Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Can we please, PLEASE make this the last election where we get this:

  • Don't vote Lib Dem here, you'll let the Tories in.
  • You can't vote Labour here, they've got no chance, you'll let the Lib Dems in.
  • Tories can't win here.
  • Vote Conservative to keep Labour out.
  • SNP are the only ones in this seat who can keep the Tories out.
  • A vote for Plaid Cymru is a vote for Labour.
  • You do realise don't you that if you vote Lib Dem you could let Labour in here?
  • Vote tactically for us to keep them out.
  • Only Lib Dems can keep Labour out.
  • Only the Conservatives can keep Labour out.
  • Only the SNP can keep Labour out.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

Are you sick of it yet?

It is the First Past the Post system that forces all parties (yes, yes, I know including my own) to indulge in this very negative way of campaigning. A change to Single Transferable Vote which allows voters to list their preferences would transform all of this. Instead of scaring voters with the possibility of them "letting in" the candidate they fear most, candidates would suddenly find the way to win is to appeal for people to vote *for* them rather than *against* someone else. It's built into the system and comes for free.

Please let's make this the last election under this sort of relentlessly negative system.


Thomas Byrne said...

Only if you scrap the barcharts and hospital scare campaigns...

Stu said...

"It is the First Past the Post system that forces all parties (yes, yes, I know including my own) to indulge in this very negative way of campaigning."

It isn't, I'm afraid. It's the desire to get elected. Negative/cynical campaigning is universal, and common in all voting systems. Mainly because it's extremely effective at motivating uncertain voters. It's the carrot and stick approach.

It is naivety of the highest order to imagine that any voting system is unexploitable or immune to cynical politicking. People will use whatever strategy works.

Mark Thompson said...

Stu. I am not claiming that STV would get rid of all forms of negative campaigning. I am saying it would specifically transform this sort of negative campaigning, i.e. tactical voting to "keep out" your least favoured option(s).

Under FPTP you get one chance to express your preference (with an 'X') and one candidate is elected. That's what leads to all of this "Vote for me to keep them out" stuff. If we had STV with multi-member seats then this argument doesn't really apply because you list your preferences ('1', '2', '3' etc.) so you can easily vote e.g. Green first, Lib Dem second etc. and the Lib Dem could not credibly claim that the first preference for Green is a wasted vote (like they absolutely could under the current system in virtually all constituencies). Instead if they wanted the Green vote they would be better off talking up their Green credentials to try and get all those Green second preferences (or even try to convert them to first preferences). Also, your vote is not keeping someone else "out" because several MPs will be elected within the seat.

I really do think that we would see many candidates eventually come to the conclusion that the positive route is the best way to win. However I agree it would be naive to assume that any system is not open to some forms of negative campaigning (which is not what I was saying). But this specific form highlighted above would not really apply any more.

Unknown said...

In my own constituency (Hampstead & Kilburn - 3 way marginal) we're in the ludicrous situtation where Lib Dems say the Tories can't win, and the Tories say Lib dems can't win...although the party lest likely to win are Labour (the incumbent). Everyone's squeezeing a squeeze that doesn't exist.

Quite a few people (myself included) have got very agitated about this, and have become very hostile towards that sort of campaigning. We've made our feelings clear towards both candidates (Ed Fordham and Chris Philp) and after some minor squabbling between various people via Twitter and Youtube, there seems to be less emphasis on the "can't win here" I'm glad to say.

Agree with everything yu say though.

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

As of early Friday morning, it would seem the answer is "NO".