Prof Patrick McGhee

Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

5 Reflections on the 2011 AV Vote

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm

So the votes have been cast and counted and we have a result.  Approximately,  19.1m people voted on a higher than expected turnout of 41%. The final result was Yes 32.1% and No 67.9%.  Although the result was widely predicted, the margin of victory is unexpected.  Here are five thoughts on the whole business.

1. It was a mistake for LibDems to schedule the referendum on the same days as the local elections.  

It must have been tempting  for Nick Clegg to accept the proposal that there would be a referendum in the Spring alongside the local elections. It must have seemed on the face of it to ensure, to some extent at least, a decent turnout.  But the miscalculation was surely that London, where AV support was always going to be higher, had no local elections for 5 May 2011. It was the worst possible combination – local elections being discussed nationally, but not actually happening in London.

2. Why was there a rush to have the referendum in the first year in office?

Given that any reform to the electoral system could only be implemented in relation to the next General Election – already scheduled for May 2015 – why was there the rush? Not only had LibDems insufficient time to build up interest let alone support for electoral reform, such time as they had had been filled with the political damage of being seen as the handmaidens to cuts.  In short, 12 months has not been enough time for LibDems to build the case for electoral reform, but just enough time to be identified with cuts and broken promises.

In short, 12 months has not been enough time for LibDems to build the case for electoral reform, but just enough time to be identified with cuts and broken promises

3 Two East London Boroughs had interesting outcomes

Hackney had the highest level of ‘Yes’ voters, while Newham had the lowest turnout.  Hackney is developing rapidly and is becoming more and more different from the other boroughs that surround it. Newham has the most diverse population in Europe. It has a directly elected Mayor enjoying overwhelming Labour support.

4 Electoral Reformists appear not to have thrown in the towel

Mr Huhne and the former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown seem clear that while AV might be dead, PR remains untested. It will surely be the end of electoral reform proposals in this Parliament, and it seems for now at least unlikely that the LibDems will have the same sort of leverage in the next Parliament. Particularly since, and how can I put this, they did not succeed in the very reform that would have protected or enhanced their seats.

5 ‘First Past the Post’ is not really ‘First Past the Post’ at all

This has only struck me this morning. ‘First Past the Post’ involves not a candidate getting past a winning post but the candidate being in the lead when the vote counting stops. And in FPTP it finishes early – after just one round of voting. By contrast, and to me rather ironically, AV is more of a FPTP system, in the sense that the race is not over until one candidate is past the post ie securing more than 50% of the votes.