How electoral reform changes the 2005 result

Who would have won and lost from electoral reform in 2005.

As MPs prepare to vote on Gordon Brown's plan to hold a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV), here's a guide to how the various electoral systems would have changed the outcome in 2005.

First-past-the post

FPTP

The actual result. Labour won 356 seats, the Tories 198 and the Liberal Democrats 62. Labour's majority was 66.

Alternative Vote

AV 2

Rerunning the 2005 election under the Alternative Vote reminds us that this method can produce even more distorted outcomes than first-past-the-post (FPTP). Under AV, Labour's majority rises to 88, the Liberal Democrats fail to clear the 100-seat barrier and minority parties make no gains.

The reason AV would swell the Labour majority (the party would have won 367 seats) is the high number of second-preference votes the party could expect to win from Lib Dem supporters. The Lib Dems would benefit in turn from second-preference Labour votes and would have won 74 seats under AV, 12 more than under first-past-the-post.

By contrast, the persistence of anti-Tory tactical voting in 2005 would have given the Conservatives just 175 seats, 23 fewer than they actually won. The Electoral Reform Society used opinion-poll findings from 2005 to estimate where voters' second preferences would have gone.

Alternative Vote Plus

AV+

Under the Alternative Vote Plus (AV+), which includes a second vote for a top-up list of MPs, we enter hung parliament territory for the first time. Labour's majority falls to 308, leaving it 15 seats short of a majority, and the Lib Dems make a major breakthrough, winning 110 seats. The Tories win 199, just one more than under first-past-the-post.

Single transferable vote

STV

Under the single transferable vote (STV), Labour wins just 264 seats, leaving the party 61 seats short of a majority. The Lib Dems, who favour this system, pick up 147 seats, 73 more than under AV and 85 more than under first-past-the-post. The Tories win 200 seats, just two more than under FPTP.

Additional member system

AMS

If used in 2005, the additional member system would have produced the most proportionate outcome. Labour would have won 242 seats, 81 short of a majority, and the Tories 208 seats, ten more than under first-past-the-post. The Lib Dems would have picked up 144 seats, three fewer than under STV. But minority parties would have achieved their first breakthrough, with ten Ukip candidates, two BNP members and two Greens elected.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Ignored by the media, the Liberal Democrats are experiencing a revival

The crushed Liberals are doing particularly well in areas that voted Conservative in 2015 - and Remain in 2016. 

The Liberal Democrats had another good night last night, making big gains in by-elections. They won Adeyfield West, a seat they have never held in Dacorum, with a massive swing. They were up by close to the 20 points in the Derby seat of Allestree, beating Labour into second place. And they won a seat in the Cotswolds, which borders the vacant seat of Witney.

It’s worth noting that they also went backwards in a safe Labour ward in Blackpool and a safe Conservative seat in Northamptonshire.  But the overall pattern is clear, and it’s not merely confined to last night: the Liberal Democrats are enjoying a mini-revival, particularly in the south-east.

Of course, it doesn’t appear to be making itself felt in the Liberal Democrats’ poll share. “After Corbyn's election,” my colleague George tweeted recently, “Some predicted Lib Dems would rise like Lazarus. But poll ratings still stuck at 8 per cent.” Prior to the local elections, I was pessimistic that the so-called Liberal Democrat fightback could make itself felt at a national contest, when the party would have to fight on multiple fronts.

But the local elections – the first time since 1968 when every part of the mainland United Kingdom has had a vote on outside of a general election – proved that completely wrong. They  picked up 30 seats across England, though they had something of a nightmare in Stockport, and were reduced to just one seat in the Welsh Assembly. Their woes continued in Scotland, however, where they slipped to fifth place. They were even back to the third place had those votes been replicated on a national scale.

Polling has always been somewhat unkind to the Liberal Democrats outside of election campaigns, as the party has a low profile, particularly now it has just eight MPs. What appears to be happening at local by-elections and my expectation may be repeated at a general election is that when voters are presented with the option of a Liberal Democrat at the ballot box they find the idea surprisingly appealing.

Added to that, the Liberal Democrats’ happiest hunting grounds are clearly affluent, Conservative-leaning areas that voted for Remain in the referendum. All of which makes their hopes of a good second place in Witney – and a good night in the 2017 county councils – look rather less farfetched than you might expect. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.