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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Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan are both slippery self-mythologisers – so why do we rate one more than the other?

Their obsessions with their childhoods have both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

Andy Burnham is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s widely seen as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

Sadiq Khan is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s the hugely popular mayor of London, the voice of those who’d be proud to think of themselves as the metropolitan liberal elite, and is even talked of as a possible future leader of the Labour party.

Oh, and also they were both born in 1970. So that’s a thing they have in common, too.

Why it is this approach to politics should have worked so much better for the mayor of London than the would-be mayor of Manchester is something I’ve been trying to work out for a while. There are definite parallels between Burnham’s attempts to present himself as a normal northern bloke who likes normal things like football, and Sadiq’s endless reminders that he’s a sarf London geezer whose dad drove a bus. They’ve both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

And yes, Burnham apparent tendency to switch sides, on everything from NHS privatisation to the 2015 welfare vote to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has given him a reputation for slipperiness. But Sadiq’s core campaign pledge was to freeze London transport fares; everyone said it was nonsense, and true to form it was, and you’d be hard pressed to find an observer who thought this an atypical lapse on the mayor’s part. (Khan, too, has switched sides on the matter of Jeremy Corbyn.)

 And yet, he seems to get away with this, in a way that Burnham doesn’t. His low-level duplicity is factored in, and it’s hard to judge him for it because, well, it’s just what he’s like, isn’t it? For a long time, the Tory leadership’s line on London’s last mayor was “Boris is Boris”, meaning, look, we don’t trust him either, but what you gonna do? Well: Sadiq is Sadiq.

Even the names we refer to them by suggest that one of these two guys is viewed very differently from the other. I’ve instinctively slipped into referring to the mayor of London by his first name: he’s always Sadiq, not Khan, just as his predecessors were Boris and Ken. But, despite Eoin Clarke’s brief attempt to promote his 2015 leadership campaign with a twitter feed called “Labour Andy”, Burnham is still Burnham: formal, not familiar. 

I’ve a few theories to explain all this, though I’ve no idea which is correct. For a while I’ve assumed it’s about sincerity. When Sadiq Khan mentions his dad’s bus for the 257th time in a day, he does it with a wink to the audience, making a crack about the fact he won’t stop going on about it. That way, the message gets through to the punters at home who are only half listening, but the bored lobby hacks who’ve heard this routine two dozen times before feel they’re in the joke.

Burnham, it seems to me, lacks this lightness of touch: when he won’t stop banging on about the fact he grew up in the north, it feels uncomfortably like he means it. And to take yourself seriously in politics is sometimes to invite others to make jokes at your expense.

Then again, perhaps the problem is that Burnham isn’t quite sincere enough. Sadiq Khan genuinely is the son of a bus-driving immigrant: he may keep going on about it, but it is at least true. Burnham’s “just a northern lad” narrative is true, too, but excludes some crucial facts: that he went to Cambridge, and was working in Parliament aged 24. Perhaps that shouldn’t change how we interpret his story; but I fear, nonetheless, it does.

Maybe that’s not it, though: maybe I’m just another London media snob. Because Burnham did grow up at the disadvantaged end of the country, a region where, for too many people, chasing opportunities means leaving. The idea London is a city where the son of a bus driver can become mayor flatters our metropolitan self-image; the idea that a northerner who wants to build a career in politics has to head south at the earliest opportunity does the opposite. 

So if we roll our eyes when Burnham talks about the north, perhaps that reflects badly on us, not him: the opposite of northern chippiness is southern snobbery.

There’s one last possibility for why we may rate Sadiq Khan more highly than Andy Burnham: Sadiq Khan won. We can titter a little at the jokes and the fibs but he is, nonetheless, mayor of London. Andy Burnham is just the bloke who lost two Labour leadership campaigns.

At least – for now. In six weeks time, he’s highly likely to the first mayor of Greater Manchester. Slipperiness is not the worst quality in a mayor; and so much of the job will be about banging the drum for the city, and the region, that Burnham’s tendency to wear his northernness on his sleeve will be a positive boon.

Sadiq Khan’s stature has grown because the fact he became London’s mayor seems to say something, about the kind of city London is and the kind we want it to be. Perhaps, after May, Andy Burnham can do the same for the north – and the north can do the same for Andy Burnham.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.