Labour’s failure on electoral reform

Peter Mandelson is in denial.

At this morning's Labour Party press conference, I asked Lord Mandelson, the party's election campaign chief, how Labour can claim to advocate root-and-branch political and constitutional reform when it is offering a referendum on changing the electoral system from first-past-the-post (FPTP) to the Alternative Vote (AV).

As an analysis in today's Independent makes clear, AV can, on occasion, be more disproportional than FPTP. The article's author, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, says:

Under the Alternative Vote the Liberal Democrats would fare much better. Under this system voters place candidates in rank order - 1, 2, 3 and so on. If no candidate wins 50 per cent of the first-preference vote, then the votes of candidates at the bottom of the poll are redistributed in accordance with those voters' second preferences, and so on, until someone passes the 50 per cent mark.

Nick Clegg's party tends to be everyone's second choice. As many as 68 per cent of Labour supporters say they would give a second-preference vote to the Liberal Democrats, as do 41 per cent of Conservatives.

So if the Liberal Democrats are running second in a constituency, they can hope to leapfrog into first place on the back of second preferences cast by third-placed Conservative or Labour supporters.

The party might win up to twice as many seats -- 217 -- as they would under the current system.

Yet it would be Labour, with 238 seats, that would still be the largest party. The Conservatives, meanwhile, would be a poor third with just 163 seats.

. . . So, under Labour's proposed alternative, not only would the party that was third in votes still come first in seats, but in addition the party that came first in votes would be a poor third in seats. One wonders whether voters will regard this as an improvement.

Indeed. And Curtice is not alone in his analysis of AV and its flaws -- Roy Jenkins's report on electoral reform, commissioned by Tony Blair and published in 1998, concluded that the Alternative Vote would have delivered an even bigger majority to Labour in 1997.

This morning, however, Mandelson chose to fob me off with a line about Labour being the only party offering a referendum on electoral reform. True. But what kind of reform? Is AV fair enough? Does it go far enough? And, perhaps above all else, will it be enough to buy Lib Dem support in a hung parliament? I very much doubt it.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Appreciate the full horror of Nigel Farage's pro-Trump speech

The former Ukip leader has appeared at a Donald Trump rally. It went exactly as you would expect.

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce Nigel Farage is at it again.

The on-again, off-again Ukip leader and current Member of the European Parliament has appeared at a Donald Trump rally to lend his support to the presidential candidate.

It was, predictably, distressing.

Farage started by telling his American audience why they, like he, should be positive.

"I come to you from the United Kingdom"

Okay, good start. Undeniably true.

"– with a message of hope –

Again, probably quite true.

Image: Clearly hopeful (Wikipedia Screenshot)

– and optimism.”

Ah.

Image: Nigel Farage in front of a poster showing immigrants who are definitely not European (Getty)

He continues: “If the little people, if the real people–”

Wait, what?

Why is Trump nodding sagely at this?

The little people?

Image: It's a plane with the name Trump on it (Wikimedia Commons)

THE LITTLE PEOPLE?

Image: It's the word Trump on the side of a skyscraper I can't cope with this (Pixel)

THE ONLY LITTLE PERSON CLOSE TO TRUMP IS RIDING A MASSIVE STUFFED LION

Image: I don't even know what to tell you. It's Trump and his wife and a child riding a stuffed lion. 

IN A PENTHOUSE

A PENTHOUSE WHICH LOOKS LIKE LIBERACE WAS LET LOOSE WITH THE GILT ON DAY FIVE OF A PARTICULARLY BAD BENDER

Image: So much gold. Just gold, everywhere.

HIS WIFE HAS SO MANY BAGS SHE HAS TO EMPLOY A BAG MAN TO CARRY THEM

Image: I did not even know there were so many styles of Louis Vuitton, and my dentists has a lot of old copies of Vogue.

Anyway. Back to Farage, who is telling the little people that they can win "against the forces of global corporatism".

 

Image: Aaaaarggghhhh (Wikipedia Screenshot)

Ugh. Okay. What next? Oh god, he's telling them they can have a Brexit moment.

“... you can beat Washington...”

“... if enough decent people...”

“...are prepared to stand up against the establishment”

Image: A screenshot from Donald Trump's Wikipedia page.

I think I need a lie down.

Watch the full clip here:

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland