Friday, 4 June 2010

Who will still be fighting in a weeks time?

Next Wednesday the nominations close for the Labour leadership. After a slow start, there has been a flurry of nominations this week. The biggest riser has been Diane Abbott who has moved from one nomination to seven in a matter of just a few days. This may not seem like much, but a big task for a candidate in any election is convincing the electorate they can win. This is especially true with Labour MPs, whose votes are public and they don't want to upset the new leadership by having supported another candidate.

Looking at the numbers, it seems like Ms. Abbott has little chance of winning. David Miliband has almost double the 33 MPs needed for nomination, his brother isn't far behind and Ed Balls has exactly the correct number of MPs to get him a place on the ballot. Andy Burnham still needs a few more nominations, but he insists he will make it. Then there is John McDonnell and Diane Abbott whose nominations are in signal figures. And yet, there still is a sense that Ms. Abbott could make it. The undeclared MPs are disproportionally form ethnic minorities, from whom Ms. Abbott says she has the most support and she is popular in the wider party too.

The system of nomination in the Labour party was specifically designed to keep left-wing candidates (like Ms. Abbott) off the ballot paper. In the actually election, two-thirds of the vote comes from the ordinary party members and the affiliated originations, who are significantly to the left of most Labour MPs, not to mention the general public. This means that when left wing candidates do manage to get onto the ballot, they tend to do rather well.

For example, left wing MP Jon Cruddas received the highest number of first preference votes in the 2007 Deputy Leadership election. If the Labour party had the same system for electing its leaders as the Conservatives, Mr. Cruddas would now be Deputy Leader. The reason why he is not is due to AV.

The Alternative Vote (AV) is a form of preferential voting. Instead of voting for just one candidate, the voter puts a '1' beside their first choice, and a '2' beside their second choice. If no one candidate gets more than the 50% of first preference votes, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and the second preference votes of that candidate are added to the remaining candidates. If no candidate still doesn't have over 50% of the vote, then the next candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and their second preference votes are redistributed as before. This goes on until one candidate has over 50% of the vote.

As I have said in previous blogs, where the second preference votes of eliminated candidates go is hard to guess, making the result hard to predict and the election that much more exciting. This time next week, we'll know what the ballot paper will look like and the election proper will have started.

No comments:

Post a Comment