Monday 29 April 2019

Meanwhile in Spain

There are lots of media reports about the Spanish general election all over my newsfeeds today.  Which is great: we should know more about elections in other countries that are not the USA.

Here's how they all go:
  • The Socialists are forming a government!
  • The Conservatives lost half their seats!
  • The Fascists are in parliament again!
  • No-one got elected for the Stop Bullfighting party!

...what none of these stories mention is that the Citizens party jumped from 32 to 57 seats - also doubling its parliamentary representation and moving from fourth party to third party. Indeed they nearly took second place what with the outgoing government being reduced to 66 seats.

It's another reminder that our UKanian media are super eager to report neon-nazis and hate admitting there is anything or anyone pulling in the opposite direction.

Indeed if you ignore the small group of far-right MPs, which has upset the press by not being as great an incursion as they had been talking up, most of the Spanish election looks a lot like the UK's in 1997: Labour doubling its seats, the Tories halving theirs, and the Liberals doubling their representation - but the reportage being all about the reds and the blues.

Thursday 11 April 2019

2011 and all that

I got to thinking about the 2011 AV referendum. Post-2016, it would be "the referendum we've all forgotten" if that title weren't held by the 2011 Welsh referendum. No, really, there was one - look it up on google, it's seven pages in.

I knew and know people who voted either way on AV, though my social circle was definitely skewed against the national trend (not surprising, I hang out with more lefties than righties) with a majority of people I knew backing AV whether eagerly or on the "half a loaf is better than no bread" basis.

Since 2011 we've had two general elections.  Who's profited from the outcome back in 2011?

A little digging found some figures from a fairly reliable source.

In 2015 - the one where David Cameron got a majority government with help from interesting sources like Unite and Unison - it didn't make much of a difference it seems.

ERS reckoned back then:
Party Seats under AV Difference from 2015 election seats
Conservative 337 +6
Labour 227 -5
SNP 54 -2
Liberal Democrats 9 +1
Plaid Cymru 3
Greens 1

Two years later the skew went the other way and with a bigger margin:

ERS say:

Party Seats under AV Difference from 2017 election seats
Conservative 304 -13
Labour 286 +24
SNP 27 -8
Liberal Democrats 11 -1
Plaid Cymru 2 -2
Greens 1

First, you notice that in a country where it's now nearly fifteen years since anyone won a working majority, AV still delivers one smallish-majority government followed by one almost impossible hung parliament.  For people wanting "strong and stable" government, well, we were jiggered under first past the post, we would be jiggered under AV.  All those scary stories of how AV would make small parties overly powerful have come unstuck in the age of Blukip.

Second - how frustrating is it that both times these figures only look at the 332 seats outside Northern Ireland. After years and years of STV elections there it's surely the easiest place to guesstimate where the transfers would go? But we'll have to put that to one side.

So if you're a Tory, AV would have made things a bit better at first but in 2017 would have probably made government impossible outside of a 'grand coalition'. Despite Con-Lab being the easiest coalition fit ideologically, the longstanding pretence of difference means it is incredibly unlikely outside of wartime. The Conservatives would be the biggest party but with the DUP not able to get them across that 323 line it's hard to imagine them getting the extra votes anywhere else. Lots of howling in the press if the biggest party doesn't get to form the government, sure, but to little avail.

Meanwhile if you are Labour it was a mild escape in the pummelling of 2015, but come 2017 you have perhaps missed out of kicking the Tories out of office and being in power, albeit needing a working arrangement with the SNP and the Liberals or the SNP and the DUP. 

Ironically for Liberals, whose first taste of coalition compromise was "well, it's only AV, and there'll be a referendum on it, but we've the furthest we'll have got with bringing about electoral reform in decades" there really hasn't been enough in it to matter, while for the SNP the "no" vote is an increasingly lucky escape.

And all told, for people who hate our current PM and voted who voted "no" eight years ago: she's only there thanks to you!