A Strong Voice for Croydon Central - Gavin Barwell MP
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Reflections on today's results
06/05/2011 22:51:00


I am obviously delighted that the public voted 'no' to AV - and in such decisive numbers (nationally by 67.9% to 32.1%; locally by 67.0% to 33.0%). I've argued all along that our current system isn't perfect - in particular it tends to under-represent smaller parties - but that the way to address its weaknesses is to have a second chamber wholly or mainly elected by a proportional system, not to replace first past the post with a more complicated, less fair alternative.

David Cameron took a big risk agreeing to the referendum. His position as Leader of the Conservative Party would have been gravely weakened had the public voted 'yes'. As it is, he emerges even stronger.

Ed Miliband also took a risk. He campaigned for a 'yes' vote, despite the fact that most Labour MPs were voting 'no'. He got it wrong, reinforcing the questions about whether Labour chose the right Miliband.

The Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and English council elections - like last year's General Election - showed Scotland behaving in a completely different way to the rest of the country.

In Scotland, the SNP swept all before them. To win an overall majority when the electoral system was designed to make that next to impossible is an undeniably impressive achievement. The results were particularly bad for Labour, who had an opinion poll lead a few weeks ago, but if we are to win an overall majority at the next General Election the Conservative Party needs to start winning seats in Scotland again.

In England and Wales, Labour made some gains, mainly at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, but nowhere near as many as they should have done given the historically low base from which they were starting (they were defending less than 1,600 of the 9,000 seats up for election). They failed to win an overall majority in Wales and failed to make any real headway in the South and the Midlands.

For my party, the results were extremely encouraging. Despite starting from a historically high base (we were defending nearly 4,800 seats) and having had to take some really tough decisions in government over the last year, we ended with more councillors, more councils under our control and more members of the Welsh Assembly - all in all an extremely impressive performance for which our candidates and activists across the country and Stephen Gilbert and his team at HQ should take a great deal of credit.

Finally a word about the Liberal Democrats in general and Nick Clegg in particular. I know this is an unfashionable view but I have a lot of respect for the decision they took to join the Coalition. They would have known that whichever party they worked with it would cost them some support - some Liberal Democrat voters are closer to Labour and others are closer to the Conservatives - yet they still did it because they believed it was in the national interest. I am fed up of hearing people who claim to have voted Liberal Democrat at the last election say, "I feel betrayed by their decision to work with the Conservatives". Nick Clegg repeatedly said before the election that he would work with the party with the most seats and most votes. The opinion polls clearly pointed to the fact that we were likely to be that party. So no-one should be surprised at the decision he took. It was the right decision then and it remains so today. The referendum campaign has been difficult because it has pitted us against each other but now that it is over we need to get on with the job of dealing with the mess we inherited and rebuilding our economy.

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Readers' Comments

On 07/05/2011 11:37:00 Croydonsfuture wrote:
An interesting post - that certainly provides "food for thought". A few comments:

The "no" vote in the AV referendum was certainly decisive - the people have spoken. However, both the "yes" and "no" campaigns left a lot to be desired. There was a huge amount of mis-information - from both sides. Also, for a potential change that was at the heart of our democratic system, the political parties did a poor job of enthusing voters. Croydon's turnout (a miserable 36%) evidences the failure of the parties to "fire up" the electorate to vote - a poor outcome for democracy.

In my opinion, the Conservative party did surprisingly well in the English council elections. However, I think a big factor in the Conservatives' good performance was that the coalition to date has been relatively cohesive. In this first year, despite very different political agendas of the "rank & file" memberships, the government coalition has displayed a large degree of unity and has made progress on its legislative programme. Thursday's result has changed everything - the really big story was the implosion of the Lib Dems. As the insurance ad memorably put it - "there may be trouble ahead". Lord Ashdown's warning is ominous: "so far the coalition has been lubricated by a large element of goodwill and trust. It is not any longer".

Finally, more power to you for being willing to enter into a dialogue with Croydon's citizens via your blog and on twitter. Grassroots democracy needs this type of two way dialogue.

On 07/05/2011 21:53:00 Adam Kellett wrote:
"If we are to win an overall majority at the next General Election the Conservative Party needs to start winning seats in Scotland again."

Lettting them have independence would have the same result. They will soon be back when they realise how much their bloated public sector is dependant on English taxes.

On 11/05/2011 12:14:00 Anthony Miller wrote:
Well, one was not inspired by the outright lies - Including mathematical lies - used by the NO campaign [I'll let them off if they just cant add up] such as producing animations where the upper threashold limit of 50% is lowered showing the person in 4th place pushing the person in 2nd place over the finishing line

[this is not just wrong it is mathematically impossible]

and trying to confuse people about votes being "counted many times" is very bad politics ... I refer the honourable gentleman to

Stephenson v Ann Arbor Board of Canvassers in 1975 at which Circuit Judge James G. Fleming decided that:

"Under the 'A.V. System', however, no one person or voter has more than one effective vote for one office. No voter's vote can be counted more than once for the same candidate. In the final analysis, no voter is given greater weight in his or her vote over the vote of another voter, although to understand this does require a conceptual understanding of how the effect of a 'A.V. System' is like that of a run-off election. The form of majority preferential voting employed in the City of Ann Arbor's election of its Mayor does not violate the one-man, one-vote mandate nor does it deprive anyone of equal protection rights under the Michigan or United States Constitutions."

Then again it's the job of the Yes campaign to make the runoff simulation clear and their attempts were on the whole a dismal failure.

One can just about get over David Bunkett gloatingly stating that the No campaign Costs were made up particularly since the Yes campaign assiduously avoided coming up with any costs at all.

However, telling people that 2 and 2 = 5 (as above) is very, very naughty. Still, it isn't a person being elected so you cant be done for lying about a candidate. And it's excempt from false advertising so you cant be done by the ASA. So lies galore. Even ones that insult the intelligence.

Although to be fair the Yes campaign also managed quite a few.

Runoff voting and Instant Runoff Voting are slightly different

and the time lag between each round in an old fashioned runoff does make differences to the outcome ... they are not actually identical. And I do think you can make a legitimate case for it being appropriate to use AV in one situtation and FPTP in another. After all candidates in internal elections are not standing on solid policy platforms. However, having insisted how important manifestos are

you may find you've now invented the problem that people might start actually reading them.

The YES campaign was not helped by not understanding its own statistical model. I'm afraid it isn't as simple as 1,2,3 - it's as simple as If the person in 1st place doesn't get 50% then the person in 2nd or 3rd place can win and if the person in 2nd place gets between 25 and 33% then the person in 3rd place can win if they're within a 14% statistical window and all the other voters combined 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th place candidates can just push the person in 1st place over the finishing line but they cannot push the party in 2nd place over the finishing line in any statistical permutation as the threshold prevents minor parties holding the ballance of power. No one in the Yes campaign seemed to have tested the model at all. Or have the answers to these questions to hand (it took me about a week to work these things out from first principles). You can't sell what you dont understand. I also think the yes campaign talked down to people.

I still dont understand how anyone can defend a situation where the 3rd party can pick up a million votes and lose 6 seats and I still think FPTP is bonkers. I dont think I'm alone either. I noticed an amusing video on youtube filmed at a Conservative event in Croydon where William Hague opines how the Conservative Party needed more votes than Labour at the last election to win seats. So to say that everyone's happy with FPTP is a joke. It's good for the winner, not bad for the 2nd place party and really bad for everyone else.

Which is exactly how the parties split on it. Funny that.

However, all systems have problems. Ultimately why open pandora's box unless there's a pressing need? And it is the case for the need that the Yes campaign failed to answer.

"Ed Miliband also took a risk. He campaigned for a 'yes' vote, despite the fact that most Labour MPs were voting 'no'. He got it wrong, reinforcing the questions about whether Labour chose the right Miliband."

Come off it - all 5 leadership candidates backed AV and you know it.

Besides which having spent £2 million pounds and 4 months electing him as far as I'm concerned he's got to stay there till at least 2015 now as the Labour party simply can't afford the time or money elect another one at the moment. Democracy isn't cheap.

It's true that Clegg had little option but to go into Coalition or pact but it's also true that he didn't have to vote Yes to the Tuition fees rise.

There was an opt out clause in the coalition agreement. And this was not just a manifest promise but a personally signed promise by

a very large number of Lib Dem MPs and candidates. And some Labour ones too...




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Gavin Barwell, 133 Wickham Road, CR0 8TE, Tel  020 8663 8741      © Gavin Barwell  2019       Promoted by Ian Parker on behalf of Gavin Barwell, both at 36 Brighton Road, Purley, CR8 2LG