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UK controversy over tactical voting; reform campaigners want proportional representation

Tuesday, August 22nd 2017 - 07:11 UTC
Full article 37 comments

Tactical voting reached a new peak at June's general election as voters tried to get round a failed system, according to electoral reform campaigners. The Electoral Reform Society branded the poll a “hold your nose election,” claiming 6.5 million voted tactically rather than for what they believed in. Read full article


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  • LEPRecon

    The main problem with the Electoral Reform Society is that they don't understand human nature, especially British human nature.

    People have been talking about electoral reform in the UK form more than 100 years, but there is a reason that nothing has ever happened...the people of the UK don't want it to.

    Now before people come on here shouting about the article and the results of its ridiculously small polling sample, etc... let me explain.

    In theory proportional representation sounds great, doesn't it? It is certainly a fairer system than 1st past the post...there is no denying that. And most people would probably agree with that. However the realities of having PR aren't as palatable to the British voting public as the theory is.

    You see since people vote for MPs standing in their relevant constituencies, with whomever getting the greater vote winning (regardless of how many votes the overall party gets), they won't accept that the Labour/Conservative/Green/Independent etc... MP that got the most votes may not actually 'get in' under PR. They may end up with an MP from a party that didn't actually do that well in their area at all, but the party did well overall in a country wide tally.

    And the British people won't stand for that. After all its THEIR MP. They decide on THEIR MP, not a bunch of unelected people tallying up overall votes and dictating which MP they'll have.

    Hence why the AV referendum vote failed, and no doubt why any attempt to introduce a PR referendum would similarly fail.

    British people tend to get quite intransigent about things like that.

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 08:48 am - Link - Report abuse +1
  • DemonTree

    I disagree. The reason that nothing has happened is that the people in power don't want it to, since it would reduce their chances of staying in power. The first-past-the-post system is one of the most blatant instances of politicians supporting something because it benefits them, even though it is against the interests of the country as a whole. The two major parties know that they would lose their duopoly on power if we adopted a PR system, and more personally, many of their MPs would have to lose their seats. For that reason no one with any real power is ever going to campaign for it.

    LEPRecon, your objection need not be a problem at all. We could have a system like in Scotland where you vote for your own MP, and then there are extra seats which are given to parties who received a large number of 'wasted' votes, to ensure those voters are represented.

    The AV referendum failed firstly because it was a compromise that no one actually wanted, secondly because no one understood it (and it is over-complicated, we should keep the actual voting method as simple as possible), and thirdly because, as I said, both major parties were opposed to it as it is against THEIR interests.

    Why is it we have to wait for a referendum for the voice of the majority to actually be heard? I'm no fan of UKIP, but they had significant support and should have been represented in parliament. Ditto other smaller parties. It isn't right that so many people's views are unrepresented, and the vast majority of votes, irrelevant.

    The Electoral Reform Society have a point, too, that the main argument in favour of FPTP is that it ensures majorities and strong government, but this no longer seems to be the case. With all it's problems, now would be a good time for a change.

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 10:41 am - Link - Report abuse -1
  • gordo1

    The recent General Election in the UK was manipulated by students in places with Higher Education institutions. Students may register in in their home constituency and also in the constituency where they are studying and, for local elections, may vote in both places.

    However, in General Elections they may vote in the place of their choice but NOT in both places. Should they vote in both places then they are subject to a fine of £5,000.

    The problem was that many students voted in both places but there is no vigilance of this cheating and they got away with it. In most of the university constituencies there were very unsuspected results viz Portsmouth South and Canterbury.

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 11:04 am - Link - Report abuse 0
  • LEPRecon

    Demon Tree

    It's not my objection. I'm all for PR. However the people of the UK aren't as easily convinced...hence why the referendum for the AV failed miserably. People didn't like or trust the change.

    You say it's the ones in power who don't want the change. I disagree. The UK Parliament has been discussing electoral reform for over 100 years. But you have to be able to sell it to the people and it's the people of the UK who don't want or trust PR.

    I would say that the majority of people in the UK look at countries that do have PR and see weak governments made up of coalitions (of numerous parties), that either never get the job done, or end up having to compromise a policy to the point it becomes unrecognisable.

    And of course as I've already mentioned, people don't want a person who may not be local getting put in as their MP, as they don't understand the area, it's problems or it's people.

    Lets face it, whilst FPTP isn't perfect, at least people get the MP that they've voted for. Yes maybe 60% of the population didn't vote for the party that eventually forms the government, but there is no perfect system of democracy, they all have their problems.

    And if people don't want a particular party in power then they need to learn to vote tactically and in larger numbers, because the people who voted 'tactically' in this referendum are a tiny minority. The Electoral Reform Society make it sound like people have never voted tactically before. Well shock and horror! People vote tactically all the time. This is nothing new.

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 11:39 am - Link - Report abuse +1
  • DemonTree

    Gordo, you keep repeating this claim but you've never given one shred of evidence. The fact that more students than usual voted in an election where one party specifically made big efforts to get out the student vote is not evidence of cheating.

    Students do have the advantage that they can choose which constituency to vote it, so they can pick the one where their vote can make a difference. Bringing in PR would remove this of course.

    I agree people are opposed to change in general, especially if it's not clear it's necessary. And previously, there was something to be said for FTPT, but that no longer seems to be the case. With no one powerful willing to champion PR, all people hear about are the downsides, and not the advantages. Parliament may have been discussing electoral reform but they have never done anything about it and never tried to sell it to the people.

    As for “people don't want a person who may not be local getting put in as their MP” you've got to be joking! Who on earth ever has someone local as their MP? The important party members are parachuted in to safe seats, and the up-and-coming get to prove themselves by standing in places where they have no chance at all.

    The only local people I have ever seen stand have been for the small parties or independents who have no chance of winning.

    The other issue with FPTP is that it tends to lead to just two big parties, that may not represent most of the people in the country at all. It turns people off voting if there is no realistic option whose ideas they agree with, and it turns people off voting when they know their vote will not count. I still vote, but only because I feel I should; I certainly would vote tactically if it would do any good, but my vote is completely irrelevant just because of the area I live in.

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 11:58 am - Link - Report abuse -1
  • Pontefractious

    For centuries Brits have looked with disdain on European countries where the political parties are fragmented and governments have lasted short periods of time as parties shift their alliegences in a quest for power. We have had periods when the party in power has had a razor thin parliamentary majority and on rare occasions it has been necessary to resort to a coalition but there is no doubt that the greatest stability is achieved when a single party rules the roost. My understanding has always been that if we go to proportional representation it is an automatic recipe for coalition government and that it is therefore not in the country's best interests, even if it is in the best interests of those smaller parties struggling for recognition. As for strategic voting, there is no law providing that every constituent is entitled to have a candidate they like. It is difficult to see how such a law would work. So voters are sometimes in a position where all they can do is vote against the candidate they least favor.

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 12:49 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • Voice

    It's a fair enough some of you already know I've been forced to tactical vote the last few years, although I don't think overall it was a wasted vote, perhaps in my case it was residing in a safe seat, but a lot of folk did the same and the SNP took huge losses...
    So much so, that they have been forced to take Inderef2 off the agenda... need to thank me for playing my part in keeping a United Kingdom...;-)

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 01:45 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Brit Bob

    United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum, 2011

    On a turnout of 42.2 per cent, 68 per cent voted “No” to AV and 32 per cent voted “Yes”. Ten of the 440 local counting areas recorded 'Yes' votes above 50 per cent: those in Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh Central and Glasgow Kelvin, with the remaining six in London.

    Enough said.

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 01:55 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • DemonTree

    And now the boot's on the other foot and they are laughing at our political mess. :(

    “but there is no doubt that the greatest stability is achieved when a single party rules the roost.”

    Taken literally this suggests one party rule like China.
    And that is a very stable system, but the people's wishes are not represented at all. The system we use is a trade off, and we ought to consider the pros and cons of each rather than dismissing the idea of change.

    And I would love to have the chance to vote strategically, even if there was no candidate I like. That would still be a massive improvement over my vote not counting at all.

    @Brit Bob
    “Enough said”

    Erm, it really wasn't; I have no idea what you are trying to say by listing areas which voted for AV. Please explain?

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 02:08 pm - Link - Report abuse -1
  • Voice

    Enough said...that is hilarious..does anyone have an idea what English Bob's point was...?
    ...oh dear...;-)))

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 02:13 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Brit Bob


    68 per cent voted “No” to AV

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 03:50 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • DemonTree

    Well, I'm still mystified. Anyone else know what his point was? Oxford and Cambridge voted for AV and presumably smart people live there? That's all I can come up with.

    I don't know anyone who wants AV myself, but I know plenty of people in favour of PR.

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 04:16 pm - Link - Report abuse -2
  • Voice

    He's a one trick pony...anything outside his little linked repertoires and he's lost...

    Stick to your Spamming....“English”...Bob...

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 04:35 pm - Link - Report abuse -1
  • LEPRecon

    Demon Tree

    I think the point that Brit Bob was making is that those areas that voted for it aren't 'smarter' than the rest of the country, but they tend to be full of elitists...those who think they 'know' better than the mere peasants and who believe they're smarter.

    You also say that you know a lot of people in favour of PR, and that's great, but where I hail from very few are in favour of it. They just don't trust it, or they don't like the possibility of coalition governments or not getting the MP that they voted for.

    Hence why they voted so vehemently against the AV. I believe that if they pitched PR to the public they'd be no more inclined to adopt it than AV. In fact it'd probably be a very similar result to the AV referendum.

    British people don't like change...and they do like complaining about stuff. FPTP delivers both those things to them. No change and a chance to complain about the outcome of the election. Job done...everyone happy...even if they're just happy complaining about it.

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 05:33 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • Brit Bob

    Why doesn’t the UK use proportional representation?

    In 2011, the British public were asked in a referendum on whether they wanted to change the system to the alternative vote (AV).

    AV is slightly different to PR as voters are asked to put a number by each candidate, with a one for their favourite, 2 for their second favourite and so on.
    They can put numbers on as many or as few as they wish.

    A candidate will be elected if more than half the voters put them down as their favourite.
    If nobody gets half, the numbers provide instructions for where to move your vote if your favourite candidate can’t win.

    The candidate who came last is eliminated and the counters look at these instructions to move the votes of the people who voted for them to their second favourite candidate.
    This process continues until one candidate has half of the votes and is elected.

    However in the voting referendum, more than two thirds of British people said “no”.

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 05:40 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • Wayne Smith

    My record is intact. I have never seen a media article on electoral reform that did not contain at least one glaring inaccuracy. To wit: “Elections for the Westminster Parliament use the 'first-past-the-post' system - under which the party that gains the most MPs, rather than the most votes overall, wins.” I suppose “wins” here means “forms government”. This is incorrect. The government is formed by the party or parties that have the confidence of Parliament, not necessarily including the party with the most seats. In any case, this is a feature of the parliamentary system, and has nothing to do with the voting system. The defining characteristic of first-past-the-post is that we elect only one MP per electoral district. This means that many voters, and usually most, will be “represented” by people they voted against. It also inevitably means that party standings do not accurately reflect voter support, leaving voters with no way to hold parties and party elites accountable. The defining feature of proportional representation is that almost every vote actually helps to elect someone, giving voters accurate representation and the power to hold politicians accountable.

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 06:22 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • gordo1

    Demon Tree

    “Gordo, you keep repeating this claim but you've never given one shred of evidence.” WRONG! I have mentioned twice before!

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 07:43 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • DemonTree

    Dunno if you're right, but you don't think that the cities containing the UK's two world renowned universities might, just possibly, have more smart people than average? Does 'elite' people supporting something necessarily make it bad?

    Certainly in here I can see that everyone is dead-set against it, but I still don't really understand why. It's not obviously a partisan issue, and it would make parliament more democratic as the parties would truly represent the will of the voters. That's the very opposite of elitist.

    What would be interesting would be to do a survey in Scotland where the Scottish Parliament has PR, to see whether people like it and would like the Westminster Parliament to do the same, or whether they would prefer to change Holyrood to FPTP. Having experienced both, they would be in a good position to judge.

    I know British people don't like change, but A LOT of people were not and are not happy with our government. The people supporting Brexit have been telling us regularly that our elected representatives are lying to us and plotting to keep us in Europe against our will. That doesn't sound like a successful political system, does it?

    @Brit Bob
    That wasn't what I asked, but thanks for explaining how AV is totally unlike PR in every way. The only thing they have in common is that they are both different to what we have currently, and that seems to be exactly most people's problem.

    Now could you please explain what the significance of the areas voting for AV was supposed to be?

    You say 'wrong' and then agree with me!

    This is the third time you've mentioned it, so you do indeed keep bringing it up. And on none of those occasions have you given any evidence. I understand you don't like the result and would prefer students go back to not voting, but they have as much right to vote as you do, and as much right not to be accused of fraud without evidence

    Aug 22nd, 2017 - 08:50 pm - Link - Report abuse -1
  • gordo1

    Demon Tree

    You said “keep on” which I interpret as “constant” - to have mentioned a matter twice is NOT “keeping on” or “constant”!

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 06:36 am - Link - Report abuse 0
  • DemonTree

    By keep on I meant that you have mentioned it repeatedly; 3 times is repeatedly in my view. But that's just semantics; the point is there is no evidence for widespread fraud. I daresay a few people did do what you suggest, but enough to make a difference? That's unlikely. As you mentioned, there is a big fine if you are caught.

    And turnout has been so low among students it should be easy to increase it, particularly with the carrot of free tuition that Corbyn offered.

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 08:48 am - Link - Report abuse -1
  • LEPRecon

    Demon Tree

    Smart? Doesn't that depend on your definition of smart?

    Lets face it there will be a high number of students in that voting pool. Are they smarter than other people? Why? Because they're at University?

    Perhaps in some respects. However you tend to find that the majority of University students might be intellectually smarter about some things, but tend not to have emotional intelligence. This is why when people are younger they tend to only see things in black and white, and there is no compromise, and also in their opinion if they're right then everyone else must be wrong.

    Emotional intelligence is something that develops over time with experience, which is why when the majority of these people leave University and live in the real world their world view changes dramatically.

    So no, people in these cities aren't necessarily smarter than people anywhere else...they just arrogantly believe that they are.

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 09:06 am - Link - Report abuse +2
  • DemonTree

    Yes there will be students, but I was also thinking of the researchers, and the tech companies that have grown up around those places with their employees.

    And students are not smarter because they are at university, but the fact they were able to pass difficult tests to get in proves their intelligence in some areas. By no means do all smart people go to university, but people who go to university are clearly smarter than average, at least academically.

    I agree with your point that there are different kinds of intelligence, although I would call it wisdom rather than emotional intelligence; it's something you gain from experience. And I'm certainly not claiming that just because students or whichever group support something, they must be right, but I really don't see why it's supposed to be a mark against the idea.

    People in Oxford and Cambridge may or may not be arrogant, and may or may not believe they are smarter than others, but that has no bearing on whether they are right about AV.

    As for why people oppose PR, or AV, a large part of it seems to simply be dislike of change. The fact people here lump them together and seem uninterested in the merits of either supports that idea. What do you think would be the best way to persuade people to seriously consider electoral reform instead of just dismissing the idea?

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 09:30 am - Link - Report abuse -1
  • gordo1

    Demon Tree

    “there is a big fine if you are caught” - yes, but there is no vigilance which could possibly catch the offenders. So they know they will never have to pay up! You are exhibiting unaccustomed naivety!

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 11:32 am - Link - Report abuse +1
  • DemonTree

    I'm not so sure it's unaccustomed. ;)

    As I understand it, every ballot has a serial number which can be linked to your name and address, so if they suspect someone of fraud they can find out those serial numbers and check whether they submitted a ballot in both areas.

    If there are suspicions of fraud I assume the police will investigate? But the point is, just because it was possible to commit a crime does not mean someone did commit it. Where's the evidence that people did?

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 11:52 am - Link - Report abuse -1
  • gordo1

    Demon Tree

    You may care to peruse this or this or this

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 11:59 am - Link - Report abuse 0
  • DemonTree

    It says in here they ARE investigating it. And if people have admitted voting twice that is evidence and they should investigate. Three separate petitions though? Sounds like someone is hyping this up for the public, I wonder why? ;)

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 12:09 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • gordo1

    Demon Tree

    I don't know what happened there - there were three links. Here is another one

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 12:20 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • DemonTree

    Oh, yeah, I forgot: there is a bug in the 'new' site design where it replaces all links with the first one. If you want multiple links in one post then remove the http from the front, then it no longer recognises it as a link and people can copy the text.

    Like so:

    Also don't put punctuation on the end, it incorporates in into the link which breaks it.

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 12:39 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Kipper

    Comment removed by the editor.

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 01:55 pm - Link - Report abuse -1
  • LEPRecon


    People like YOU are the very reason this stories appear on Mercopress. You just can't resist clicking on the story and commenting.

    The more views they get the more money they make from their sponsors.

    It's not rocket science.

    Perhaps if you departed from this forum they wouldn't bother putting such stories on the site.

    However, we all know that you Argentine trolls can't pass up the chance to vent your spleen at anyone you believe will listen. So the more stories regarding the UK and the Falklands that they put on here, the more views they get from 'angry' Argentine trolls and the more money they make.

    The question you should be asking yourself is why are you propping up these sites if you object to their content so vehemently?

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 02:36 pm - Link - Report abuse +3
  • gordo1

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 03:39 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • DemonTree

    Gordo, you've posted the same link yet again. And it can't be Mercopress's fault this time.

    Good post. :) I guess Hepakipper is making money for Mercopress with all her spamming..

    What do you think about my question above? Is there any way to get people to consider the merits of electoral reform?

    Aug 23rd, 2017 - 11:05 pm - Link - Report abuse -2
  • LEPRecon

    Demon Tree

    The only way to get people to consider the merits of electoral reform is to encourage them from a young age. Older people tend to be more intransigent and stuck in their comfort zones.

    However in the UK politics is not actually high on most people's list of important things. Yes they'll vote when they have to, write to their MP occasionally, but otherwise once a government has been formed its up to them to sort stuff out whilst the population get on with their lives.

    This was on Sky News today.

    Youngsters especially aren't interested in politics. Oh they may go to the odd protest but that generally is more about being anti-establishment than actually caring about change to the establishment. Young people (in general) are more interested in their reality TV programmes, their video games or what's new and cool. They don't view politics as cool. They see it as boring.

    So unless these people are engaged at a younger age they won't really care about what system of democracy is used.

    An example of this was apparent in the Scottish referendum. The SNP went to great lengths to include 16 and 17 yr olds in the vote. Very few of them even bothered to register to vote, and some of those that did register then didn't bother voting on the day because they probably had better things to do.

    There is no easy answer. If there was it would probably have already been employed by now.

    Aug 24th, 2017 - 01:30 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • Pontefractious

    I think if you were to ask these 16 and 17 year olds why they don't vote, the overwhelming response will be “what's the point ?”. If you dig deeper you will find that their impression is that whichever way people vote makes no difference to their everyday lives - whoever is in power will probably try to raise taxes so they have some money to spend but beyond that its same old same old. If you chide them for lack of involvement and start mentioning vague abstracts like “civic duty” you will at best get a blank stare. The world we have built for them is devoid of spiritual value and the growth in material benefits has ground to a halt. What incentive do they have to get involved ? Can't say I totally disagree. Who wants to vote just to make your local politician feel better ?

    Aug 24th, 2017 - 03:13 pm - Link - Report abuse +1
  • DemonTree

    Good points from both of you. I only know what filibustering is from seeing Americans use the term; we don't get any political education in this country, or learn about the history of parliament and the difference that having the universal franchise made.

    And it's so true that many people don't believe it makes any difference who they vote for, and don't trust politicians to do what they say. What's annoying is that the more people who believe this, and the more apathetic the electorate becomes, the truer it gets.

    If young people voted they could easily swing elections, and if politicians knew they were going to vote they would start caring about their issues.

    Pontefractious, by 'spiritual value', do you mean religion or something broader?

    Aug 24th, 2017 - 08:44 pm - Link - Report abuse 0
  • The Voice

    I see its now Sassy Hepakipper. Same old, same old.....crap.

    As for the topic, do I care, no. Whatever lot is running things it will still be a mess created by folk with motormouths and who have never done a proper job making pointless compromises.

    Aug 25th, 2017 - 09:18 am - Link - Report abuse 0
  • Clyde15


    I would take you up on your figures on voting in the Scottish Referendum.

    98000 registered to vote out of 122500 eligible 16-17 year olds.

    More precisely, according to ICM’s survey, 75% of 16 and 17 year olds voted, compared with 54% of 18-24 year olds and 72% of 25-34 year olds.

    It's the 18-24 group that seem to be disillusioned with politics.

    Aug 25th, 2017 - 10:19 am - Link - Report abuse 0

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