Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mr Clegg: Your Support Stands To Collapse Under PR

The Liberal Democrat vote stands to collapse under PR. Be careful what you wish for on the back of your X-Factor ratings Mr Clegg. Like SuBo singing and a dog walking on its hind legs you're not really all that. The viewers surprise was that you were doing it at all. Talking to them like they were 10-year-olds, feelgood quackery and weasel words dressed up as an alternative. Misery-guts negative and empty pavement politics writ large.

Mehdi Hasan picks up in his Staggers blog on some typical Iain Dale twaddle which you can read, if you must, HERE. He doesn't really understand polls, economics or anything numerical or for that matter anything to do with logic and precision. As he might say: "Bless! or for that matter "Pathetic!"

Yes Iain, Labour are trailing in the reported polls, this last ten days. During the first X-Factor era of British politics. Bet you're regretting pushing for these debates now ain'tcha, well ain'tcha?

But back to the point. If you look at the small print e.g. on likelihood to actually vote e.g. on likelihood to change their minds e.g. on the $64,000 question: "Labour or Tory for the win?" and their squeezability; if you look at these then the polls are verging on meaninglessness with the Lib Dem bubble largely less likely to vote, more likely to change, and more biddable by squeeze messages.

We're being over-polled. Some of the polls are poorly designed and/or executed. And almost all of them are very poorly analysed by their Mainstream Media paymasters. Administering complex face-to-face polls myself - though 80% not on party political matters - I am perhaps more aware than many of the nuances of questions, of show card design, of options on them, of forced or unforced responses, and of the element of surprise vs expected polling.

Even on less than life-and-death factual matters punters can change their minds (i.e. their factual answers) in the course of a few minutes. Electoral behaviour in a couple of weeks time? So many undecided voters. And rather small samples.

I am often amazed at the weight put on opinion polls - the one's that suit a commentator's point of view anyway - the lack of acknowledgement of the margin-of-error factors, the lack of mining into the details.

Here's the Dale observation that Hasan pulls out:

The even bigger story is that Labour comes third but Gordon Brown still clings to the Premiership. And I'm not talking football.
If that happened I can foresee marches on Downing Street. And I'll happily be at the front!

Hasan then goes on to wonder out loud how the Conservatives would respond and ought to respond if they are deprived of their birthright by the vagaries of political geography. Vagaries that have at times favoured themselves. And which may do so again in the future.

Particularly if Dave gets his gerrymandering through, or loses the celtic fringes from his electoral map perhaps.

Underlying the analysis is an assumption that the current system is ridiculous. Even that the results we get out of in terms of popular vote versus seats can be projected onto other voting systems as if the arithmetics would still maintain.

Funnily enough I had a #labourdoorstep discussion with a Lib Dem and an anti-Tory Govt squeezable Lib Dem/Labour swinger yesterday. Students away from home, and neither of them planning to vote in our constituency, though if they did it would be 1-1 of course. One of them was tribal, the other a pragmatic tactician.

The Lib Dem - who plans to take part in the LD toppling of David Davis in Haltemprice and Howden asked what I thought about the voting system and would it be fair if such a scenario as Iain and Mehdi relate came to pass.

I replied that I support the constituency link and think say 5-seat Super Constituencies (SCs) would give a problem of connection and also intra-constituency game-playing between parties. Like split wards in local government. Increasing time needed for party campaigning and reducing that available for constituent championing.

Perhaps 2-seat SCs with one woman, one man? Some top up MPs perhaps? AV, AV+ or STV. I'm pretty open-minded. But big constituencies and party lists? Not keen. Mess!

But I also pointed out that it is not Labour's "fault" (or in the past the Tories "fault") that our supporters flock together geographically in the way they do.

If we did have SCs and AV we would almost certainly see FAR MORE of our Labour voters turning out. A 40-45% turn out in Manchester Central or Liverpool Riverside or Salford provides a numerically pretty low total of voters for three seats. But much of the other 55-60% of the voters are most likely Labour too.

This idle popular vote rhetoric based on the current FPTP single-member constituencies falls down because of this arithmetic and this reality.

If we had a different system people would vote in different ways and in different numbers. And - suck this up Mr Clegg - one particular thing that would happen is that your rag-bag coalition of voters would go home to Lab, Tory, Socialist, Green, even hard right places. The Lib Dems stand to COLLAPSE under PR. How about that then?


John Tyrrell said...

This political tribalism leaves most of us cold. PR would lead to the break up of existing groupings and the emregence of new groupings. Great A good reason to vote Lib Dem this time - as a friend of mine, a former Green Council candidate has told me she intends to do.

Chris Paul said...

Well John, you may be right. Though this is not political tribalism and your "most" here is 100% unevidenced. How do you claim tyo speak for "most people". Have you got a poll to back that up?

In Greater Manchester we find that many many Lib Dem voters are protest voters. Under many systems of PR they would surely return to their alma maters?

Your friend would presumably vote Green - a much clearer and more respectable option in my opinion - rather than dabbling with the Lib Dems if there were big enough constituencies (which I don't like as you will see above) or if there were top up seats across counties or regions.

Certainly Labour voters in Cheadle and Hazel Grove would come back to Labour in many scenarios. And Tories in Manchester Withington would stop voting Lib Dem tactically, particularly as the particular candidate there tries to present as pretty left wing. And is IMO a pretty poor MP as well.

Though he's put out a leaflet saying"(I am) the best MP we've ever had". He's not ever so humble this one.

John Tyrrell said...

I think you overestimate party identification and loyalty. This is not the 1950's. You only have to look at what has happened to the membership of all political parties in the last 30 or so years.

Before the election I remember that one poll showed that 65% didn't think the result of the General Election was very important to them - which ties in with my perception that politics - or party politics at least - is not something that gets most people very excited. Hard for a political activist to understand I know.

As to what would happen in Greater Manchester under PR - who knows. It would be exciting to give people real choice. They don't have that now - just endless leaflets telling them that certain parties "can't win here".

My friend incidentally would in a system that allowed preferences voted Green LD Labour in that order - as I think I would - unless a grouping more attractive to me emerged.

Praise the Lord said...

PR or first past the post - it woundn't stop piss poor Lib Dem candidates like Paul Rowen lying and scaremongering a la John Leech about the NHS.

The difference in Rochdale is that there is widespread corruption that has been going on for years with a lot of people tring to save their sorry arses.

It will all come out in the wash.

The weirdos, creeps, perverts and brown envelope merchants will all have the Judgement Day.

Anonymous said...


tory boys never grow up said...

One point to note about the LibDems is that they do not make any commitment in respect of a referendum when it comes to changing our voting system. They are quite happy to force through a change in the electoral system along the lines they propose, as part of a backroom deal, even though the voting system they propose would only have received the endorsement of a minority of the electorate.

As we know from their behaviour in local government LibDems are interested in power for its own sake rather than democracy - and will say whatever they think is necessary to achieve such an end.

Remember Cyril Smith never got elected on a mandate from Turner and Newall.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

Did anything interesting happen in Rochdale today?

Then again...

John said...

How did that Guardian editorial meeting go?

Anonymous said...

That doesn't matter to true Lib Dems Chris - the point is that the current system is undemocratic. People's vote should count, and if that means Lib Dems lose support, although I think you're wrong with that assumption, then so be it.

Didsbury Liam said...

Bloody right, anonymous 12:34. The Lib Dems vote would go up massively under PR. For every tactical vote lost there would be a manyfold gain from those currently plumping for the Labservatives in seats Lib Dems are seen to be out of the race.

Even if the myopic CP is correct then so what? Bring it on. Allow people to vote for who they actually want rather than against those they don't want.