Saturday, January 14, 2017

Let's not rewrite history on the "tactical voting" stunt

Via Twitter, I've learned that Richard Walker said this at the Scottish Independence Convention earlier today -

"The National, the Sunday Herald, Bella Caledonia and CommonSpace all came under fire during the Holyrood election campaign for the sin of giving space to pro-indy parties such as RISE and the Greens, because we were accused of allegedly encouraging voters to give their second votes to those parties, and therefore eroding the SNP majority."

With all due respect to Richard, that gives a somewhat misleading impression of the nature of the criticisms that were levelled.  It's true that some people had a general complaint that wildly disproportionate coverage was being given to RISE in particular, which was and remains a fringe party that never had any realistic hope of winning even one seat in parliament (the fact that they didn't come close even after the lavish coverage they received tells its own story).  But there was also an entirely separate and much more specific criticism of Bella Caledonia and, for one weekend only, of the Sunday Herald - namely that they misled their readers about the workings of the voting system, giving the impression that SNP list votes were not required for a majority, and that SNP supporters would therefore be foolish not to give their list votes on a tactical basis to RISE or the Greens, with the pie-in-the-sky objective of simultaneously electing a majority pro-independence government and a pro-independence opposition.

It's disingenuous to imply that the latter type of criticism of Bella and the Sunday Herald amounted to an objection to RISE or the Greens being given any coverage, or even very generous coverage.  It would have been perfectly possible to give those parties lots of space to pitch for list votes on the basis of their own policies, as opposed to the endless distortions about the voting system and the "tactical" possibilities it supposedly offered.  It's impossible to know for sure whether the pro-tactical voting editorial line in Bella and the Sunday Herald contributed in any significant way to the loss of the SNP majority, but as the SNP actually made gains in the constituencies and lost their majority entirely on the list, the possibility self-evidently cannot be excluded.

Note that this criticism does not extend to The National - I can't recall them ever publishing anything misleading on the tactical voting issue, and indeed in the run-up to the election they splashed with a very fair piece by John Curtice that set out at least some of the arguments in both directions very clearly.  Although CommonSpace were pushing RISE quite heavily, I can't clearly remember what line they were taking on tactical voting - I do recall that at one point they posted both the Phantom Power video I appeared in, and Stephen Paton's own pro-tactical voting video, to allow people to make up their own minds.  So there was perhaps less of an all-out propaganda campaign going on at CommonSpace than there was at Bella.

19 comments:

  1. It's the post truth world remember. Any lie will do as long as you have the power to broadcast it.

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  2. At the end of the day - having toyed with idea of giving my second vote to the Greens and changing my mind when Lucas voted against the SNP in Westminster in the FFA vote - I went #BothVotesSNP. It made sense - if you want the SNP, and you have 2 votes, then give them both to the SNP. It just took me a while to see it with clarity.
    It's the message I'll be giving for the May L.A. elections.

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    1. Completely different voting system in the locals, where there's the opportunity to give lower preferences to other pro-indy parties without any risk of harming the SNP at all.

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  3. I suspect we will hear exactly the same tactical voting nonsense being peddled for the council elections as well. The problem is that the SNP will really struggle in a lot of Councils to win a majority. If SNP candidates don't make the quota where do the additional vote Preferences come from? I suggest the limited addtional rankings from Green and others votes in most seats will be unlikely to push the SNP candidates over the line. Mean while Unionist parties have already started talking about pushing tactical voting pacts.

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    1. There's no problem with tactical voting under STV - although tactical voting isn't really the correct term, because it's a straightforward preferential voting system. I agree with you that unionist parties will be getting lots of transfers from other unionist parties, which makes it all the more important that there are transfers on the pro-independence side to offset that.

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    2. James, that last comment's interesting, bearing in mind that I had an SNP canvasser at the door today saying "SNP 1 and 2, and nothing else". I'd been under the impression that I was safe to give subsequent preferences to (for example) the Greens, since those preferences would count only in the event of one or both SNP candidates being eliminated. Your comment suggests that not only would it be safe, but that it could be vital. Is that right?

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    3. Absolutely. If the SNP are worried about anything, I would imagine it might be people not noticing how many SNP candidates there are in the ward, and accidentally failing to give one of them a preference. But as long as people check the ballot paper carefully, there's no risk to using lower preferences on other pro-indy parties.

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    4. James, in response to this and to your reply above to the comment by Anonymous:
      I have a friend who has had a long career in the Labour Party, who told me that because of the STV system and canvas returns, that their computer analysis of the data indicates that while the Labour Party will lose seats, they are not likely to lose as many as they would under other voting systems and thereby will be in the position of entering coalitions to form the executive of many councils. This person is a decent, sincere and public-spirited person who is loyal to an ideal of the Labour Party.
      You have made pretty valid points in your two responses about the best approach to dealing with STV. It is important to point out that those who wish SNP or Green, or RISE, to have the best chance of winning seats, that they have to rank their preferences carefully and to give no preferences, however low, to unionist candidates. So, for example, if SNP and Greens each put forward four candidates in a ward, then all SNP supporters should give SNP candidate A first preference, candidate B second, C third, D fourth, Green/RISE A fifth etc, to Green/RISE D eighth. All Green/RISE supporters should vote the other way round. It is therefore important for SNP, Greens, RISE to indicate to potential supporters what their candidate order is and to make explicit how the system operates.

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    5. I agree with all of that, apart from the bit about not giving any preferences at all to unionist candidates. As long as every single non-unionist candidate is ranked higher than every single unionist candidate, there's no harm in giving low preferences to unionists, and in some cases there may be benefits to doing it.

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    6. I was also told, in relation to a council by-election in 2013, that it was SNP policy to vote only SNP and not for any other party. I thought this was daft under the circumstances, because once the SNP candidate (yours truly) was eliminated, as was a racing certainty in that ward, there was the opportunity to influence whether the Tories or the LibDems got the seat. I specifically asked which party our councillors would prefer to win as regards the workings of the council and was told, just vote for yourself, nobody else, it's party policy.

      Seems daft to me.

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  4. That Sunday Herald weekend is, I believe, a major factor in its decline of sales. I haven't bought it since then. Essentially the SH's stance gave succour to the britnats.

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  5. Meanwhile in another place. That demented baggage of a feminazi, K Strickland is in a frothing rage about how evil men are because a female reviewer didn't care for a book written by a woman. They make DJT look sane.

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  6. Glasgow Working Class 2January 14, 2017 at 8:51 PM

    I am sure you Nat sis know or should that local elections are about delivery of local services and payment for such services. Would the Nat sis if elected improve the service? Would they increase council tax to improve and maintain services? Or would they just be uncomplaining adherents to the Nat si fash Gov.

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  7. I want to feed the troll............but I won't.

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    1. Glasgow Working Class 2January 14, 2017 at 9:26 PM

      Try talking about reversing Tartan Tory Thatcherite policies instead of talking Nat si shite you fash clone. You must be a well aff middle class shithead that can afford to indulge in fash politics ignoring the less well aff and foodbanks. Enjoy yer gin and tonic.

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    2. Eat your cereal.

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  8. Richard Walker did indeed say that, but he was talking about The National in particular, and saying things like he was about to head-butt the next person that referred to it as "McPravda". So if it is indeed the case that The National never pushed that "second vote indy" lie, then he was well justified.

    I didn't at the time remember that and whispered to my neighbour that it wasn't the giving of space to the Greens and RISE that was the problem, it was the advocacy of SNP supporters voting for these parties on the list under false pretences that generated the resentment. So I inadvertently maligned Richard - it was the Sunday Herald that was guilty, and we should be having a go at Neil Mackay instead.

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  9. "vote SNP only"
    "don't rank Unionist candidates"

    It appears that virtually no one understands how STV works - including commentors on this blog, which has recently and repeatedly set out exactly how it works! What hope is there?

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