London psephology

EP electoral systems

As there are elections happening in London this May, Votebook is back. Given the reason I have revived this blog, it may seem odd that the first thing I’m sharing is related to the European Parliamentary (EP) elections happening in Ireland.

Rory Costello’s article on LSE British Politics and Policy blog makes a number of observations based on the fact that Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote (STV) for its EP elections, making them more focused on individuals than on parties.

Relative to other proportional representation (PR) systems, under STV voters can reward or punish individual incumbents and candidates, rather than have the parties choose the order in which they should be elected (as with closed list PR - even under open list PR, as they have in the Dutch lower house elections, voters have a tough time succeeding in rearranging party list orders). Not only that, but - as Costello points out - it means that Eurovision Song Contest winners can win an EP seat an independent!

More focus has been put on EP constituency changes in Ireland than on policies, Costello says: “This reflects a view that EP elections are about selecting delegates to defend local interests, as opposed to a mechanism for channelling citizens’ preferences on EU affairs.”

I remember seeing empirical evidence that showed pre-PR UK MEPs were better than their PR-elected colleagues from elsewhere in the EU at defending local interests (through EU funding bids and so on).

I suspect if, post-PR, this is no longer the case then this is because we have a chosen a party-centric rather than a candidate-centric version of PR. After all, unlike most of the EU, both Ireland and the UK have sub-national EP constituents. Although having more than one local MEP means that voters have a tougher time naming their local MEPs, surely candidate-centric STV is a good middle way.

Then Londoners - if they saw fit - would be able to choose candidates who defended London’s interests in Brussels, rather than for a party whose candidates are elected based on the order in which they have defended their parties’ interests.

(Perhaps I’m just bitter that Marina Yannakoudakis, the candidate whom I gave my first preference in my own party’s [incumbent-biased] EP candidate selection, ended up third on our list.)

Excellent advert from the BBC

The US Electoral College (video)

Click here for a link to a video from The Economist explaining the Electoral College used to choose the US President, its effects in recent elections, and a hint at what recent population changes have done to the prospects of the Democrats and Republicans in November’s Obama versus Romney line-up.

Analysis: Mayoral election

Boris Johnson has been re-elected as Mayor of London.

First round
Boris Johnson (Conservative) 971,931 (+1.53%)
Ken Livingston (Labour) 889,918 (+3.92%)
Jenny Jones (Green) 98,913 (+1.33%)
Brian Paddick (Liberal Democrat) 91,774 (-5.47%)
Siobhan Benita (Independent) 83,914 (n/a)
Lawrence Webb (UKIP) 43,274  (+1.05%)
Carlos Cortiglia (BNP) 28,751 (-1.54%)

Boris and Ken got 44.01% and 40.3% respectively, so a second round was needed. All of the other candidates were eliminated. 53.44% of those who had voted for one of the eliminated candidates put Boris or Ken as their second preference. Of those who did 82,880 picked Boris and 102,355 picked Ken.

Second round
Boris Johnson (Conservative) 1,054,811 (-1.64%)
Ken Livingston (Labour) 992,273  (+1.65%)


In terms of the first round: everyone except Boris and Ken lost their £10,000 deposit.

The Greens overtook the Liberal Democrats for the first time (which was mirrored in the London-wide Assembly vote). Siobhan Benita did laudably for an independent, but many of those who fell for the bookies touting her as the third favourite to win may be kicking themselves. UKIP did okay considering it didn’t actually say UKIP next to their candidate on the ballot paper (see previous post). The BNP were trounced into last place - they were the only party other than the Liberal Democrats which saw their first round share of the vote fall: perhaps, as I expected, by picking a natively Uruguayan candidate they didn’t fool anyone into thinking they’re not racists and instead just annoyed many of their existing supporters.

Analysis: London Assembly

Labour gained two constituency seats on the London Assembly (Barnet & Camden and Ealing & Hillingdon). After applying the modified d’Hondt formula and awarding London-wide seats the make-up of the London Assembly is as follows

Labour 12 (+4)
Conservative 9 (-2)
Green 2 (±0)
Liberal Democrat 2 (-1)
UKIP 0 (±0)
BNP 0 (-1)

UKIP would have regained London Assembly representation, for the first time since the 2004 election, (at the expense of the Liberal Democrats!) had they not fallen just short of the 5% threshold, perhaps due to an error in which put their tagline but not their party name on ballot papers.

The BNP were thrashed; the Assembly would need to be nearly twice as big for their vote share to have warranted a seat. The Christian Peoples Alliance - whose ballot paper tagline was explicitly opposed to marriage equality - got even fewer votes. The National Front came second to last; they were outpolled by an independent candidate.

There are only sixteen non-Conservative Assembly Members. This falls just short of the two-thirds needed to amend Mayoral budgets.

(Graphic from the BBC)

Analysis: Mayoral referenda and elections outside London

Outside London there were eleven referenda on, and two elections for, directly elected Mayors.

I know it’s Liverpool, and Labour had a very good Thursday, but Joe Anderson should be chuffed with his 59.33% majority, and first round victory, in an election with twelve candidates. The Labour candidate also won in Salford.

Doncaster voted to keep its Mayor by 62% to 38%.

Of the ten cities deciding whether or not to change to having a directly elected Mayor these were the results

Bristol 53.3% Yes
Manchester 53.2% No
Bradford 55.1% No
Nottingham 55.7% No
Birmingham 55.8% No
Newcastle 61.9% No
Wakefield 62.2% No
Leeds 63.3% No
Coventry 63.6% No
Sheffield 65% No

So not much approval for directly elected Mayors, then. That’s a shame. I do support directly elected Mayors.

Having said that these cities are run by one local authority, rather than the thirty-three with whom the Greater London Authority shares power. They’d probably have constitutionally ended up with more power than the London Mayoralty. I don’t think I’d like that so much.

This was the wording of these Mayoral referenda

"How would you like ______ council to be run? By a Leader who is an elected councillor chosen by the other elected councillors. This is how the council is run now or by a Mayor who is elected by voters. This would be a change from how the Council is run now.”

That’s not a yes / no question! What were the Electoral Commission thinking? There are schoolchildren who could have come up with a more appropriate referendum wording.


I take it back. Sorry, Electoral Commission! I have now, very belatedly, actually seen a ballot from the Mayoral referenda and the question wasn’t posed as a yes / no question:

Analysis: local elections

Outside London it was a uniformly good night for Labour. Professors Rallings and Thrasher estimated a gain of 700 Councillors for Labour and a loss of 250 to 350 Councillors each for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Professor Travers predicted 700 to 800 gains for Labour, 500 to 600 losses for the Conservatives and 100 to 200 losses for the Liberal Democrats.

Of the seats that were up for grabs the results for the three main parties were

Labour 2158 (+823)
Conservatives 1005 (-405)
Liberal Democrats 431 (-336)

Plaid Cymru lost forty-one seats and control of Gwynedd Council. The SNP didn’t do as well as many had predicted, but did make fifty-seven gains and now have control of two Councils; talk about the SNP governing Glasgow Council turned out to be hype, as Labour gained it from no overall control.

UKIP increased its vote share, but their number of Councillors is frozen at nine. The English Democrats lost both of their seats. The Greens made eleven gains, which gave them forty Councillors. Respect went from zero Councillors to five, all in Bradford. The BNP were wiped out, losing all six of the seats they were defending. The Liberals (not the Liberal Democrats, mind you) lost six Councillors and now have only four; I wonder whether some voters mistook them for Nick Clegg’s Party.

Dr Richard Taylor’s I’m an Independent and I’m Concerned About Health, the Community, Kidderminster Hospital and Things Party had a resurgence, its three gains mean it now has five Councillors. Congratulations to James Butcher, President of Sussex TorySoc, who now has seats on Lancing and Sompting Parish Councils after topping both of the polls in which he ran.

Of those which were contested there are now 75 Labour-controlled Councils (+32), 42 Conservative-controlled Councils (-12), 6 Liberal Democrat-controlled Councils (-1) and 51 Councils with no overall control (-18).

In this picture there’s lots of white: these Councils weren’t contested. The grey represents those Councils with no overall control (particularly prevalent in Scotland due to their use of the single transferable vote).

Please check out the BBC Vote 2012 pages for more details.

(Graphic from the BBC)

Articles of interest

Four days until polling day. Exciting!

I thought I’d share a few things I’ve read over the last few days.

This take on improving meritocracy from The Economist.

This rant about gendered advertising.

The unfortunate cancellation of Pride House London on Clapham Common.

Pink News covering Michael Gove’s investigation into Catholic schools encouraging their pupils to sign anti-equal marriage petitions.

And a round up of the Mayoral election polls from UK Polling Report, and a list of the Labour figures who have reservations about Ken Livingstone from The Telegraph.

Strengthen London government

Strengthen London government … is the topic of yet another article, this time from The Economist.

Apologies for the potential scarcity of posts in the coming fortnight or so: dissertation time. Six days until the Mayoral and GLA elections.

Lords reform

The Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill published its findings today. My highlight was the bit on electoral systems. They favour an STV-style system in the style of New South Wales. I’m not a fan of proportional representation, but at least their proposed system allows voters to express a preference for candidates rather than parties if they so wish. Given that the Committee are constrained by the Coalition Agreement, which did say the new Lords would be elected proportionately, I like their reasoning.