Thursday, 14 May 2015

Election Reflections 3

Before we inevitably move on from analysis of the election last week, the more I learn and try to understand what happened, the more convinced I become that we must look afresh at our 'first past the post' electoral system. In this vein, I hope legendary London blogger diamond geezer does not mind me reproducing his take on things from a post dated 11th May:-

My most-shared tweet of the last week, by some distance, is this one.

It's an eye-catching statistic, but how could it be true? Well, I'm obliged to Ian for compiling a list of the 20 most marginal seats in the country, from which we need to consider the closest seven that are Tory-held.

Gower maj 27
Derby North maj 41
Croydon Central maj 165
Vale of Clwyd maj 237
Bury North maj 378
Morley & Outwood maj 422
Plymouth Sutton & Devonport maj 523

Had these majorities swung to Labour instead then the Conservatives would have had only 324 seats out of 650, which is technically a minority. And for that to happen, what's needed is for half of those forming the majority to switch from Conservative to Labour. For example, the majority of 27 in Gower would have been wiped out if just 14 people who voted blue had voted red instead. Not voting one way brings the majority down to 13, and then voting the other way creates a Labour majority of 1.

Gower 14 switchers
Derby North 21 switchers
Croydon Central 83 switchers
Vale of Clwyd 119 switchers
Bury North 190 switchers
Morley & Outwood 212 switchers
Plymouth Sutton & Devonport 262 switchers

Adding these seven figures gives a total of 901. OK, so that's one out from my rounded figure, but you get the idea. 901 voters choosing to back Miliband rather than Cameron would have cut Tory support sufficiently to create a minority Conservative government. And yes, that's only technically, because Sinn Féin never turn up at Westminster so the winning post is effectively 323, and yes, even with 320-ish MPs the Conservatives could have ruled from a position of effective control.

But the fact remains that there are fewer than 1000 people out there on whose choice the outcome of this election hinged. If you changed your mind in Gower, Croydon Central or Bury North, one of those people could be you. Thank goodness nobody knew who you were before the polls opened, otherwise you'd never have been left alone. Electoral reform, anyone? Or does this random selection of a handful of VIP citizens actually work rather well?

I thought this comment on the diamond geezer post worth bearing in mind as well:-

 .... and who can forget the 2000 US presidential election, won by Bush Jr on a margin of five electoral college votes after a recount to determine how Florida should cast its block vote of 25. The winning margin in Florida was 537, or less than 0.01% of the total votes cast in that state. That's 269 Floridians who decided the outcome.

The infamous "hanging chads" and other uncertainties gave the margin of error as anything up to 700 more votes for Al Gore.


  1. And if any aunt had an adam's apple, she would be my uncle! Statistics used In this way are fun but immaterial. If 900 had voted differently, we would have a different outcome, of course. But if THAT 900 could vote differently, the so could 9,000,000 other people and we would now be run by the Greens Party. Amusing but more in keeping with Facebook than serious debate. PS I voted Labour in a very safe Tory seat. Equally pointless :)

    1. PPS I hate typing on touchscreens the size of a box of Swan Vestas.

  2. Bored now.

    Your horse didn't win the race.


    1. I agree. Move on.

    2. Wow. Perhaps, in the interest of helping me "move on", you might be persuaded to tell me whether your posts are motivated by breathtaking partisan complacency, or utter contempt for democracy?

  3. Steward's Inquiry!!!

  4. Does anyone know what happened about the Guernsey job? Anyone got an interview yet?