35 or more constituencies
  • Northern Ireland was to have between 16 and 18 constituencies

With regards to the Scottish Parliament, in January 2006, the Arbuthnott Commiitee published its report, which looked inter alia at the way AMS was used. And it came up with some rules which it suggested be used:

  • Every local authority in Scotland should contain at least one constituency
  • Every constituency should be contained wholly within one local authority
  • ....the number of constituencies in each local authority should be such that their average electorate is as close as practicable to one seventieth of the total electorate for Scotland (later on clarifying the "one seventieth" by adding The average of the electorate, excluding the reduced numbers caused by their special circumstances of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles
  • Scotland should be divided into parliamentary regions which so far as possible reflect natural communities
  • Each Scottish parliamentary region should consist of a local authority or an aggregation of two or more local authorities, provided that no region contains less than five constituencies

There are other rules, which need not concern us. The calculations they gave showed the island councils/constituencies as Orkney (electorate of 15,954), Shetland (17,000) and Western Isles (21,937) to be treated as special cases. The smallest mainland local authority was Clackmannan (35,647), which they suggested has 1 constituency, although they did say it might be possible to combine it with next door Stirling (64,578), for which they also suggested 1 constituency.

For the mainland the average constituency size was recommened to vary from 71,139 (for East Lothian with 1 constituency) down to Clackmannan - although if Clackmannan was combined with Stirling, then the smallest would be East Dunbartonshire with its 2 constituencies having an avergae sixe of 40,917. So, assuming that Clackmannan and Stirling are combined, and ignoring the island constituencies, this would give the smallest constituency being around 57.5% the size of the largest.

Scotland has unitary authorities, so the term "local authority" is used slightly differently to England.

It seems from this that using AMS gives the Boundary Commission the ability to allow large differences in constituency size, as the AMS will help even things out a bit.

The problem with the Parliamentary Voting System & Constituencies Act 2011 was that it gave little room to manoeuvre. The constituencies had to be between certain size limits and there was a set number of them in each region or nation.

In the earlier system, the Boundary Commission would divide the electorate by the quota in each area undetr consideration (as we did in the first table for Southampton on its own and for Hampshire) and then see which average size was nearer to the quota. The following table shows this:

System Hampshire (min seats) Average Above quota Hampshire (max seats) Average Below quota
Jenkins max 14 93,782 3,687 15 87,530 2,565
Jenkins min 13 100,96 5,235 14 93,782 1,979
Welsh model 11 119,359 4,301 12 109,413 5,645
Scottish model 9 145,884 10,341 10 131,295 4,248
London model 9 145,884 8,713 10 131,295 5,876

Basically, this looks at the average size of a Hampshire constituency and how far this would be from the quota. For each model, the one closest is in bold, and under the old rules, this is probably the option the Boundary Commission would have gone for.

How would we give the Boundary Commissions more flexibility without compromising the requirement to keep the House of Commons at 600 MPs? Well, the Jenkins Commission felt that the correct ratio should be somewhere between the two limits, and this gives the flexibility:

Region/Nation Entitled to Constituenices (Jenkins min) Regional (Jenkins min) Constituencies (Jenkins max) Regional (Jenkins max)
South East England 82 66* 16 70* 12
London 69 55 14 58 11
North West England 68 55 13 58 10
Eastern England 56 45 11 48 8
West Midlands 54 43 11 46 8
South West England 53 42 11 45 8
Scotland 52 42** 10 45** 7
Yorkshire & Humberside 50 40 10 43 7
East Midlands 44 35 9 37 7
Wales 30 24 6 25 5
North East England 26 21 5 22 4
Northern Ireland 16 12 4 13 3

[* Includes 1 preserved constituency]

[** Includes 2 preserved constituencies]

This could be a way this works - the Boundary Commissions have an electoral quota based on Jenkins min, and need to have at least that number of constituencies in a region/nation, but have the flexibility to go up to the number of constituencies under Jenkins max if necessary, with the number of regional MPs reduced accordingly.

I Want Bad News

So, this morning I had my fasting blood test. I never like blood tests - I am more comfortable with the "emergency" ones, i.e. where I have been taken ill and one has to be done when I'm in A&E. The ones booked in advance give me the opportunty to get nervous, and of course, a fasting one means I miss breakfast, so feel a bit ugh because of that.

They say "no news is good news". And I will be contacted if there is anything wrong.

Yes, no news will be good news. But I need "bad news" - I need something which says "Sorry, you have ,,,,,". Something which means we can get to work on sorting out whatever has been affecting me these last 6 months.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

A Marxist In Edinburgh - Tactical Voting Under AMS

Continuing the theme of looking at the Additional Members System, I am now considering tactical voting, and how you can best help the party you support by casting your constituency vote in a counter-intuitive way.

In the German system, there is the concept of overhang seats. In the German system, the seats are allocated on a proportional basis considering the total size of the Bundestag and then the constituency results come into play. To look at this, consider the result for Scotland Central at the May 2003 elections to the Scottish Parliament. This has 10 constituencies and 7 top-up Members of the Scottish Parliament.

In a Germanic system, we would look at what would happen if 17 seats were allocated on a proportional basis:

  • Labour - 8
  • Scottish National Party - 4
  • Conservative - 1
  • Scottish Socialist Party - 1
  • Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party - 1
  • Liberal Democrat - 1
  • Green - 1

In this region, Labour won 9 of the constituencies, with Falkirk West won by an Independent, Dennis Canavan. Under the German system we subtract the number of constituencies to determine the number of regional MSPs:

Party Entitled to Constituencies Regional
Labour 8 9 -1
Scottish National Party 4 0 4
Conservative 1 0 1
Scottish Socialist Party 1 0 1
Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Partye 1 0 1
Liberal Democrat 1 0 1
Green 1 0 1
Independent 0 1 -1

Hmm, so we need to take 1 constituency from Labour and Canavan. Under the German system, Scotland Central would be expanded from 17 to 19 MSPs, 9 of them regional, and Labour and Canavan each having an overhang seat.

Under the British system, AMS is an additive system, and begins with the number of constituencies won before deciding how many regional MSPs each party gets. It is possible - as for Labour in Scotland Central - for a party's vote to "saturate" (for want of a proper psephological term), where it does so well in the constituencies that it gets equal to, or more than, the number of seats it would be entitled to if all seats were allocated proportionally. If we look at Lothians in 2003, we get:

Party Constituencies Regional Total
Labour 6 0 6
Scottish National Party 0 2 2
Conservative 1 1 2
Green 0 2 2
Liberal Democrat 2 0 2
Independent 0 1 1
Scottish Socialist Party 0 1 1

Here, the Independent is Margo MacDonald, who ran a "party list" with just her name on it.

In 2003, Labour lost two constituencies compared to the May 1999 election - Edinburgh South (to the Liberal Democrats) and Edinburgh Pentlands (to the Conservatives). What effect did these have on the result?

First assume Labour held Edinburgh South:

Party Constituencies Regional Total
Labour 7 0 7
Scottish National Party 0 2 2
Conservative 1 1 2
Green 0 2 2
Liberal Democrat 1 1 2
Independent 0 1 1

In reality, the Scottish Socialist Party won the seventh and final regional seat. If Labour - rather than the Liberal Democrats - had won Edinburgh South, then it would be the Liberal Democrats picking up that seat. In total, it would appear that Labour has gained a seat at the expense of the Scottish Socialist Party.

Now assume that instead, Labour held Edinburgh Pentlands:

Party Constituencies Regional Total
Labour 7 0 7
Scottish National Party 0 2 2
Conservative 0 2 2
Green 0 2 2
Liberal Democrat 2 0 2
Independent 0 1 1

Again, a similar effect. This time the Conservatives (rather than the Greens) pick up the sixth regional seat, while the Greens (rather than the Scottish Socialist Party) pick up the seventh and last regional seat. So, again we have the overall effect of Labour gaining a seat at the expense of the Scottish Socialist Party.

But now we consider what if Labour held both Edinburgh South and Edinburgh Pentlands. This then gives us:

Party Constituencies Regional Total
Labour 8 0 8
Scottish National Party 0 2 2
Conservative 0 2 2
Green 0 2 2
Liberal Democrat 1 0 1
Independent 0 1 1

So, what we see is Labour gaining 2 seats at the expense of the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Socialist Party. Hence, if you were a Scottish Socialist Party supporter in Edinburgh Pentlands, the best thing you could do to help your party would be to vote Conservative in the constituency section.

This might seem counter-intuitive. But suppose the House of Commons used AMS, and you were a minor party supporter in North East England. It would be reasonable to assume that Labour will pick up the overwhelming majority of the constituencies, so much so that their vote would saturate and they would get no regional MPs.

You would then reasonably assume that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will be picking up the regional seats. So, if you lived in a marginal, the best thing you could do would be to vote for whichever one of these would oust Labour, and hope that this reduces their number of regional MPs by one, and that your party would pick up a regional MP in return.

If we look at allocsting all of Lothian's regional seats in a Germanic style, we get:

  • Labour - 4
  • Scottish National Party - 3
  • Conservatives - 2
  • Green - 2
  • Liberal Democrat - 2
  • Independent - 2
  • Scottish Socialist Party - 1

Hence, even after losing Edinburgh South and Edinburgh Pentlands, Labour is still doing 2 seats better than it would on a fully proportional system.

Note that MacDonald would have been entitled to 2 seats. This would be a problem as she is the only person on her list. In the German system, this is a rare underhang seat, and the size of the Bundestag is reduced by 1 for each underhang seat.

We could look at taking what became Labour's most marginal constituency - Linlithgow - and considering what would happen if Labour lost it to the Scottish National Party:

Party Constituencies Regional Total
Labour 5 0 5
Scottish National Party 1 2 3
Conservative 1 1 2
Green 0 2 2
Liberal Democrat 2 0 2
Independent 0 1 1
Scottish Socialist Party 0 1 1

It would do what it says on the tin - the number of Scottish National Party seats would go up by 1, and the number of Labour down by 1. It has no effect on the number of regional MSPs.

If we then take the next most marginal Labour seat, Edinburgh Central, and allocate that to the runners-up, the Liberal Democrats, we get:

Party Constituencies Regional Total
Labour 4 0 4
Scottish National Party 1 2 3
Conservative 1 1 2
Green 0 2 2
Liberal Democrat 3 0 3
Independent 0 1 1
Scottish Socialist Party 0 1 1

It is now the Liberal Democrat vote that saturates, and we see no change in the number of regional MSPs.

Finally, if we take Labour's next most marginal seat, Livingston, and allocate that to the runner-up, the Scottish National Party, we get:

Party Constituencies Regional Total
Labour 3 1 4
Scottish National Party 2 1 3
Conservative 1 1 2
Green 0 2 2
Liberal Democrat 3 0 3
Independent 0 1 1
Scottish Socialist Party 0 1 1

Effectively, the Labour losing a constituency to the Scottish National Party is balanced out by gaining a regional seat from them. And this is what happens when party's votes aren't saturating - namely that winning or losing constituencies doens't impact on the final result.

The London 5% Rule

One thing I want to look at is the Additional Members System - as I noted some time back, about 25% of the electorate use AMS, namely those in Greater London, Wales and Scotland.

Unlike the devolved legislatures in Scotland and Wales, the Greater London Authority Act 1999 introduced a 5% rule, so that basically no party list (and "party list" can mean an Independent candidate running on a list with just their name on) can win any top-up seats.

This might follow the practice of the German Bundestag But is actually more restrictive. In Germany a party that wins 3 constituencies is exempt from the 5% rule. For example, at the September 2002 election, the Party of Democratic Socialism won 2 constituencies (both in Berlin) and only 3.99% of the vote, so only had 2 MPs. Interestingly, if the PDS has won a third constituency, then they would have been entitled to 24 or 25 MPs, with a reduction in MPs for other parties. That election saw the Social Democrat/Green coalition re-elected with a majority of 9 - if the PDS had won that third constituency, this majority would have vanished and the Social Democrats would have had to look to the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union to form a "grand coalition".

In Germany the 5% rule is effective at a national level, not at the Land level. Foe example, the Free Democrats fell below 5% in Bavaria (but won 4 list seats there); while the PDS won 11.36% of the vote in Berlin and failed to win any list seats (ahead of the Free Democrats on 6.62% and 2 list seats), 16.32% in Mecklenburg & West Pomeria (ahead of the Free Democrats on 5.43% and 1 list seat and the Greens on 3.51%, who failed to win any of the 3 available seats), 17.24% in Brandenburg (ahead of the Free Democrats on 5.81% and the Greens on 4.50% - both of whom won 1 list seat), 14.41% in Saxony & Anhalt (ahead of the Free Democrats on 7.57% and the Greens on 3.40% - both of whom won 1 list seat), 16.95% in Thurnigia (ahead of the Free Democrats on 5.86% and the Greens on 4.26% - both of whom won 1 list seat), and 16.17% in Saxony (ahead of the Free Democrats on 7.26% and the Greens on 4.62% - both of which won 2 list seats).

So, what we see in Germany is some parties falling below 5% in a Land and being represented, while others in the same Land can be above 5% but get no representation.

Although I appreciate the reason why - the old Weimar Republic did not use a threshhold, and in May 1928, the National Socialist German Workers' Party won 12 of the 491 seats available on just 2.60% of the vote, and we all know what happened from there.

So, like Germany, but unlike Wales and Scotland, London imposes a threshhold. How has this impacted the result?

The first election was May 2000:

Party London vote Constituencies Additional Total Additional (no threshhold) Total (no threshhold)
Labour 30.30% 6 3 9 3 9
Conservative 28.99% 8 1 9 0 8
Liberal Democrat 14.80% 0 4 4 4 4
Green 11.08% 0 3 3 3 3
Christian People's Alliance 3.33% 0 0 0 1 1

That 5% rule meant that the Conservatives' Eric Ollerenshaw - now MP for Lancaster & Fleetwood - obtained the last seat instead of the CPA's Ram Gidoomal. As Ollerenshaw went on to beocme leader of the Conservative group, that threshhold made the difference there.

I'm not suggesting that the CPA would have become a major party, but the absence of the threshhold would have given it a toehold in politics, perhaps enough of a presence so that Gidoomal could hold his seat and maybe there would be a CPA Member of the European Parliament for Greater London, taking his or her seat alongside the Conservatives and Ulster Unionist Party in the European People's Party/European Democrats group.

This election - the last major British election of the 20th century - strikes me as being not just from a different millennium, but from a different era. Go back then, and you would expect the Greens - not the UK Independence Party (who came seventh with 2.05% of the vote) - to emerge as England's fourth party. You would look at Northern Ireland and see the setting up of devolution and feel that the Democratic Unionist Party were on the wrong side of history and the UUP had been vindicated and would remain doninant in unionism. You would look at Scotland and think that yes, the Scottish National Party is Scotland's second party, but the idea of the SNP producing a First Minister was a pipe dream, and as for the idea the SNP would win an overall majority - lie down in a darkened room until you get such silly ideas out of your head.

And yes, this experimenting with AMS for devolved legislatures could lead to electoral reform for the House of Commons, but if a hung Parliament emerged, then obviously there would be a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition.

The next election was postponed to June 2004 to coincide with the European ones:

Party London vote European vote Constituencies Additional Total Additional (no threshhold) Total (no threshhold)
Conservative 28.49% 26.78% 9 0 9 0 9
Labour 25.00% 24.75% 5 2 7 1 6
Liberal Democrat 16.88% 15.32% 0 5 5 4 4
Green 8.57% 8.43% 0 2 2 2 2
UK Independence Party 8.37% 12.34% 0 2 2 2 2
British National Party 4.82% 4.04% 0 0 0 1 1
Respect - The Unity Coalition 4.67% 4.84% 0 0 0 1 1

In italics I have put the share of the vote within Greater London that the parties achieved at the simultaneous European elections.

The 5% rule meant that Labour's Murad Qureshi (who is still a member of the Greater London Assembly) and the Liberal Democrats' Dee Doocey (who is now a member of the House of Lords) would not have been elected, and in their place would have been the BNP's Jason Douglas and Respect's Lindsay German. However, top of the Liberal Democrat list was Lynne Featherstone - now Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development - who resigned from the Assembly in May 2005 when she was elected as MP for Hornsey & Wood Green, and in this scenario she would have been replaced by Doocey, fifth on the list, rather than by Greg Pope, sixth on the list.

Coming eighth in London was the CPA on just 2.93%. Of course, if the threshhold was not in place and Gidoomal was heading the CPA list as a sitting Assembly member, then they could have done better.

So 2004 saw changes from just 4 years earlier. In the European elections, across the United Kingdom as a whole, the Conservatives obtained 25.01% of the vote, and Labour 21.16% - combined this is a lower share of the vote than Labour obtained in the February 1950, October 1951 (when it lost), May 1955 (when it lost) and March 1966 general elections, abnd a lower share of the vote than the Conservatives obtained in the 1950 (which they lost), 1951, 1955, October 1959 and June 1970 general elections. UKIP rose to third place (in terms of votes) and joint third place with the Liberal Democrats (in terms of seats).

The next election was May 2008:

Party London vote Constituencies Additional Total Additional (no threshhold) Total (no threshhold)
Conservative 34.63% 8 3 11 3 11
Labour 27.58% 6 2 8 2 8
Liberal Democrat 11.41% 0 3 3 3 3
Green 8.43% 0 2 2 2 2
British National Party 5.42% 0 1 1 1 1

With the sixth placed party being CPA/The Christian Party on 2.91%, the 5% threshhold had no impact.

And this brings us to the latest election, that of May 2012:

Party London vote Constituencies Additional Total Additional (no threshhold) Total (no threshhold)
Labour 41.14% 8 4 12 4 12
Conservative 31.99% 6 3 9 3 9
Green 8.54% 0 2 2 2 2
Liberal Democrat 6.79% 0 2 2 1 1
UK Independence Party 4.52% 0 0 0 1 1

So, in this case the threshhold meant that the Liberal Democrats' Stephen Knight won the last seat, which would otherwise have gone to UKIP's Steven Woolfe.

But why have a threshhold at all? The debate in the House of Commons in May 1999 - which goes over several pages (1, 2, 3 , 4. and 5) - looked at the arguments, but, of course, Labour's massive parliamentary majority meant it got its way.

Nick Raynsford, the Labour MP for Greenwich & Woolwich, who at the time of the debate was Under-Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Transport & Regional Affairs, justifies it by saying:

Members would recognise the real concern about people who, for whatever reason, seek to stir up racial hatred or hatred against any section of the community. This is not a matter that any political party can take lightly. We consider that, in the context of the proportional electoral system that we propose for the assembly, a threshold is a necessary safeguard against the possibility of extremist parties or candidates gaining a toehold in our democratic processes having won only a very small proportion of the vote. Once established, extremists and their views could begin to receive a disproportionate amount of publicity, and the corrosive effect of those views on local communities would in turn begin to have a disproportionate effect.

Of course, no threshold can be an absolute safeguard against parties or candidates who represent extreme views. In the unlikely circumstances of such a candidate winning more than 5 per cent of the vote, that candidate would win a London member seat. But if we assume a 50 per cent turnout, that would require a party or individual candidate to win approximately 125,000 votes from across the whole of London.

As members of the Committee pointed out, there are significant drawbacks attached to the setting of such thresholds in that they will not discriminate between the good, the bad and the ugly of minority opinion. Consequently, in seeking to prevent the bad and the ugly, we run the risk of denying a seat to parties or individuals pursuing worthy or worthwhile minority interests, who may also fail to exceed the threshold and who might otherwise have won a seat. We must, therefore, ask whether that is a price worth paying. I believe that it is.

A threshold--for all its imperfections--is a bulwark intended to deny a platform to those who, among other things, peddle race hatred, who spread fear among our citizens and seek to undermine our democratic system. That is why we have decided that this measure must be included in the Bill.

So, a threshhold is there to block parties which hold extremist views, and blocking other parties is a price worth paying. But is denying the CPA, UKIP and Respect at various points a price worth paying in order to prevent the BNP getting elected - which they managed to do in 2008?

Richard Ottaway, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, who at the time was the Shadow Minister for London, comments that:

While most people talk about this as a matter of groups on the extreme right, most civil disobedience in London in recent years has been from the extreme left. I am thinking in particular of the miners' strike and the poll tax rioters.

With some reservations, we support the amendment, but the Minister must answer two questions. First, he must explain to those who still have doubts why someone's extreme views are abhorrent if he gets 4.5 per cent of the vote but acceptable at 5.5 per cent Secondly, can he confirm that a repeat of the Greater London council election result of 1977, when the British National party polled 5.3 per cent, would mean that it would get someone elected to the new assembly? Where it put up candidates in 1994, the BNP polled 18.2 per cent of the vote, and in 1998, 7 per cent So it is possible that extreme candidates will be elected to the authority despite the amendment.

Quite prophetic - why are the BNP's views abhorrent in 2004 but acceptable in 2008?

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader and MP for Bermondsey & Old Southwark, makes the obvious point that:

People should be able to stand for election and express their views within the law. If they break the law--by inciting racial hatred, for example--they should be prosecuted and, if convicted, banned from taking part in the electoral process.

And John Bercow, the MP for Buckingham and Speaker of the House of Commons, who at the time was a Conservative MP, notes:

Would it not be more honest if those who advocated that the threshold should be set deliberately at whatever level is necessary to prevent the election of extremist candidates simply advocated the disqualification of such candidates from standing?

Precisely - if a Government wants to stop a party being elected, then the honest thing to do is the messy business of proscribing them. But that would be awkward in a liberal democratic society, although it might produce good newspaper headlines from those who like their leaders to be authoritarian (and of course, see being authoritarian and ignoring liberal principles as being "tough" and "acting in the interests of the majority").

Ken Livingstone, at the time Labour MP for Brent East, who went on to be elected as Mayor of London twice (as an Independent in May 2000 and as Labour in June 2004), makes the observation that:

We should look at the narrow point at issue in terms of numbers of votes cast. We are introducing a threshold which means that a fascist party will have to get 5 per cent of the votes to qualify for a seat. We know from the 1977 GLC election, when the British National party contested all seats across London and got 5.3 per cent of the vote, that that is an achievable objective for a fascist party in this country. If we did not impose a threshold, a party would still need to win 4 per cent of the vote to get a seat. Given 25 seats, it would need to get 4 per cent, unless a vast number of minor parties got 2 or 3 per cent each. So we are drawing a small margin of difference.

Across Europe, it is not unusual now for fascist parties to get 15 per cent of the vote. There have been breakthroughs in France and Austria. To guarantee to keep the fascists out for all time, we would most probably have to set the threshold at 15 per cent or more and that would also eliminate the Liberal Democrats in many areas. When I first entered local government in London, the Liberals did not get 5 per cent in the borough council elections Londonwide. So we are working ourselves up over the wrong issue.

It worries me that people could use candidacy as a platform to propagate their racist views. We should consider what to do to prevent that. My fear is about what may have motivated the young man who has been arrested for the bombings. He was not linked into an organised fascist party, but the contagion of fascist views had reached him. What worries me most is not the threshold--whether the 4 per cent without a bar or the 5 per cent bar that we are introducing--but the fact that the new election for mayor could give a fascist candidate access to broadcasts and a big distribution of literature which, while with clever lawyers working on it may narrowly stay within the race relations law, would pander to racism, homophobia and bigotry and help to stir up the sort of passions that have led to deaths on the streets of London in the past few days.

The thing is, as Livingstone is getting at, parties and individuals standing for election get those free mailshots, regardless of views. Throughout the debate, Labour MPs mentioned the "oxygen of publicity" logic - namely that back in the 1980s, the then Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, banned broadcasters from broadcasting speeches by certain individuals to deny them the "oxygen of publicity". The leading person affected was the leader of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams.

But Adams was an elected MP for Belfast West. And that didn't alter. Thatcher did not introduce legislation to remove him from his seat or to ban him from being elected. She let the democratic process take its course, however objectionable his views. That is a far cry from saying "we must introduce laws to stop these people getting elected".

Moreover, it doesn't matter whether you get 1 vote in the election or 99.99% - you get the "oxygen of publicity" of that mailshot. So, introducing a threshhold using the "oxygen of publicity" argument is deeply flawed.

What about the concern that without the threshhold, an extremist party is going to hold the "balance of power"? OK, so in a 25-member Assembly, there are 12 members on each side and extremist, who sneaked in with less than 5% of the vote, somehow holds the balance of power, and that would be OK if they won more than 5% of the vote. Er, sorry, don't get it.

And how realistic is it that a major party would do a deal with an extremint party to form a majority? Take 2008. You could have Conservative/Liberal Democrat (14 seats), or Labour/Liberal Democrat/Green (13 seats). The presence of the BNP isn't going to stop the Liberal Democrats being the party holding the balance of power.

But why would it be wrong for the BNP to hold the balance of power in 2004 but not in 2008?

Moreover, just suppose that in the next few months there is a spate of by-elections in Conservative seats, and in each one an extremist wins. And it gets to the stage that the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government loses its majority. There are three options for the Government:

  • Sit down with the leader of the extremists and discuss Cabinet posts and legislation
  • Sit down with Labour and discuss common ground which would involve ensuring that (heavily modified, of course) legislation would get through
  • Sit down with certain Labour backbench MPs and MPs from mainstream minor parties to hold discussions on a Bill-by-Bill basis

If we look at Germany, we see that at times a Social Democrat/Christian Democrat "grand coalition" is the solution. And we should trust the voters, and also trust the politicians to ensure that any extremists who get elected are frozen out of any cross-party discussions.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Late July Opinion Polls - Testing FPTP To Destruction

One thing I have been doing is analysing the opinion polls produced by YouGov. I have given an outline of how I analyse it, which can be summed up as rather than looking at the headline figures, examine how the vote has shifted between parties and take into account regional variations.

Now, this approach had some problems, and it became reasonable to make an assumption on how many Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters in each constituency had switched from Labour since the June 2001 general election. The modification meant that these (the "switched vote") would be the first people to switch back to Labour, and if necessary, we would then dig in to the rest of the vote (the "retained vote").

Based on recent opinion polls (which I come to in a minute), we get all of the Liberal Democrat switched vote switching back to Labour, along with some of the retained vote (around 20% in Englamd, 24% in Scotland and 6% in Wales). Basically, everyone who was a Labour voter in 2001 and a Liberal Democrat voter at the May 2010 general election is assumed to be voting Labour again, along a significant number of Liberal Democrat 2010 voters who did not vote Labour in 2001.

And in England and Wales, only part of the Conservative switched vote (around 47% in England and 32% in Wales) is switched back to Labour, while in Scotland all of the Conservative switched vote - along with around 1% of the Conservative retained vote - goes to Labour. Basically, in both England and Wales a majority of people who voted Labour in 2001 and Conservative in 2010 are sticking with the Conservatives, while in Scotland eveyone who voted Labour in 2001 and Conservative in 2010 is switching back to Labour.

If I have time, a later modification could be working out approximately how many people per constituency swtiched from the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats in 2001 to one of the other main parties in 2010.

The result of the 2010 general election is:

  • Conservatives - 306 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Labour - 258 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Liberal Democrat - 57
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Scottish National Party - 6
  • Plaid Cymru - 3
  • Greens - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

I will assume that there is no change of Speaker of the House of Commons, so John Bercow would be re-elected in Buckingham as Mr Speaker seeking re-election.

Although I use the YouGov polls, there are 5 of these a week. In order to get a bigger sample size, I have used the past week's:

Date C Lab LD UKIP
Friday 19 July 33% 38% 11% 11%
Sunday 21 July 32% 39% 10% 11%
Tuesday 23 July 35% 38% 11% 10%
Wednesday 24 July 32% 39% 11% 12%
Thursday 25 July 35% 39% 8% 11%
Average 33.4% 38.6% 10.2% 11.0%

Now, much of the focus has been on the Conservatives closing the gap on Labour. But what is also interesting is the Liberal Democrat vote - up till now, the pattern has been for a plurality of the Liberal Democrat 2010 voters to declare their support for Labour. The Tuesday and Wednesday polls implied that this effect has been reversed - but today's poll disagrees.

All this gives us the following:

  • Labour gains 89 seats from the Conservatives, 23 from the Liberal Democrats and 1 from the Greens - a net gain of 113 seats
  • Plaid Cymru gains 1 seat from the Liberal Democrats
  • Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern gains 1 seat from the Conservatives
  • The Greens lose 1 seat to Labour
  • The Conservatives gain 33 seats from the Liberal Democrats, but lose 1 to Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern and 89 to Labour - a net loss of 57 seats
  • The Liberal Democrats lose 1 seat to Plaid Cymru, 23 to Labour and 33 to the Liberal Democrats - a net loss of 57 seats

This gives us an overall result of:

  • Labour - 371 (including 2 Deputy Speaker)
  • Conservatives - 249 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Scottish National Party - 6
  • Plaid Cymru - 4
  • Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

The thing that stands out is that the Liberal Democrats and Greens do not do well enough to keep any of their seats, and the UK Independence Party fails to make a breakthrough.

The only seat where the Liberal Democrats would achieve over 30% of the vote would be 30.2% in Twickenham, currently held by the Business & Innovation Secretary Vince Cable - a seat that would fall (narrowly) to the Conservatives.

The Greens' best result would be, unsurprisingly, in Brighton Pavilion with 29.7% of the vote. But this is a seat where defeat would be narrow.

There are 6 other seats where the Greens get over 10% of the vote - Edinburgh East (Lahour hold); Norwich South (Labour gain, with the sitting Liberal Democrat MP, Simon Wright, pushed down to fourth place); Glasgow North (Labour hold); Ross, Skye & Lochaber (Labour gain, with sitting Liberal Democrat MP and former leader, Charles Kennedy, pushed into third place behind the Scottish National Party); Herefordshire North (Conservative hold); and Edinburgh North & Leith (Labour hold).

Out of these, the Greens only come third in Edinburgh East (with the Scottish National Party second) and Norwich South (with the Conservatives second). In Glasgow North they are fourth (with the Scottish National Party second and Liberal Democrats third - although there isn't much between the Liberal Democrats and the fifth-placed Conservatives). In Ross, Skye & Lochaber they are fifth (with the Conservatives in fourth place, and even then the battle between the Greens and UKIP for fifth place looks close). In Herefordshire North they are fifth (Labour comes second, UKIP third, and the Liberal Democrats are only just ahead of the Greens). And in Edinburgh North & Leith they are fifth (with the Conservatives second, and the Liberal Democrats only narrowly ahead of the Scottish National Party).

There is another seat where the Greens are third - Aldridge-Brownhills (Conservative hold) - but this is one where they are just ahead of the Liberal Democrats.

Norwich South falls to become the Green's eighth target seat. Brighton Pavilion is first, of course. Second would be Ross, Skye & Lochaber (notwithstanding their fifth place). Third would be Gordon - a fascinating seat which Labour would gain, pushing the sitting Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce down into fourth place. However, it would be the second closest three-way marginal in the country (a Labour/Scottish National Party/Conservative one) after Aberconwy (Labour gains this from the Conservatives and it becomes a Labour/Conservative/Plaid Cymru marginal).

Despite being their third target, Gordon - like Ross, Skye & Lochaber - would be a seat where the Greens are fifth. Incidentally, Gordon would become the British National Party's top target seat, despite them coming sixth and losing their deposit.

The Greens' fourth target seat is Argyll & Bute, which is the fourth closest three-way mzrginal (a Labour/Conservative/Scottish National Party one) where the sitting Liberal Democrat MP, Alan Reid, is pushed to fourth place, and the Greens come fifth.

The Greens' fifth target seat is Brecon & Radnorshire - a seat the Conservatives gain with the sitting Liberal Democrat MP, Roger Williams, down into fourth place. Here the Greens come sixth, with Labour second, Plaid Cymru third, and UKIP fifth. The 20.1% gap between first and sizth is not the closest - that achievement goes to Ross, Skye & Lochaber, with a 16.6% gap between Labour and UKIP.

The Greens' sixth target seat is interesting, as it is Sheffield Hallam, currently held by the Lord President of the Council and Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, who is pushed into third place as Labour gain this. The Greens would be fifth, with the Conservatives second and UKIP fourth.

There are only 3 seats where UKIP get over 20% of the vote - Fylde (Conservative hold); Skipton & Ripon (Conservative hold); and Penrith & the Border (Conservative hold). These are among the 325 seats (half the House of Commons) where UKIP come third, with that party coming second in a further 23.

Just below 20% of the vote are a couple of interesting seats - Harrogate & Knaresborough, a Conservative hold where UKIP come second; and Boston & Skegness, which the Conservatives hold with Labour second and UKIP moving up to third.

Boston & Skegness has been in the news today connected with UKIP, as The Times suggests that it is a seat that UKIP leader and Member of the European Parliament for South East England, Nigel Farage, might contest (€*).

[* As is common these days, using a monetary symbol in brackets in a link indicates it is behind a paywall]

If Farage would prefer to contest a seat in his region, then two choices spring to mind. The first is the seat in South East England where UKIP would get the highest share of the vote - New Forest West - or their top target seat in South East England (and seventeenth overall), namely Portsmouth South, currently held by Mike Hancock, who resigned the Liberal Democrat whip last month. This would - despite being UKIP's top target seat in the region - become a three-way Conservative/Labour/Liberal Democrat marginal, with UKIP in fourth place.

UKIP's top target seat would be one of the most interesting seats - Fife North East, currently held by the former Liberal Democrat leader Ming Campbell. Here, like elsewhere, it appears from the polls that the voters will be merciless to the Liberal Democrats, with this seat the third closest three-way marginal and the closest four-way marginal (Labour/Conservative/Scottish National Party/Liberal Democrat) with UKIP obtaining a good fifth place.

Their second target seat is also in Scotland, this time Orkney & Shetland, where Liberal Democrat MP and Government Deputy Chief Whip, Alistair Carmichael, is narrowly defeated by Labour, with the Scottish National Party third, and UKIP in fourth place just ahead of the Conservatives.

UKIP's third target seat is the aforementioned Sheffield Hallam, and fourth target seat is Devon North. Although the Conaervatives win this, sitting Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey is the runner-up. UKIP are fourth, just behind Labour.

There are successes for minor parties and others. Independent/Save Our Green Belt would come second in Castle Point (Conservative hold). People's Voice for Blaenau Gwent would come second in Blaenau Gwent (Labour hold). There would be Independents coming third - Khizar Iqbal in Dewsbury (Labour gain from Conservatives, with the Liberal Democrats and British National Party just behind Iqbal); Ian Womersley in Hemsworth (Labour hold); Murdo Murray in Na H-Eileanan An Iar (Scottish National Party hold); and Philip Howe in Rhondda (Labour hold).

The British National Party would come third in Barking (Labour hold); Batley & Spen (Labour hold); Dagenham & Rainham (Labour hold); Jarrow (Labour hold) and South Shields (Labour hold).

Meanwhile, the Liberals would come third in Liverpool West Derby (Labour hold).

Respect - The Unity Coalition come second to Labour in Birmingham Hall Green, and third (behind Labour and the Conservatives) in both Bethnal Green & Bow and neighbouring Poplar & Limehouse. You will notice that I make no mention of Bradford West, which appears as a Labour hold, although Respect's George Galloway won a by-election here.

Not taking by-election results into account is also why Eastleigh doesn't appear high on the list of UKIP targets (it's number 420 on the list) despite UKIP coming second in the by-election. This appears as a Conservative gain, with Labour second, Liberal Democrats third and UKIP losing their deposit in fourth place. I suppose that some analysis of connections between by-election results and the following general election could provide some modifcations to take into account when there has been a by-election.

With losing deposits, you will recall that I mentioned the BNP's top target seat is Gordon, where they come sixth and lose their deposit. How can this be?

One thing to notice how there isn't all that much correlation between share of the vote and how high a seat is on a target list. In the days of two party politics, then there would be a direct link. But now we are in the world of multi-party politics. You may be 5% away from winning a seat where the winner got 25% - but you can be sure that there are other parties which could be closer, or not much far behind you, and also targetting it. You may be 10% away from winning a seat where the winner got 45%. You know that there it's a battle between you and them only.

Especially in Scotland and Wales, where there are nationalist parties, there are seats being won on a low share of the vote. When I saw some of the constituency results for the 2010 election, my thought was that they were random - they could easily have gone in another direction, or indeed a third direction. Small shifts in vote in one constituency can determine which of three (or more) parties win it. And the small (local issues) can influence the big (national destiny).

If a seat can go one of four, or even five or more, ways based on small changes in votes, there is that randomness and unpredictability.

One way around it is switching to the Alternative Vote, which was rejected in May 2011 in a referendum. Late last century, the Jenkins Commission produced a report which called for AV+ - basically a form of the Additional Members System used to elect the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly of Wales and Greater London Assembly, with the constituency MPs elected via AV rather than First Past The Post.

There was a Note of Reservation which suggested that the constituencies in such a model should continue to use FPTP rather than AV. And referring to Winston Churchill's views it states:

He went on to describe AV as containing an element of blind chance and accident which would lower respect for Parliament.

And the Note of Reservation goes on to state:

In addition, as all experts on electoral systems have acknowledged, AV can operate haphazardly depending upon the ranking of candidates on first preference votes.

An example is provided on how the order in which candidates are deleted for coming last can determine the outcome, i.e. if candidate A got only a few more votes, she might have been kept in while candidate B got deleted, and this could have determined whether candidate C or D ultimately won.

Now, this is a serious objection and needs to be looked at. But when we move onto multi-party systems with MPs being elected via FPTP on less than 30% of the vote, and seats which could go one of three or more ways, then it is FPTP that has an element of blind chance and accident which would lower respect for Parliament. And secondly, there are cases where non-monotonicity could happen, but if AV means that a small chnage in lower preferences could make the difference between whether candidate C or D, both capable of commanding an absolute majority, is elected, then FPTP means that a small change in first preferences (and there are no others in FPTP) could make the difference between whether candidate W, X, Y or Z, all with minority support, is elected.

I gave examples of parties which failed to get any MPs, and so far the highest share of the vote for one of these has been 3.10%. We can, just about, live with that.

But what happens when two parties get over 10% of the vote and neither of them get any MPs? Surely even the most vocal supporter of FPTP is going to have questions about that.

If there are no Liberal Democrat, Green or UKIP MPs after the next election, then the case for electoral reform is stronger. And one thought on this - if we went to AV+, couldn't the AV part actually become redundant? By that I note that in Germany, the Free Democrats, Left and Green rarely win constituencies and rely on Land lists to obtain representation in the Bundestag. Is it not possible that the Liberal Democrats, Greens and UKIP would get out of the constituency part (with exceptions, e.g. the Greens in the Brighton area, and the Liberal Democrats across parts of the West Country, Hampshire, south west London and northern Scotland) and focus on winning regional MPs on party lists, leaving the majority of constituencies to be good old-fashioned Conservative/Labour battles?

Graham The Karate Kid

Walking back from the GP, I passed a stall in Shirley precinct, for a special membership offer (£20 for 4 months) for a local karate club. I had spoken to the man, Steve, at the stall a few weeks back, and told him I would decide whether to join or not.

When I was at secondary school, PE lessons were mainly football, rugby, cricket and gymnastics. Very focussed on the best - we had some tennis lessons which were the 8 best sportsmen in the year playing doubles on the two courts, with the rest of us being able to learn by observing only.

None of these really interest me. I am liking squash - despite not being good at it. Swimming was something we did in the first year, with the wonderful logic that you can huniliate a non-swimmer into suddenly becoming a good swimmer. But free from the school lessons, it is something I do from time to time.

So I saw the karate and thought "why not?". Completely out of leftfield for me. Not something I have any experience of. Doubt I'll ever get a yellow belt. Either I'll enjoy it and continue or I'll decide it's not for me.

And The (Heart) Beat Goes On

This morning I had a constructive meeting with my GP. I turned up in time for a 9.20 appointment, the surgery had no record of me having an appointment today. I went home, picked up the appointment slip and saw it was 9.20 yesterday, went back (feeling more gormless than Mr Gormless of Gormlesstown). They saw it as a simple error, and booked me in for an appointment later this morning.

One issue the GP has is whether all these heart problems are actually heart problems, or have we been barking up the wrong tree? Is it all a side-effect of something else? Yes, the echocardiogram I had in February showed an enlarged left ventricle, which came as no surprise, but, as he pointed out, it showed nothing else to worry about.

On Monday I have a fasting blood test, which will be to look for diabetes, anaemia and an underactive thyroid. I have had urine tests for diabetes, but he said that these tend to detect it when it's bad, not in the early stages.

Of course, it is easy to self-diagnose, but when I look at the underactive thyroid symptons, it all leaps out at me.

The one thing that has caused all the stress has been the uncertainity, the inability to put a name to what is happening. It may be an unpleasant name - but at least it is a name.

The Biggest Political Losers

Following on from a Twitter discussion, I decided to have a look at what are the most successful parties (in terms of share of the vote)_not to win a seat at that election. I shall look at general elections in the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition, any party getting over 1% of the vote but no MPs is also listed (but if it isn't the most successful loser that election then it is in italics):

Election Party Vote
January/February 1906 Social Democratic Federation 0.35%
January/February 1910 Social Democratic Federation 0.22%
December 1910 Social Democratic Federation 0.12%
December 1918 Independent National Federation of Discharged & Demobolised Soldiers & Sailors [1] 0.56%
December 1918 Agriculturalist [1] 0.19%
November 1922 Agriculturalist 0.16%
December 1923 Communist Party of Great Britain 0.25%
October 1924 Sinn Féin* [2] 0.22%
May 1929 Communist Party of Great Britain 0.22%
October 1931 Communist Party of Great Britain 0.34%
November 1935 Republican* 0.22%
July 1945 Scottish National Party** 0.11%
February 1950 Communist Party of Great Britain 0.32%
October 1951 Communist Party of Great Britain 0.08%
May 1955 Plaid Cymru*** 0.17%
October 1959 Plaid Cymru*** 0.28%
October 1964 Republican* 0.37%
March 1966 Scottish National Party** 0.47%
June 1970 Plaid Cymru*** 0.62%
February 1974 Pro-Assembly Ulster Unionist* [3] 0.30%
October 1974 National Front 0.39%
May 1979 National Front 0.61%
June 1983 Alliance Party of Northern Ireland* 0.20%
June 1987 Green Party 0.28%
April 1992 Green Party 0.51%
May 1997 Referendum Party 2.59%
June 2001 UK Independence Party 1.48%
May 2005 UK Independence Party 2.23%
May 2010 UK Independence Party 3.10%
May 2010 British National Party 1.90%

An asterisk indicates that a party only contested seats in Northern Ireland; a double asterisk only in Scotland and a triple asterisk only in Wales.

  • [1] There were 5 official National Federation of Discharged & Demobolised Soldiers & Sailors candidates - none of whom were elected. In addition, there were 25 Independent NFDDSS candidates who were standing, and these as a group got 0.56% of the vote. But should we count the Independent NFDDSS candidates as a "party" or a bunch of individuals? To complicate things, NFDDSS candidates (both official and unofficial) were one of the groups who stood under the "Silver Badge" banner, and one Silver Badge candidate - Robert Barker - did get elected. If we exclude Silver Badge candidates, then that leaves us with the Agriculturalist Party as the most successful party not to win any seats.
  • [2} In the 1918 election, Sinn Féin did a pretty good job of crushing the Irish Nationalists in Ireland. In 1924 there is the unique occurrence of the Irish Nationalists getting zero votes but winning a seat - the reason for this was that Thomas O'Connor, the sole Irish Nationalist candidate, was re-elected unopposed in Liverpool Scotland.
  • [3] The Ulster Unionist Party had effectively split by this stage, with the group oppoesed to the Sunningdale Agreement fighting in a pact with the Democratic Unionist Party and the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party. The PAUU group contained two sitting UUP MPs seeking re-election (Stanley McMaster in Belfast East and Rafton Pounder in Belfast South). It is important to note that the DUP and VUPP won seats despite having fewer votes than the PAUU group.

The last point brings me on to something - only in 1945, 1951, 1955 and 1964 did the listed party got fewer votes than every party that did win seats. But in 1906, both 1910, 1931 and 1959, there were Independents who got fewer votes but won seats.

This might be understandable. After all, we are a constituency-based system, and one of the strengths of First Past The Post (which would have continued to be a strength if we had voted in May 2011 to switch to the Alternative Vote) is that a party can get representation by contesting a small number of seats, or that an Independent can win a constituency - unlike list systems of Proportional Representation.

And we also have to ask what is the difference - apart from the name - between an Independent and a one-person band, such as the Scottish Prohibition Party (in 1922, 1923 and 1924), Constitutionalist (in 1922), Christian Pacifist (in 1924), Republican Labour (in 1966 and 1970), Ulster Popular [sic] Unionist Party (in 1983, 1987 and 1992), UK Unionist Party (in 1997) and in this century, Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern winning Wyre Forest in 2001 and 2005, or People's Voice for Blaenau Gwent winning Blaenau Gwent in 2005?

And until recently, these biggest losers were parties who contested a small handful of seats. You have to wait until the second 1974 election to have the National Front being the first biggest loser to contest a significant number of seats.

We now have a new phenomena, dating back to 1997 (or maybe 1992) - that of the national party which gets over 0.5% of the vote but fails to be elected; something that would sound odd a century ago.