Reflections on the 2015 UK General Election

First of all, I must say I am deeply disappointed with the results. Not because the Conservatives managed to win a majority of the seats, but because any party was able to do that! I was truly looking forward to a very messy hung parliament; days, if not weeks, of talks and negotiations between the various parties; and a chance to see the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act come into play. Alas, that is not to be. I — like most viewers I would imagine — was incredibly surprised by the exit poll results announced as soon as the polls closed. Not so much by the forecast that the Tories would be the largest party — that I had […]

First, the people don't choose who governs in a Westminster parliamentary system. We do not vote for governments -- we vote for our Member of Parliament, and we elect a Parliament. It is the make-up of that Parliament which determines what party -- or parties -- will form the government.

On dumping first-past-the-post for all the wrong reasons

In an earlier post, I explained how Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson was wrongly pinning the blame for most of the problems facing Canada’s parliament on the country’s voting system, first-past-the-post (FPTP). Today a similar article has appeared in the UK media, Hung parliaments are on the up across the world – it’s time to dump first-past-the-post. This opinion piece is far worse than Simpson’s. The author, Richard McGinley, demonstrates a notable misunderstanding of how the Westminster system of parliamentary government works. He also calls for a change of voting systems, because FPTP (occasionally) leads to hung parliaments, but fails to acknowledge that PR systems almost always result in hung parliaments. It’s all very confusing. McGinley begins saying: THE […]

So if FPTP isn't really the problem here in Canada, what is?How do we explain why two countries with very similar parliamentary systems and identical voting systems differ so much in how well their parliament functions and in their approach to government formation?

Everyone may love PR, but FPTP isn’t the problem

Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson’s latest piece argues that Canada’s voting system, commonly referred to as First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) is increasingly inadequate for our multi-party political system. He points out how almost everyone else uses some form of proportional representation (PR), which forces parties to work together and form coalitions since PR rarely results in a single party winning enough seats to form a government on its own, and also provides more checks and balances on the head of government. Simpson writes: In contrast to many other systems, the Canadian provides very few checks and balances on a prime minister with a majority. The unelected Senate is a wet noodle; the government backbenchers are yes-men; the cabinet members are appointed […]

Report of the Electoral Matters Committee

The Parliament of the Australian state of Victoria’s Electoral Matters Committee released the report of its Inquiry into the future of Victoria’s electoral administration. It’s a lengthy (144 pages) report, and much of it deals with the nitty-gritty of voting in the State of Victoria. Chapter 3, however, might be of more general interest to Canadians who advocate for the adoption of the preferential ballot (aka the ranked ballot, or the Alternative Vote). There are two different voting systems used in the State of Victoria. Full preferential voting is used to elect Members to the Legislative Assembly, while single transferable vote (STV) is used to elect the upper chamber, the Legislative Council. Full preferential means that for a ballot to […]

Coalition government gains traction

The UK House of Lords Constitution Committee has launched a new inquiry into the constitutional implications of coalition government. The reason for this inquiry is “the increase in the general election vote share for parties other than Conservative and Labour means that government by coalition may become more common in future as single parties are unable to secure an absolute Commons majority.” The Committee’s inquiry is focusing on three key questions: The impact of coalition government on the principle of collective ministerial responsibility.  Examples of disagreements within the current coalition that have raised questions in this area include those announced at the onset of the coalition, such as on the renewal of Trident, and some which have emerged during the […]

The preferential ballot favours the party with the most first preference votes

I have written several posts looking at the growing popularity of the preferential ballot/the alternative vote (AV) here in Canada – see this recent one, for example. I even attempted a redo of the 2011 Canadian federal election using the preferential ballot rather than our current FPTP. As I explained in that post, and in others, the big problem in attempting to forecast how the election would have played out using AV was the absence of data concerning voters’ preferences. Some polling firms would (and still do) regularly ask people which party was their second choice, but no one ever looked at voters’ potential 3rd, 4th, etc. choices. However, a new poll by Abacus Data has done just that. According […]