Friday, 18 February 2011

#No2AV's claim that AV encourages tactical voting is bogus, here's why.

On paper, if you work through the figures there is a scenario where AV would allow tactical voting to give someone a 'better outcome' than giving honest preferences.

Say there is a three way split (lib, lab con). Under AV one will go out in the first round, then voters will be choosing between the two remaining parties in the final round.

The possible final rounds and expected results are:-

ProbabilityFinal RoundExpected Outcome
quite likelylib vs concon win
quite likelycon vs lablab win
unlikelylib vs lablib win

So (for instance) the conservatives want the final round to be against the libdems, not labour. So to 'help' make this more likely they could (in theory) put libdems above their real first preference of conservative. Voting tactically to exclude labour.

But now consider the practicalities:

If too many conservatives put libdems ahead of conservative then they may actually prevent the conservative candidate from even reaching the final round! Or they may even give the libdem over 50% in the first count so winning without another round.

How many is 'too many'? well how good are you at predicting election outcomes? And even if you did know, and it was in the hundreds or thousands how would you coordinate this many people (and no more!) to vote in this precise way? In practice there would probably be a few thousand other votes (for other parties) that you would have to predict too.

And, of couse, could you be sure that the libdems weren't going to try exactly the same and try to lend votes to get labour into the final round rather than conservatives, so needing even more conservatives to lend to the libdems for the tactic to work, and if the libdems suddenly decided not to lend their votes, then they would be in an even stronger position to win in the first round!

So you need quite a specific kind of constituency, you need to predict the outcome with enough precision to form a plan and then you need to control many, many voters with the precision to manipulate the result successfully -- and any error at any point is likely to actually damage your candidates chance of winning!

Is this really practical? If so, forget elections, just use your predictive powers to make a killing at the bookies by predicting the results so perfectly!!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Copy of UKIP Official Policy on #Yes2AV vs #No2AV

Our policy

UKIP’s policy is to support the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign in the forthcoming referendum on reform of the voting system. However, we believe we are being offered the wrong referendum. We are being asked our opinion on the election of a chamber which has a diminishing influence on our lives, while being denied the widely promised referendum on who actually governs Britain.

While we are not at all happy with the Alternative Vote (AV) system proposed, and believe it could dis-proportionately favour the Liberal Democrats, we nonetheless take the view that some electoral reform is better than none.

The First Past The Post (FPTP) system no longer has any legitimate claim to represent the will of the people. In 1955, 96% of voters voted for the main two parties, Labour and Conservative. In 2010, only 65% did. In 1955, 9 out of 10 MPs were elected with majorities of 50% or more; in 2010, it was one in three. 
It is clear that a more proportional system of voting is required to represent the many people – many more than the third of the electorate who did not vote Labour or Conservative in 2010 – whose views are not directly represented in Parliament.

We strongly believe that a system which includes an element of actual proportional representation should be adopted. The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for proportional representation for a generation, yet are now promoting a non-proportional system simply because they believe that it favours them electorally.

Nonetheless, we recognise that AV does enable all voters to register their first preference vote with the candidate of their conscience, and so demolishes the ‘wasted vote’ issue. Under AV, UKIP could potentially achieve a much higher share of the vote through ‘honest’ first preferences.

Our campaign
UKIP formally supports the Yes to AV campaign, a decision made by its National Executive Committee on 10 January and confirmed on 7 February. Its principal spokesmen on the campaign will be William Dartmouth MEP, and the party leader, Nigel Farage MEP.

The National Executive also resolved that UKIP members who do not agree with this position are entitled to express their personal views. However, it reiterated at its meeting on 7 February that UKIP members are expected not to actively campaign against the party’s policy, to seek publicity for the contrary view or, in particular, to be involved in any direct opposition to UKIP’s spokesmen and representatives in the course of the campaign.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The price of principles. #No2AV board.

No one is perfect, but if someone is sincere and sticks to their guns they can at least be given credit for that.

Alas the board of #No2AV.

Producing posters that even as a parody would have been thought 'over the top'. - "Vote no to AV or the Baby gets it"

The compromised principles of Charlotte Vere - back in December she thought domain squatting ( was not great, but as long as it didn't lead to any content then it could not be 'deceitful'.!/CharlotteV/status/10088046414266369
How her tone has changed, supporting the no campaigns refusal to hand over the domains, and supporting their ongoing redirection of 'yes2av' domains to 'no2av' content.

The highly dubious position of Matthew Elliott who left the TPA (Tax Payers Alliance) to lead the 'No' campaign - having founded and built the TPA and presented it as a force for fair taxation in a democratic society, he is now running a No2AV campaign saying that democracy has a price on it, and £250 million is too much. The Yes2AV campaign claim this is more than twice the likely cost, but either way, what price democracy to the founder of the TPA?

I am no fan of taxation - but one of the things that the state certainly does have to provide the machinery of democracy - if we can't afford that then we don't have a viable democracy at all.

What induced these two to change their positions (on squatting and on what taxation is for)? I think we should be told!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Why the ECHR is wrong for the UK - but Parliament needs fixing too.

In the UK we have an elected House of Commons, members of which form our government.

Elections (even if not frequent enough nor fair enough) broadly reflect the will of the people.

If individuals in the UK are to be governed then being able to select those who govern (and even apply to be one of those who govern on an equal basis to all others) does give the system some level of legitimacy.

However, external organisations like the EU run by the Commission of the European Union (27 individuals not elected by the people including their High Representative) and the President of the Council, and like the European Court of Human Rights run with no public input at all are structural throw backs to feudal times that should long since have been assigned to the dustbin of history.

If our government need to be kept in check, then it is the public that must do it - not random, unaccountable individuals who know and care little about what the UK is or what its people want.

In the recent ECHR rulings (such as prisoners votes, invalidity of witnesses who cannot be cross examined) my views coincide with the rulings of the ECHR. However, that is completely irrelevant to the point that the UK parliament at Westminster must have the last say on these issues, as that is where the will of the people is meant to be focused.

A problem that we do have with the UK parliament at Westminster is the woeful quality of those elected to represent us there. Many Men and Women who have won their seats with absolutely no regard to their real purpose (of representing their constituents), but instead having won their seats through party patronage, loyalty to those above them (instead of those below) and exploitation of public fears and worries about the other woeful candidates running against them.

We need to put the House Of Commons and the Parliament at Westminster back at the top of the UKs political tree - accountable only to the people of the UK. However, we also need to sweep away the party wasters who currently occupy the House of Commons - and we must be enabled to elect people who truly represent us with loyalty only to the people of the UK in general and their constituents in particular.

If we beleive parliament needs additional external control then it has already failed.

We can start to take back parliament by saying 'Yes' to  AV in the electoral reform referendum, and then we can model a parliament that does not leave us reliant on 'the good will of strangers' like the ECHR and EU.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The end of the age of deference - the clash of cultures.

The communication offered to the people by the internet is a great leveller - a huge step towards expanding equality.

Gone are the days when 'important' people took pride in claiming to not know what 'the web' was all about (remember when BBC presenters first started giving out web addresses?!).

Now the web is becoming ubiquitous everything is becoming more public - especially with the 'social' web.

For some this has led to demands for more control of 'privacy' so traditional barriers between close friends, friends, acquaintances, family and work can be reproduced in the on-line world. To my mind this is exactly the wrong solution. The lack of privacy/separation that the internet has introduced should be extended and it is the traditional barriers in 'real' live that should be broken down.

An end to saying one thing in private and another in public - in life as on the internet there should be one truth. This is a challenge - accepting that the act/face that you present in one arena is redundant as you will just be you in all circumstances. But it is the way forwards for the future - an honesty like the lamp salesman in Aladdin - no lies because there is no way to hide the truth.

Calling the BBC and others to account using Twitter

Twitter is a fantastic resource. Because conversations are held in public, people are either kept honest or shown to be in denial! And now big names cannot avoid being part of twitter they can be held to account on it too.

This only works because there are not limits/restrictions on its use - content is not censored, managed or controlled - it is a peoples resource that the big boys want to be part of.

However, there is a risk (as ever) that once the big boys do become part of it, they will want to take it over and mould it to their will and to their advantage.

The BBC in particular are promoting specific hash tags for discussing programmes on twitter as they happen - this gives every twitter used equal access to be heard in real time, with no editorial control, immediately.

No waiting for 'points of view' to read out carefully selected week old letters in silly voices - peoples immediate, honest views as they happen.

On the internet everyone is equal just as it should be - the powers that be do not like their primacy being challenged, so it is for the common man to protect their rights from the attacks of the already privileged.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

AV could have spared us Sally Bercow! #Yes2AV !!

Just an example of how AV can put power in the hands of people, while FPTP allows parties to put demands on people.

It the last election, John Bercow (speaker seeking re-election) was subject to much controversy, he has entered parliament as a hard right Conservative, but (supposedly on realising he was not going to get to the top of the party) had drifted further and further to the left - when elected speaker it was as a result of Labour MPs votes and was commonly seen as a 'spite' against the Conservative MPs.

Jonh Bercow was(/is) not popular among conservatives, even in his own constituency. He was opposed in his re-election by a former conservative councillor who ran against him as an 'Buckinghamshire Campaign for Democracy' candidate (an 'independent conservative'), and by Nigel Farrage former (and current) leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

The result was: (from wikipedia)

General Election 2010: Buckingham,[1][2]
SpeakerJohn Bercow22,86047.3N/A
Buckinghamshire Campaign for DemocracyJohn Stevens10,33121.4N/A
UKIPNigel Farage8,41017.4+13.9
IndependentPatrick Phillips2,3945.0N/A
Others made up about 4000 votes.

If we assume that these would be fairly representative of peoples fist preference votes (had it been an AV election)...

I think it fair to say that under AV here would be no reason to think Bercow would get more 1st preferences. Also that under AV he would probably have received fewer 1st preferences. As some who voted for him may well have preferred another candidate but were worried about splitting the Conservative vote and 'letting in' a non-conservative - a worry that would not exist under AV.

Assuming UKIP voters would have preferred John Stevens to John Bercow, it would only have taken about 3000 Bercow voters to give John Stevens  a higher preference for John Stevens to have won and Bercow to have lost his seat.

Just think, no Sally Bercow on our screens all the time! No soft porn photos of her over the Thames in front of the House of Commons -- don't you wish we had AV already?

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

What is a 'wasted vote'? Does AV eliminate them? #Yes2AV vs #No2AV

What is a wasted vote?

Under FPTP, a wasted vote is a vote cast for a party in the near certain knowledge/belief that the party cannot or will not win that election.

The vote is 'wasted' as regards that electoral outcome because despite being cast it is known, before the event, that it will not make any difference to the result.

People may vote in this way for any number of reasons - primarily it is probably to show their support for a party/cause in the hope/belief that it will encourage other to offer more support in future and so a vote for the party will then no longer be 'wasted'.

Does AV remove the necessity for these people to 'waste' their votes in this way? Yes, it does.

Under AV, you can give a preference (vote) for a party who you are pretty certain will not win (to show support, encourage other in future etc), but you can also give preferences to other parties who are considered to have a chance of winning the election.

So a voter can use a high preference to show support and encourage others in future, but also ensure that their vote will be transferred to a more likely candidate if their top preference is knocked out.

Tactical voting FPTP vs AV - #No2AV vs #Yes2AV

I read an interesting and aparantly unbiased assessment of AV by IPSO-Mori the polling people (link at end).

Everyone knows tactical voting occurs under FPTP (one report cited by the #No2AV campaign suggests a figure of 20% of votes being tactical) - Sometimes Lib Dem campaigning seems to rely almost exclusively on it!

The IPSO report suggests that AV is also quite susceptible to tactical voting - which surprised me because while I know there are academic examples where tactical voting could make a difference to the result, I strongly doubt that it would be practical or possible in reality.

So I decided to set a challenge. If tactical voting is possible under AV, and there was a General Election tomorrow, to be run under AV.... Which constituencies would be susceptible to tactical voting, which voters could vote tactically and which party would it penalise?

If none can be identified, then I suggest that tactical voting is not as easy, likely or as possible as some suggest...

Any offers?

Monday, 7 February 2011

A proper system of recall is only possible after #Yes2AV !

In simple terms... if an MP can be recalled if a majority of voters call for it, then consider (a male MP for convenience)

1) An FPTP election, giving a winner that has less than 50% support.
- So MP's opposition (>50%) recall him.
- FPTP election rerun
- All voters vote tactically based on earlier election result - between top 2 candidates.
- New MP returned - the one with >50% support!

2) An AV election, returning an MP
- No other candidate can muster >50% support so no recall...
- Everyone knows a rerun will give same result, so no point!

So recall on demand means two FPTP elections in close succession and delivers the same result that AV would have done in the first place!!

If we are to have recall, either we need AV to make it work, or we need to bodge recall to such an extent that it is useless!!

Is there a 50% myth in #Yes2AV / #No2AV ?

Under AV there can be a number of rounds of counting - in each round a candidate is knocked out and their votes reallocated until one of the remaining candidates has over 50% of the votes.

"Over 50% of what?" I hear you cry, "Over 50% of the votes" I repeat - seems a pretty simple statement to me.

But, if someone wanted to kick up a storm somehow to avoid addressing a question like "is there *anything* good about FPTP" they may start asking existential questions about "WHAT IS A VOTE".

I suggest a vote is a clear indication by a voter of which candidate they want to support. You can't vote for someone who isn't running and you can't vote for someone who has been knocked out. So a vote is a clear indication by a voter of which of the current candidates they want to support - again seems pretty simple to me.

If you don't like things simple, and want to try to confuse things you could argue that a vote is a piece of paper or similar I guess, but that would be pretty dumb wouldn't it?

If instead of saying "over 50% of the votes" someone said "over half the vote", "support of over half the voters" I guess you could try to pretend that there was a significant different meaning (if you wanted to avoid quesitons like "is there *anything* good about FPTP").

Even 'over half the constituents' seems reasonable (unless you are talking about cat food on TV, in which case the small print has to explicitly state 'who expressed a preference', maybe cats aren't too smart?). Is this so confusing that the whole of the AV counting system has to be explained on every occasion it is mentioned? I don't think so.

If someone published a statement with the intention of deceiving that would be pretty stupid - as it would soon be shot down, and AV is better than FPTP so there is no need to deceive.

By the way is there anything good about FPTP?

Not all Banana Ice Cream Lovers are the same. #Yes2AV vs #No2AV

Alice and Bob both love Banana Ice Cream, they visit Charlie at the local cafe to indulge in their favourite treat together.

Unfortunately, Charlie has sold out of Banana Ice Cream (thats a fib actually, he loves it too and has eaten it all).

Alice and Bob cannot have their beloved Banana Ice Cream and are sad, however Charlie is their friend so wants to help (that a fib too actually, he is just after their money to feed his Banana Ice Cream habit).

Charlie tells Alice and Bob what other treats he has that they may like, he lists other Ice Creams, Tarts, Pies and Cakes.

After some thought Alice chooses Strawberry Ice Cream - because it isn't Banana but at least it is Ice Cream. Meanwhile, after some thought Bob chooses Banoffee pie - because it isn't Ice Cream but at least it is Banana.

So in the end everyone is happy - even Charlie because he short changed them both and can afford enough Banana Ice Cream to last a week.

The moral? Just because two people have the same first preference, don't make assumptions about what else they may prefer.

The other moral? If someone wants to deny you something, there maybe reasons they don't want to tell you about.

Final tip: Always check your change before leaving the counter!

Why is Alices 1st preference worth the same as Bobs 2nd? #Yes2AV vs #No2AV

We have Alice and Bob who want ice cream and Charlie is the ice-cream man.

Situation 1

1) Alice asks Charlie for a particular flavour of ice cream, Charlie gives her the flavour she asked for.(1st choice)
2) Bob asks Charlie for a particular flavour of ice cream, Charlie gives him the flavour he asked for. (1st choice)

Question: Does Bob like is ice cream more than Alice likes hers, the same or less?

Situation 2

1) Alice ask Charlie for a particular flavour of ice cream, Charlie gives her the flavour she asked for. (1st choice)
2) Bob ask Charlie for a particular flavour of ice cream, Charlie says he has none, so Bob asks for a different flavour and Charlie give him that flavour of ice cream. (2nd choice)

Question 1: Would Bob have liked his first choice of ice cream more than his second choice, the same or less?
Question 2: Does Bob like his ice cream more than Alice likes hers, the same or less?

Its seems pretty obvious to me that there is not enough information in either situation to say whether Bob or Alice like their ice cream most or not. With no way of measuring the value of the preference of Alice against the value of the preference of Bob, weighting is impossible (regardless of whether it is desirable or not!).

If someone can't understand this simple example of logical deduction, I really don't think they are qualified to discuss electoral systems...