Friday, November 6, 2015

Stand by for a Damascene conversion : are Lib Dem commentators about to announce that they DO understand how STV by-elections work after all?

Now, I have to say this one is deliciously amusing.  You might remember that a few weeks ago, a number of Liberal Democrats (including Caron Lindsay, Prue Bray and our dear old friend Mike "can't be arsed" Smithson) almost seemed to be going out of their way to demonstrate that they have no comprehension at all of the voting system for local government elections that their own party was largely responsible for introducing under the second McConnell coalition.  All of them seemed utterly unable to grasp that the SNP could be "defending" a seat in the Aird and Loch Ness ward without having won the popular vote in that ward last time, even though precisely that kind of scenario is part and parcel of how the system works.  It's perfectly possible (and it's happened before) for a party to be technically "defending" a seat even if they finished in a distant third or fourth place last time.  In Aird and Loch Ness, the SNP finished second in 2012, and remained in second place in last month's by-election, but with a marked increase in their share of the vote.  Therefore, as many of us patiently pointed out, the headlines that screamed "shock Lib Dem gain from SNP" were totally misleading - the SNP had actually had a moderately good result, and it was in fact an independent candidate that the Liberal Democrats had replaced as the winner of the popular vote.  But all of this went completely over Smithson's head, who in a supreme act of un-self-awareness linked to my own post with the words "How one of Scotland's leading political sites reported the SNP loss of a by-election in the Highlands". That was supposed to be an ironic comment, but I suspect he didn't find it half as funny as I did.

So what has this got to do with today's events? Well, you see, the opposite scenario has just occurred. In the Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford by-election, two seats were up for grabs. The Conservatives climbed from second to first place in the popular vote and technically "gained" one of the seats from the Liberal Democrats, while the SNP slipped to second place but successfully "held" the other seat. The Liberal Democrats' vote actually went up but they "lost" the seat they were "defending".  If Smithson and other Lib Dem commentators are showing any consistency at all with their "all that matters is how seats change hands" philosophy, they'll have no choice but to describe that as a success for the SNP and a disaster for the Lib Dems. But will they? Or are they suddenly going to miraculously discover that they understand how STV by-elections work after all? Oooh, the suspense...

The good news, by the way, is that the SNP's share of the vote in the by-election was unchanged (in fact on the unrounded percentages it was up slightly), even though they were leapfrogged by the Tories. As in the Loch Ness contest, this seems to be a case of the unionist vote coalescing behind the most promising candidate.

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15 comments:

  1. Said it before and I'll say it again: STV is a crap voting system. No direct local representative, and useless for by-elections.

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    1. There are direct local representatives - it's just that there's more than one for each ward. STV certainly maintains a stronger constituency link than a pure list system.

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    2. Couldn't agree more. Also a hellish decision for a party as to how many candidates to run. Just one, and you might miss out on a second seat you could have won, but fielding two might split your vote and so you fail to win any. You need a crystal ball to gauge support weeks or months in advance of the election.

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    3. Agree with jt1 I mean. Cross-posting.

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    4. "fielding two might split your vote and so you fail to win any" As long as your voters are voting for every member of your party on your list as 1, 2, 3 etc your party votes should always transfer reasonably well and you should always put up as many candidates as there are seats in that constituency. The key is to avoid feuding councillors/candidates in your own party, which can result in your list transfers not cascading well due to factionalism amongst your supporters. Sadly the feuding councillors problem is far too common as was seen recently in the Renfrewshire South MSP selection vote for the SNP where fortunately they self-annihilated each other though it took a rerun to resolve.

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    5. It's more complicated than that, though. Even if you have perfect harmony in a party, running multiple candidates is bound to 'split the vote' (for want of a better expression) to some extent, because not all voters will understand the importance of using their second (and possibly third) preference.

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    6. So if one wants, for example, the SNP to win all vote should go SNP even if different SNP candidates?

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  2. Didn't the SNP come second in 2012 - behind the Tories?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberdeenshire_Council_election,_2012#Huntly.2C_Strathbogie_and_Howe_of_Alford

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    1. No, there were two SNP candidates in 2012. Their combined vote put them ahead of the Tories.

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    2. I didn't notice that. Maybe the personal vote helped here?

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  3. The PB Tory Herd. Never knowingly right. EVER!

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  4. contribution attempt failed...wtf is going on. MI5 conspiracy theory, he he

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    1. Glasgow Working ClassNovember 6, 2015 at 11:16 PM

      Sad man on a train.

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    2. That's not even proper trolling. Eat your cereal.

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  5. Haiku-style trolling, GWC? WTF!!! You been munching on natto with your Coco Pops?

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