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Janice Small: Why November 1st was cancelled

Janicesmall_2 Janice Small, a candidate on the Parliamentary and European Lists, reveals research that just 8,000 voters in marginal seats could have handed power to the Conservatives on November 1st. Janice heads up Conservative Action for Electoral Reform which campaigns for Single Transferable Voting.

Research from Conservative Action for Electoral Reform has revealed just how few votes were required to swing the general election from Labour to the Tories. A combination of our winner takes all system and new parliamentary boundaries, mean that a mere 8,000 votes could have delivered a new government in Britain.

This week we have been focussing on Bottler Brown’s loss of nerve, on an election that never was. And if these numbers show one thing it is that this country simply did not need another unreconstructed election.

We called on Brown to call an election because a new government needs a mandate. But a mandate delivered by 8,000 people in the swing seats is no mandate at all.

The Prime Minister needs to go back to his route map to constitutional reform or publish the long awaited and confidential Review of Britain’s Voting Systems which clearly states that the system is startlingly biased towards Labour. A copy of this landed on my desk in a brown envelope.  We are told that this will be published this autumn but don’t hold your breath.  When I questioned the Minister for Justice, Michael Wills, on why the government had not published this report and challenged him with the fact that the report stated that the system was biased in favour of Labour, he replied that he didn’t know what version I had but to be rest assured that the correct version would be published soon.  My reading of this is that we will get a watered-down version with the omitted paragraph showing that Labour is perverting the system in its favour.

Brown should know that at our next general election (whenever that may be), the voters of Britain deserve better than his current gerrymandering in the devolved legislatures with their voting systems that were rigged to keep Labour in power.

But his gerrymandering has backfired.

Wales is run by a coalition that is determined to keep out the Conservatives.  It does not represent the electorate that has rejected Labour with a voting system that cushioned Labour from a falling share of the vote, and disadvantaged other parties.  Changes to the voting system in 2006 were politically-motivated and ill-advised.

This year, Scotland got the SNP and confused the electorate by producing a ballot paper with two different means of voting systems for two tiers of government.

London’s two tier mayoral and assembly has two different voting systems set up to favour Labour and it will be interesting to see what happens next spring.

Lords Reform has been shelved until the next Parliament.  ConHome readers may be interested a cross party report on Lords Reform, published in 2005 and includes backing from William Hague, Ken Clarke and Sir George Young.  I know many of you do not support further changes to the Lords but if Labour are still in power then we need to consider the fairest method of election.

CAER backs the use of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) which will give a constituency link and provide the most proportional method for electing Lords.  CAER backs this voting system as we need to differentiate between the Upper and Lower House.  We also back “constituencies” based on county lines which are recognisable by the electorate and not Euro regions as favoured by Labour and the LibDems.

The report, "Reforming the House of Lords - Breaking the Deadlock", authors included Kenneth Clarke, Robin Cook, Paul Tyler, Tony Wright and George Young and backed by Francis Maude and William Hague, no less, favours STV.  The key passages on STV are on pages 27 and 28. It is published by The Constitution Unit.

And this leads us back to the West Lothian question and the English who are being denied democracy... that debate is very alive and kicking on these pages and is at last being addressed by our leadership.  I have always supported an English Parliament but am prepared to consider Malcolm Rifkind’s ideas on an English Grand Committee.

Before you reject our hallowed first past the post system as being the elixir to power, consider these facts:

  • It takes around 26,000 voters to elect a Labour MP but around 45,000 to elect a Conservative MP
  • We need to be 11 points ahead in the polls to win a working majority, this week one poll showed that we were 8 points ahead, this equates to a working majority of just 2 seats
  • Boundary changes, and much has been done by Roger Pratt at CCO to ensure that the systems is more equitable, but do not deliver the swing that we need
  • We do not have representation in the northern cities that we need to win a general election
  • On this figures we could have a hung Parliament

Explanatory notes:

  • There are 25 seats italicised among the Labour held marginals, going down to Calder Valley, that make the difference between Labour having a majority of 48 (i.e. the same as 2005 allowing for the new boundaries) and losing an overall majority.
  • There are 9 seats italicised among the Labour targets that Labour needs to 'gain' because of the effect of boundary changes in order to preserve the 2005 election majority of 66.
  • The other seat that matters is Dunfermline & West Fife, where Labour lost the seat to the Lib Dems in the by-election in 2006 and will need to win it back. It does not feature on the tables because these all use 2005 as a baseline.
  • Labour's success or otherwise depends on those 25 seats (and the 8,000 odd key voters therein!) which are of absolutely key importance (labelled Category A in the charts)
  • The 9 seats that would restore Labour's majority to 66, and those the Conservatives need in order to pull one seat ahead of Labour in a hung parliament, are also key seats and are labelled Category B in the charts.
  • Remaining seats that come within our marginal listings are labelled Category C.
  • Seats not in any of these categories (i.e. the majority of constituencies) are essentially irrelevant to the national contest.

Calculations, etc of the implications of swings, which seats matter and the categories are the work of the Electoral Reform Society. Calculations of results under new boundaries are attributed to the work of Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher of Plymouth University (Media Guide to the New Parliamentary Constituencies, Editorial Media Group, 2007)

CAER campaigns for STV in our devolved legislatures as it is considered by most academics and commentators to have the fairest and most proportionate outcome.  Where voting reform exists around the world no system has reverted back to first past the post.

The marginal seats model showing just 8,000 votes is all we needed to win the Election That Never Was.  Modelling is based on the seats in the spreadsheet downloadable here.


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