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Good news again but according to Martin Baxters Electoral Calculus site this still delivers a Labour minority government (Labour 310, Tories 272, LDs 33).
We have only three years or so to build a strong base of support - and gain those additional seats that at least put us in as largest party - DC & team need to continue to build a wider consensus and really show we are the future.

Not necessarily a minority Lab govt if targeting delivers more marginals.

Not a chance. The truth is, nobody knows how the current boundary review will effect the electoral bias at the next election. However the Conservatives will at best only make a few gains from this. Targeting marginals wont have a significant impact. Unless some miracle with the current boundary review has taken place, and with our track record on arguing our case to the Boundary Commission thats not likely, the Conservatives will need well over 40% if we want a working majority.

Remember, at the last election Conservatives got more votes than Labour in England. The seat distribution was nowhere near that.

What credibility would a Labour government who scored 4% less in the election than the Tories? There would a major public and media backlash imo.

A good post Andrew. It would be extremely difficult to govern in those conditions.

As far as I was aware the boundary review was likely to deliver a substantial number of new seats to the party?

I think that's a good point Andrew. The only time in recent history that I can remember an anomaly in the plurality of seats and the plurality of votes was the first election of 1974: the Tories won more votes but Labour won more seats. That said, I think the difference in votes was less than a percent.

Now, factor into the equation that we could score 4% more than Labour and still get less seats, and you've got a press mauling ready for Labour. Unless, of course, the electoral system itself comes under fire.

FPTP delivers credibility to the winners - how much credibility should a government with around a third of electorate support have? Apparently its accepted that NuLab won a crushing victory that allows them to further diminish our rights, tax us more, play games with the constitution etc...
I support FPTP as it ensures a credible government, not dependent on minority parties who then have an over important role. It also ensures a faster turnover of politicians - look at the longevity of Israeli, Belgian, Dutch etc politicos - which limits the corruption of power.
At present it looks as likely we will have a hung parliament as an outright victor. Hung parliaments tend to have short lives and best hope is that we do win both sufficient share and sufficient seats so as to get the momentum (and that strange electoral benefit of 'let them have a chance') to win the follow up election.
I think a Labour minority government dependent on LDs support would both diminish the Libs and NuLab - could Hughes or Ming really back a government elected with a small share of the popular vote? Perhaps they could for proportional voting? Could Brown deliver PR in the circumstances?
As I've said before DC is playing political chess - he has to sacrifice some policy pawns in both gaining the centre and in driving a wedge between LDs and Labour (whilst simultaneously taking some of their voters) - I don't agree with Portillo on much anymore but I think he understands the strategy (I don't think he understands the people though - DC, Hague, Osborne, Fox, Davis aren't Portillistas they have a new agenda)

Which could be HIGHLY interesting, PR will come back onto the agenda as will, i expect, the West Lothian question. Simon Hughes has already re-instated the traditional Lib Dem bottom line for co-alliton support being a move towards PR in Westminster elections. Gordon Brown, i seem to remember, is sympathetic towards PR. If Hughes wins the Lib Dem leadership and we are in a situation of minority government expect a significant re-alignment of british politics

I worry about PR because of the power it would place at the hands of the Lib Dems. If it was properly aligned (ie LibDem/Labour, Tory/Classical Liberal Party) it might be marginally better. But where do you get that second classical liberal party (like the German FDP) from?

Paddy Ashdown wrote a piece for the Independent in 1998 claiming that in the event of PR you would eventually see the two major parties split into their major constituent factions.

In that case, and I have no reason to doubt that it would happen, you would see a liberal democrat party forming alliances with either the new centrist tory party or the new centre-left labour grouping.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Indeed. I believe the biggest threat at the next election would be a hung parliament leading to a Lib/Lab coalition that voted in PR. Proportional Representation is one of the most flawed and least democratic electoral systems ever created. FPTP must be defended, but that doesnt mean it shouldnt be fixed. Due to the Boundary Commission, we have a massive Labour bias. Not just at constituency level, but at local council ward boundaries as well.

However if the next election results in either a Lib/Lab coalition or a Labour majority from a minority of the votes then supporters of PR will no doubt make a lot of noise. We must be ready to fight that battle after the next election. We should by advocating serious reforms to the way boundaries are drawn up.

In the circumstances, 20% is a pretty good score for the Lib Dems.

No one knows how this type of score would translate into seats. I imagine we would probably win more seats than Labour, but be short of an overall majority.

Rob would the Lib Dems vote in PR? I would have thought this was the most damaging to them as protest votes that vote for them to keep the party they don't want out could then transfer their vote back to their preferred party or to other parties like the Greens or UKIP to get what they actually want.

Does anyone know when YouGov and Mori publish their next polls?

The Lib Dems for years have been desperate to get in electoral reform. They know that PR is the only realistic way of them holding any sort of significant power. In a PR system the Lib Dems would be the power brokers between Conservatives and Labour. More than likely this would result in a permanent left wing coalition. Something I am certain we all want to avoid, if we fail to prepare to fight for FPTP then we are preparing to fail, and by fail I mean, constant opposition, being forced to watch Lib Dems and Labour ruin the country for another 20 years.

Rob I hear what you're saying but I know quite a few 'right-wing' people who vote Labour because they don't want the Tories but there is no-one else that has any hope of power for them to vote for presently I think it would completely change the political landscape, didn't Tebbit say on Thursday that 19 million people don't identify with the present three parties which means that you could have another party come from nowhere with PR.

It's hard to know what would happen in the event of Westminster PR. Certainly it would be an opportunity for fringe parties.

Of course it is difficult to predict what will happen by introducing PR. It would be a 'leap in the dark'. However it is not hard to look at other countries who introduced PR then repented. Whatever the the changes to the party system, which would possibly happen under PR, nothing can change the fact that it would damage the political process. The electorate, I am certain is sophisticated enough to, over time, adapt to PR and vote the system to get their desired aims. Tactical voting and the last election result, testify this fact.

Just because the political parties are currently unresponsive and leave many voters, including myself, feel they are not listened to, doesnt mean we should welcome PR.

Proportional Representation is a massive, massive danger. It would destroy any chance of effective government. The changes which so desperately need to be made, would become lost in the mess of coalitions and minority governments. We would face parliamentary gridlock, constantly changing governments, small possibly extremist partys controlling the balance of power. Constituency representation destroyed, parties becoming even more powerful by dominating party lists. To put it simply, PR would be a disaster for this country. We must be prepared to stop it at all costs, the danger of a hung parliament and PR is very real.

Excellent post Rob. One which spells out the dangers of PR. We need to be prepared to fight with sophistication though. We must force a minority Labour government in this situation to hold a referendum.

Immeadiately this ensures we take hold of the agenda -most people would agree with the referendum point whether they are for or against PR - the only people opposed would be those politicians who would make political gains by an immeadiate change.

The likely course of events is a royal commission to make a suggestion on a form of PR and then a referendum.

I'm fairly open to the idea of electoral reform but I certainly don't want to see PR implimented in this, the present political situation. Government would be weak, and I'm fairly sure that the political spectrum would be shifted dramatically to the left.

The only thing we have going for us is that if we DO win the most votes at the next election, but less seats than Labour in a hung parliament (a long way off, yet) and the Lib Dems are the "power brokers" will they really side with Labour, who have the most seats but less votes? Would they, who view themselves as the guardians of PR, govern with a party who have not had the endorsement of the plurality of voters? It would be immensely hypocritical to join a coalition with a party with less votes than the Tories and then push through a PR bill. I can't see how they would realistically be able to justify it.

Definately, however a referendum would be difficult to win by simply arguing against PR alone. We must show that FPTP is the best system, but admit that there are currently problems which need fixing. We can then make the extra argument of improving what we have, or taking a 'leap in the dark'.

A good book to read on the subject is 'From Votes to Seats' by Ron Johnston, Charles Pattie, Danny Dorling, David Rossiter.
It takes a geographical perspecitve of the electoral system, helped me through my A-level Electoral systems module.

Elena, the Lib Dems wouldnt care about justifications, if given even the slightest hope of getting PR in, they will do anything to make it happen. Remember Ashdown allowing himself to be taken in by Blair in hope of PR?

The thing is that the Lib Dems really do confuse me. They want a proportionally elected Lords, right? And ALSO a proportionally elected Commons? Surely that's walking down the road to disaster. One chamber needs to be less permanent and more suited to public opinion, and one needs to be more permanent and less affected by swings in public opinion. That's been the accepted way for the 'democratic' model since the creation of the United States. Surely the Lib Dems don't want to see PR used for BOTH houses?

Again an excellent post. The Conservative position needs to be more than just "stick with PR" but give an antipathetic electorate a choice between reform and revolution - your "leap in the dark".

A reformed FPTP system would probably include, a more responsive and active boundary commission and an opportunity for voters to express "non of the above". We may also, although controversially, require MP’s to receive a minimum percent of the vote in their constituency or look more attentively at the modernisation of the voting process.

Rob is probably right that the Lib Dems see PR as their only opportunity to grab power. Don't listen to all this nonsense about not forming coalitions with this party or another, when realpolitik situation demands they will capitulate with almost anyone.

@ Frank - you mean a kind of "secondary vote" system?

I don't think I would be too bothered about that, but would worry that the Lib Dem voters would put Labour as their second preference, and vice versa.

What was the AV+ system about again? Did it not recommend a small number of proportionally-elected "top up?" seats to make the Chamber more proportional, but still able to produce majority governments?

Secondary voting would probably be a sensible concession to make in trying to form a reform or revolution argument.

The AV+ system was recommended by the Jenkins Commission. The specifics are that 80% of MPs would be elected by an AV system and an additional 'top-up' 20% of MPs elected by PR. A similar system is used by the Scottish Parliament with 60% of MSPs elected by FPTP and theen 40% elected by a closed list PR system.

The idea of the system is to balance constituency representation and proportionality. In reality it creates a two tier system of MPs, is expensive and complex. However instead of full on PR, a possible Lib/Lab coalition might attempt to use AV+ as a settling point. Its not a good idea.

In my view this is genuine cause for optimism. If I saw those kind of figures the night before an election i honestly believe it would actually give us a chance at winning. Has nobody else noticed that in the last five elections, the polls even shortly before election night, comfortably overestimate labour's support and almost always underestimate Tory support. Does anyone remember the populus poll that even a few days before the day of the general election had labour on 40% and the Tories on 29%. In spite of this we went on to record more votes than labour did in England. Of course we are no where near a general election but I have noticed that the polls seem to have this strange bias. Nevermind the rubbish written about the Sun winning the election for John Major, in my view it was wrapped up all along due to the fact that the polls always seem to favour labour. Whenever a poll gives us a lead, it has frequently been in the past, several points less than it really is.

The first poll to show us in the low 40s and actually taking points from Labour will be significant.

"Good news again but according to Martin Baxters Electoral Calculus site this still delivers a Labour minority government (Labour 310, Tories 272, LDs 33)"

Doubt the Lib Dems would go as low as that due to tatical voting.

In any case gawd (Gord?) save us from this type of result. I'm a Labour supporter (with reservations) but I'd rather see a Tory govt than a "florida 2000" type situation.

IMHO neither FPTP nor PR are ideal. I'd go for first/second preference (as used in London mayoral elections)

God you lot are pathetic. You have so little confidence in your ideas that you fear that you would never be able to argue for them in a coalition. And you're supposed to be the "Natural Party of Government"?

With PR we might well see implementation of a government that represents what the British people actually want: a liberal government.

For starters the liberal MPs in both the Tories (there are a few) and Labour would be free to join forces with like minded fellows. Then we would see around 5 parties taking shape: socialist, social democrat, liberal, christian democrat, nationalist.

Orange Booker

the chief thing I have against PR is the inherent inertia it builds and the built in corruption that long periods in power delivers (not just in terms of cash but in corruption of power).
FPTP delivers an acceptable bias towards decisive change - sometimes to the good (Thatcher 1979) sometimes not so welcome (Atlee 1945).

LD voters who are on the whole IMHO unable to decide on most things - the appeasing, do nothing party - whether they support action either from right/left or liberty/authoritarian are obviously attracted to a political system that delivers inertia. That means that they never face hard choices, tough decisions but pretend its all possible with consensus.

So oppose a war without offering a real alternative to how to support human rights in a near genocidal dictatorship (more sanctions that hurt the poor or sick?). Support the educational establishment as it fails at least 1 in 8 of our children. Speak out for the environment but offer little new thought except for taxes on UK producers and ineffective Kyoto agreements. As long as it doesn't rock the boat then LDs will support it.

It works in soaking up the "non of the above" voters - and we see in the ineffectiveness of the Lib Dems in coalition with Labour in Scotland & Wales that they cannot take real decisions - use English Taxpayer cash to subsidise where they can, go with the flow on property rights, smoking etc. Meanwhile many of the entrepreneurs, the skilled in Scotland move South to escape a rapidly failing Scottish economy.

"sometimes not so welcome (Atlee 1945)"

I realise I'm on the wrong side here,but are you seriously saying things like the NHS are unwelcome!?!?

"Of course we are no where near a general election but I have noticed that the polls seem to have this strange bias."

The reason polls have underestimated the Tory vote for something like 15-20 years now is that it is considered somehow wicked to admit to voting Tory. I don't believe it's a bias on the part of the pollster, merely an indication of how demonized the Tories have been by the media and the chattering classes since Maggie was in her pomp, and how wide the effect of that demonization has spread.

"I realise I'm on the wrong side here,but are you seriously saying things like the NHS are unwelcome!?!?"

I believe the NHS was created in 1948 not 1945 and yes it was indeed unwelcome. The centralisation of healthcare in this country has been totally disastrous, and has resulted in us having by far the worst healthcare in the advanced world.

Shy Tory syndrome will always be a problem. It's not just that some people don't want to admit voting Tory, it's that (I read somewhere) the people most likely to answer opinion surveys are Labour voters, and therefore the polling companies need to use weighting, which is difficult and at times a very inaccurate science. Also, I think the Tories find it much easier to mobilise their core vote and get them to the polling stations on election day.

I always put the Tories up by 1 point and Labour down by one point automatically when I read a poll.

John Hustings- the creation of the NHS was unwelcome.Tell that to the people (including a member of my family) who died because of the lack of money to pay for medical care.
Oue greatest PM ,Churchill enough to accepted the creation of the NHS,Mrs Thatcher declared it'safe her hands'.They were right and you are wrong.
Orange Booker, good to see you are blinding us all with the skill of your argument.After the experience of Germany,Israel etc I am sure all Conservatives would be mad keen to create A PR system in this country.Particularly as it might result in people like Simon Hughes,Jenny Tonge & Mathew Taylor getting the senior cabinet positions they richly deserve -not.

"The first poll to show us in the low 40s and actually taking points from Labour will be significant."

As I have said, if past polls are anything to go by then we may well be in the low 40s. If labour truly are on 35% (again, if past polls tell us anything, then they are probably lower,)comparing it to the last election makes it look as if Labour have not really moved. Then again if you compare it to polls on the eve of election night, Labour seem to have lost about 5%. Where has it gone? To the lib Dems? It certainly doesn't look like it. I know that reading between the lines of polls just seems like idle, meaningless speculation but at the same time I think we need to ask ourselves when was the last time you looked at a poll which didn't underestimate conservative support and at the same time overestimate Labour support. I'm trying to be optimistic, as for the first time in 13 years there is cause for optimism and there is still four more years for the public to get sick of New Labour and it's pygmies. It's all to play for.

"the creation of the NHS was unwelcome.Tell that to the people (including a member of my family) who died because of the lack of money to pay for medical care."

Poor people *did* get treatment before the NHS existed. Furthermore, what about all the people who have died *because* of the NHS? This amounts to 1000s every year. What about them, huh?

"Oue greatest PM ,Churchill enough to accepted the creation of the NHS,Mrs Thatcher declared it'safe her hands'"

Do you really think Mrs Thatcher would support the NHS now?

"They were right and you are wrong."

Charming method of argument you have.

Some poor people did recieve medical care before the advent of the NHS thousands and thousands as I'm sure you are aware did not.
Mrs Thatcher has to my knowledge never proposed the abolition of the NHS. I certainly hope that if you canvas for the Conservative Party John you do not embarass it with these sort of comments.

"Poor people *did* get treatment before the NHS existed."

Indeed they did. As James Bartholomew has observed, there's an amazing degree of ignorance about the services that existed before the NHS.

"Some poor people did recieve medical care before the advent of the NHS thousands and thousands as I'm sure you are aware did not."

No I am not aware that that is the case. But I *am* aware of the degree to which the centralised healthcare that we have now has failed the *worst off* in our society.

Tell me, Malcolm, if the NHS is so great, why would 25% of people in this country effectively "pay twice" and go private?

I didn't say the NHS was unwelcome, I support a universal state funded health care system - but I think that of the two models available to the Attlee Government selecting Nye Bevan's centralised, state managed and funded model as against the free at point of use mix of independent, charity, local govt funded cottage hospitals with some nationally funded ones was a major mistake. This decision, still being fought over by the Labour Party, had in it the seeds of its own failures.

St Barts, Guys, St Thomas's etc (just to take the London examples - ignoring the great Charitable & Free Hospitals of Manchester Liverpool etc) had an ethos and collegiate feel that survived for a time afterwards but has now gone. The pride in local cottage hospitals built with local funds and local support - all destoyed by a centralised model.

The nationalisation of these charitable foundations was as bad for the UK today as was the nationalisation of industries. The 1945 reforms resulted in a Britain ill prepared for post war challenges - in debt, productive enterprises shackled by the non-productive, centrally managed and budget limited.

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