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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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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