Eurosceptics are split on AV


                  The tragedy of the Eurosceptic movement continues. The enthusiasts for more EU government delight in the  continued divisions.

                  The choice of voting system is important. Eurosceptic Conservatives are sure that keeping first past the post is the best chance of having fair elections which can change governments, and of holding elections which may produce a Eurosceptic majority government.  UKIP are equally sure that we need to introduce AV, presumably as part of their continuing policy of the “need to teach Conservatives a lesson”.

                  Conservatives are not opposing AV because the leadership have insisted we do or because the whips demand it. The party advises voting against AV, but it is a free vote issue over which campaign you back and vote for. Most Conservatives oppose AV because we think it undesirable that elections are settled by the second preference votes of those who vote for minor or  unpopular parties. We also see that the federalist Lib Dems  believe this new system of voting will help them greatly. The arithmetic of past elections shows that if  the AV system had  been in place it  would haven increased the pro EU majority in the Commons. Why should the candidate who comes second or third on the normal measure get the job?

                  So why do UKIP think otherwise?  UKIP presumably hope that AV would encourage more Conservative voters to vote UKIP first choice , with the back up that they could continue  voting Conservative second choice. UKIP say they would be able to argue that a UKIP vote was not then a vote for Labour or the Lib Dems. Instead removing a vote for the only Euosceptic party that could beat Labour and Lib Dems, the Conservatives, they hold out the hope that all would be fine on second preferences.

                      This argument is a difficult one for UKIP to sustain, as they have to imply that even with AV they would continue to poll well short of a winning margin and would expect their voters’ second preference to come into play. The fact that they would be unlikely to win under an AV system is realistic. They have never won a European election under a party based PR system, and did not win in Buckingham in 2010 when there was no Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem opponent. The danger of course is that the UKIP and Conservative first choice  votes would be so split that it would make it easier for the pro EU opponents to get past the Conservative total and the magic 50% in marginal seats.

                             Let us suppose that in a marginal the Conservatives last won with 37% of the vote. Labour had 31%, Lib Dems 22%, UKIP 3%, others 7%. If the UKIP theory is right and numerous Conservatives switch to UKIP on first preference, the  AV first round result might be  Conservatives  27% (10% switch to UKIP), Labour 39%,(they are currently well up on their 2010 result) Lib Dems 12% (as they are well down in the polls currently), UKIP 13%, others 9%. Second preferences would easily give this seat to Labour, with the UKIP voters’ second preferences not coming into play.

                            This is why many Conservatives  who are good Eurosceptics do not agree with UKIP that AV would give us a majority Eurosceptic Parliament. The Eurosceptic movement continues to split itself  in a way which undermines its influence.


  1. alan jutson
    February 24, 2011

    If those who are wanting PR pure and simple, why is this AV nonesense even being put forward.

    Its not proper PR, its not first past the post, its just a Political complicated fudge.

    If AV comes in, I will just vote for one candidate.

    1. Lindsay McDougall
      February 25, 2011

      Assuming that you are allowed to. If AV comes in, they could specify that a ballot paper with a cross by just one candidate is a spoilt paper.

  2. HK
    February 24, 2011

    JR, I’m not convinced that your example is a good one. Because it mixes a change in the votes since the election with the theoretical arrival of AV, it actually confuses rather than clarifies.

    In your example Labour would win under FPTP or AV, because their vote has gone to 39%, against the Conservative candidate’s previously winning 37%. I’m struggling to see why Labour winning the seat under AV is any worse than Labour winning the seat under FPTP.

    That said, I would be interested to see a well argued position against AV from the UKIP perspective, because I would have thought there would be good reasons for UKIP to want AV (not least, that UKIP could build up its core vote over a few parliaments, to the point at which it could genuinely challenge for parliamentary seats).

    On your comment that “(UKIP) have never won a European election under a party based PR system,” UKIP have already come second (in 2009) to your own supposedly EU-sceptic party. If your party leadership (not you JR) keeps up its current EU form going into the 2014 elections, the Conservative Party’s EU-sceptic voters will have long deserted it on any EU-centric issues, and UKIP will probably come first.

  3. Eric Arthur Blair
    February 24, 2011

    Don’t agree with every single point, but the over-riding matter for UKIP (and every other smaller party) is that AV actually makes it far more difficult for them to ever win a seat.

    Nick Clegg just admitted so, in relation to the BNP.

    Not all UKIP voices support AV and, just like the Conservatives, it is – AFAIK – a matter of personal opinion. UKIP don’t even mention AV on their website. And one of the UKIP supporting blogs, The Talking Clock, is campaigning against AV for example.

    1. Imogen Caterer
      February 24, 2011

      Actually waht makes it harder for the BNP to be elected is that practically no-one want s to give the BNP a 2nd preference.

      You can read what top pollster Peter Kellner says about that here

      Whereas UKIP can draw on second preferences from a wide section of politics.

      1. rose
        February 25, 2011

        How do you know no-one would give the BNP a second preference vote? I should have thought many an unreconstructed protectionist Labour voter would. Minority Labour voters may give their second preference votes to Respect. Conservatives may go second to UKIP or the Greens. It is the Liberals who should be worrying about their second preference votes not even being counted, and not getting as many second preference votes as they have hitherto arrogantly assumed.

  4. Duyfken
    February 24, 2011

    The percentages you have used, albeit just for illustration, also indicate a need for the Conservatives to recover the eurosceptic vote whatever system is in force. The only way I can see of this being achieved is for the Tory leadership to re-adopt the Conservative’s pre-Cameron policies vis-a-vis the EU and make UKIP redundant.

    1. FaustiesBlog
      February 26, 2011

      Who would believe Cameron, should he adopt a “pre-Cameron” stance? His:

      * u-turn on his “cast-iron guarantee” on the Lisbon Treaty
      * subsequent cave-ins on EU policies
      * appointments of Europhiles to prominent positions (e.g., Lidington, Clark – not to mention his Europhile advisors such as Hesseltine, Major, Hurd …)

      … have reduced his credibility as a ‘Eurosceptic’ to zero.

      With Cameron at the helm, the Conservatives have no chance of attracting this conservative back into the fold. I simply don’t believe a word he says.

      1. Duyfken
        March 1, 2011

        Agreed, and I would mention also Daniel Hannan’s Blog with the headline of: “David Cameron: ‘I don’t believe an In/Out referendum is right, because I don’t believe that leaving the European Union would be in Britain’s interests’. Cameron has pre-judged the outcome of any such plebiscite and for that reason refuses to allow it.

  5. lifelogic
    February 24, 2011

    You say ” The Eurosceptic movement continues to split itself in a way which undermines its influence.”

    Indeed it does because the voting system and cast iron Dave are conspiring against them this is probably why he failed to win the election fully. AV would certainly help UKIP first votes but not make much difference otherwise but would be slightly negative for the Tories.

    I doubt very much that it will be voted in anyway and what Liberals do then? It is a Cameron inspired outrage to democracy to have a vote on AV and not Europe after all the party promises given to the electorate.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    February 24, 2011

    JR: “The arithmetic of past elections shows that if the AV system had been in place it would haven increased the pro EU majority in the Commons.”

    I hear similar but different statements about the results of previous elections if AV had been in place. How does anyone know what the second preference votes would have been in those elections? Aren’t any such statements without foundation and therefore misleading? Incidentally, you may be pleased to know that I favour keeping the present voting system.

  7. Peter van Leeuwen
    February 24, 2011

    If the current 3% eurosceptic MPs in your H.o.C. are a democratic representation of what people want, Europhiles will have little to worry about. How fair is this FPTP system??
    I believe that this total lack of any influence (e.g. the dissenting voices in almost 400 “safe” constituencies) gives rise to either apathy or anger and frustration.
    I would suggest that the UK democracy has become too averse to change. and that by this time, almost any change might be better than none, even though I would prefer a real proportional system.
    Much as I dislike UKIP (or a Wilders in my own country, the Netherlands), for me it is the proof of democracy that such fringe opinions can be expressed and represented in a parliament.
    Referendums are about gut-feelings. The AV referendum may restore the feeling that voters have at least some influence in their democracy.

    1. Christopher Ekstrom
      February 24, 2011

      Our population is ANTI-Europe by a large majority. Lots of small factions make sense in small irrelevant nations. We will only end up thus by going further with the euro experiment. Shall we become Netherlands? Conduct useless trials for decades in absurd courts? We have been swindled.

  8. lojolondon
    February 24, 2011

    John, you should never doubt that UKIP consists 99,5% of true-blue Conservative voters, who are against the continued rape of Britian by the EU. We are devastated that David Cameron weasled his way out of delivering the referendum and we want to vote for a Conservative party that will take us out of the EU. If DaveC had accepted the UKIP olive branch at the last election then the conservatives would have clearly won the election by at least 20 seats and we would have had an EU referendum already, and this country would be in a far better position than it is now.

    1. Phil C
      February 24, 2011

      You seem to be thoroughly confused. Cameron only wanted a referendum on Lisbon, not on leaving the EU. Like most Eurosceptics it is the hijacking of the European project by socialists and centralisers, he objects to. He does not want a referenum on withdrawal because he would not support it, so once Lisbon was ratified he was no longer offering it. If you want to leave the EU, vote UKIP. Otherwise try to influence the Conservative party, but don’t pretend you have been deceived or manipulated.

      1. lifelogic
        February 24, 2011

        I do not really belief Cameron ever wanted a referendum on the Lisbon if he honestly did he could have it now – after all its ratification is totally irrelevant. What he did want was to mislead voters with the words “Cast Iron” as indeed he clearly did for many.

        Nor does he show much sign of changing the current – over regulate, over tax, over borrow and tip down the drain form of “government”.

      2. FaustiesBlog
        February 26, 2011

        Cameron’s assertion that he only ever offered a vote on Lisbon is disingenuous, to say the least.

        Yes, we can infer that (just) from his words, but his words were designed to mislead.

        Furthermore, Cameron has admitted that no government can bind its successor. Therefore, Cameron could have repealed it. Nobody has yet been able to opine, convincingly, that this is not so.

  9. John Ward
    February 24, 2011

    Compare this farce to the Bundestag’s decision yesterday to pass laws limiting any further financial commitments by Germany to eurobonds and bailouts.

    This is a major crisis for the EU, but it does show the power of the German backbencher cf the situation in the UK.

  10. zorro
    February 24, 2011

    The solution is simple, please tell ‘cast iron’ Dave to put eurosceptic policies back in place and tell the Cabinet to support them. It is difficult to berate other parties when the Conservatives need to sort out their own house. If the Conservative party is supposed to be a eurosceptic party why are so many of your colleagues shy at expressing their feelings (I know that there are some Labour eurosceptics). There only ever appears to be 30 – 40 members who vote with you. Can anyone be surprised that real eurosceptics are dismayed at the Conservative party and are looking at other solutions to get in the door to build up their power base?

    If the Conservative party was a truly eurosceptic party, UKIP would wither away into the ether. So your task is simple, you just need to persuade Mr Cameron, but you may need to see Mr Paul McKenna beforehand for some useful tips on that matter I’m afraid …:-)….)


  11. waramess
    February 24, 2011

    Fascinating that UKIP should take up so much of your time. I thought that as a minority party it would be no more than the equivalent of a cold sore and certainly not worth more than one short paragraph.

    The elephant in the room, to coin a well used phrase, is the question raised by so many recently and it is why we are allowed a referendum on only two choices carefully selected by the three main parties?

    This is no more than a grubby deception of the electorate and the shame I have is that I ever voted Conservative.

    1. David Lodge
      February 24, 2011

      I think that your last paragraph answers your first.

  12. Peter Richmond
    February 24, 2011

    Even with AV, I shall only cast a vote against the person I wish to see elected. Why should I be asked to express a preference for people from parties putting forward policies with which I do not agree? If I am a vegetarian I do not eat meat!
    Some people seem to object to first past the post saying that their voice is not heard. However once elected, that MP would as a constituency MP be expected to listen and hopefully respond to any concerns expressed by any member of the constituency. This is true under any voting system including FPTP. So I see no reason at all to change.

  13. Ronnie101
    February 24, 2011

    Of course, since Cameron has established that Coalitions are acceptable to the Tory Party, for the next Election it should redefine the Coalition as being one between the “Orange Book” Tories (Cameron/Clegg/Laws) and what one might call the “Tebbit Tories” (people like you allied with UKIP).

    The local Associations should be given a free rein to choose which wing of this Coalition would be most suitable to contest their particular turf .

    1. Colin
      February 24, 2011

      One advantage of AV is that a party can field two candidates if you assume that most second choice votes would stay in the same party. So the local association could choose to field two candidates and let the electorate decide.

      As all British Parties are Coalitions of a various sets of views, this seems more democratic.

      I am in favour of AV.

      1. Ronnie101
        February 24, 2011

        If the Tories followed your proposal with AV it would mean that they would come 2nd and 3rd in all constituencies, since only the second votes of the tiniest parties would count

  14. Acorn
    February 24, 2011

    What we never know with our present system is, do voters vote for the person or the party. Is the person irrelevant; is he or she just a mobile poster with a party rosette attached?

    What difference would it make if you could split the vote between the two. JR polled circa 53% of the vote last time; the second place LD only 28%. Can you say that JR has a large personal vote; or, is Wokingham very Blue?

    What would have happened if we had used the New Zealand or German MMP system? These give you two votes; one tick for the constituency and one more tick for the party, of your choice. The Bundestag splits the seats 50/50 between the two votes. They do have a constitutional problem with the way they calculate “party overhang seats” though. And, coalition after coalition. Germany seems to work quite well using it.

    1. rose
      February 25, 2011

      That is more likely to be because they are Germans than because we set up a different political system for them than we did for ourselves.

  15. English Pensioner
    February 24, 2011

    I’m not sure your arguments ring entirely true about us ending up with second choices. I support UKIP, with the Tories as my second choice, and here my second choice always wins. However, in a close Tory/Labour constituency, it is impossible to convince UKIP supporting Tory voters to support UKIP because of their concern that it could let Labour win. Labour eurosceptics take a similar view. If all these voters could be persuaded to put UKIP as their first choice, we would be in with a fighting chance.
    Nevertheless, I personally am a firm believer in maintaining the status quo and will vote against change.
    But as I’ve probably said before, I just can’t understand the Lib Dems. I have been unable to identify any democratic country which has PR and also has a majority government; every one seems to be a coalition. How can this possibly be acceptable to the Lib Dems? Their leader seems to be deeply unpopular with the rank and file members of the party because he has had to compromise and ditch some of the party policies – clearly the members don’t believe in the “give and take” that is necessary.
    I don’t like coalitions, mainly because it gives the small parties a disproportionate say which can hardly be called representative of the people.
    So, for me, its a vote against AV

    1. rose
      February 25, 2011

      Liberals like coalitions because it is their only chance of high office.

  16. adam
    February 24, 2011

    UKIP also support PR. Very revealing
    They must know thats the EU federal system

    1. Paul H
      February 24, 2011

      Except AV isn’t really PR.

  17. Patrick Wood
    February 24, 2011

    The problem with most of UKIP’s arguments is that they seem to believe that the only issues people vote on are European issues. What UKIP doesn’t seem to understand is that Europe (albeit a large issue) is one of many e.g. the economy, law and order etc. UKIP will of course say that all of these issues are closely linked to Europe and this is a rhetoric that has been repeated by members such as Nigel Farage (last week’s Question Time for example).

    The impression that this gives the public is that UKIP are a single issue party that cares only about Europe. Whilst I am sure most of the electorate know what UKIP’s stanc on Europe is I doubt there are many that know any of their other policies. Until UKIP start presenting a more comprehensive party platform that they can effectively communicate with the public they will struggle to achieve electoral success in Westminster. Indeed the fact that UKIP’s European election results are at a clear disparity with their Westminster results (a difference of 13.4%) shows that the public perception is one of an anti-Europe party but not much else.

    AV will not help UKIP because in most circumstances they will only get the second preferences of Conservatives and would likely be lower than the Conservatives on the preferences of anyone voting Labour or Lib Dem (if they bother to record all preferences). UKIP in its current form can only take votes from the Conservatives who have far more grassroots supporters. UKIP will struggle to ever be successful until it can define itself as something other than the disenfranchised Tory party.

    1. FaustiesBlog
      February 26, 2011

      Since the EU has dominion over every area of government, including the economy, law and order, and everything else, the EU issue is an all-encompassing issue – not a “single issue”.

      Failure of the CP to grasp this point is one of the reasons UKIP was able to bleed 23 seats off the Tory vote.

      Realism helps.

  18. Lindsay McDougall
    February 24, 2011

    The tragedy for the Eurosceptic movement is that the Conservative Party does not recognise that at the next General Election it has to ‘go for broke’. The following are needed:

    (1) A purge of the Candidates List so that no friend of a European Federation is allowed to stand as a Conservative candidate.
    (2) A specific promise to repeal the Maastricht, Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon Treaties.
    (3) An Act that specifies that UK courts are the highest courts in the land except with regard to very narrowly defined issues of trade that relate to the 1986 Single European Act.

    It would be nice to negotiate a two ring Europe – Federal, Euro based and non-Federal – but it is not essential. If we have to act alone, then so be it.

  19. JimF
    February 24, 2011

    I think you’re trying to have this argument both ways. In the last election you were arguing that with the FPTP system, there was no way that UKIP could gain a seat and so it was pointless voting for them. Now you are also saying that with AV there is no way they can win a seat so it is pointless voting for them.

    You haven’t addressed the paradox that 8% or so might vote Libdem and continue to have their rather eccentric ideas imposed on us via a cosy Libdem coalition, whilst perhaps double this percentage would vote UKIP but have no voice whatsoever in government.

    Perhaps you should address exactly how you think this should play out in terms of representative democracy, because neither of these systems seems optimal in this respect, and you’ve put nothing better forward.

    Reply: I am not seeking to praise a system or to claim it is perfect. I am merely pointing out likely consequences. The reason Lib dems get more seats is their vote is better concentrated in particular places.

  20. Graham Eardley
    February 24, 2011

    Perhaps if you were to read the following entry on the excellent England Expects Blog by Gawain Towler you would have a better understanding of UKIP’s argument and how smaller parties feel?

  21. Acorn
    February 24, 2011

    For Admin. I have solved my problem with not being able to see my “pre-moderation” posts. I have an industrial strength “cookie” grabber for banking purposes which was overriding my windows settings. You have to accept a cookie to see your own pre- moderated posts.

    For other posters with the problem and using IE8. Check under “safety”; “Web page privacy”. If you have the default setting of medium, cookies will be blocked, as this site does not return a privacy tag. You can set “accept cookies” for this site if you understand that you are reducing your security.

  22. Neil Craig
    February 24, 2011

    “The arithmetic of past elections shows that if the AV system had been in place it would haven increased the pro EU majority in the Commons. ”

    Hmm, well! That assumes that the way people vote would notcgange under a new system. Thus even with AV Parliament would remain a stitch up between the Labour, Conservative & Lib Dems – wuth 2 1/2 of those being europhile parties it is not surprising that they got the majority of votes.

    However looking at the last EU election, where people felt free to vote for who they actually wanted without being disenfranchised the Conservatives & UKIP placed 1st & 2nd & L:abour LibDims 3rd & 4th. So experience very much suggests that a more representative voting system would indeed support scepticism. It would also, in my opinion, be likely to permanently establish UKIP as the 3rd party. Since a coalition of UKIP & Labour seems impossible that will establish a trend towards libertarianism as the dominant position in British politics.

    I also query your position that “Most Conservatives oppose AV” – that has yet to be determined. I grant most established Conservative politicians, as well as most Labour politicians oppose AV, which is hardly surprising since these are the 2 groups who benefit from having such a disproportionate electoral system. Whether they can, or indeed should be able to, rely on ordinary Conservatives is the question.

  23. Phil C
    February 24, 2011

    It is probably pointless arguing about AV on the grounds of party benefit, since it is so difficult to predict its results.

    It is better to point out that it is worse than both FPTP and PR, being a mongrel hybrid that stops the choice of government being in the hands of the electorate, and does not put it into the hands of their elected representatives either.

    Either the individual voter should be invited to choose between alternative governments, with the majority in each constituency getting their wish (FPTP); or the voters nationally should select representatives pro rata, and then let their MPs decide who can form a government between themselves (PR). There are of course permutations between the extremes; but I cannot see that AV is one of them. It is essentially undemocratic to allow any voter a second chance at electing an MP, simply because their first preference was unsuccessful. Why should some voters get more than one bite of the cherry? Extraordinary!

  24. Rob
    February 24, 2011

    JR – Your point is based on the assumption that the Conservative party is Eurosceptic.

    If, as in the last election UKIP only targeted seats where there was not an incumbent Eurosceptic (Labour or Con) then it would help to get rid of many pro EU Conservative candidates. While those seats may indeed go to Labour initially, what sort of candidate do you think the local Conservative Association would then put in the place considering the risk of UKIP competition at the next election.

    I think this is actually a rather smart longterm move by UKIP.

  25. Andy
    February 24, 2011

    “Conservatives oppose AV because we think it undesirable that elections are settled by the second preference votes of those who vote for minor or unpopular parties.”

    Says it all… you don’t believe the minor parties are proper parties and we should all stick to voting one of the main 2, whether we like it or not as they know what is best for us.

    Sure there are issues with AV and you still have to vote somewhat tactically if you think there is any chance of someone getting 50% on the 1st go, but otherwise it’s getting more information out of what people would really like to vote and opening up the market a bit.
    The end result will probably be the same but based on the other votes you could then improve your own parties policies to get more votes in the future.

    That’s a much more conservative and free market attitude than the protectionism of keeping FPTP.

  26. Woodsy42
    February 24, 2011

    “of holding elections which may produce a Eurosceptic majority government.”

    And how exactly are we to achieve this wonderful feat of democracy when the only main party Eurosceptic choice on the last ballot paper started digging us deeper in, just like the other lot, as soon as elected?

  27. Freeborn John
    February 24, 2011

    I don’t believe AV will make any difference in the short-term. Nobody who voted UKIP at the last election should make the mistake of using a 2nd-preference vote for the Conservatives at the next election. That is what cast-iron Cameron wants, but there will be no renegotiation of the UK-EU relationship until Cameron is gone so the sooner that happens the better. However, given the past deceit of Labour and the LibDems was even worse no UKIP voter can support those parties either even if casting a 2nd-preference for them might accelerate Cameron’s departure and so bring forward the eventual date of finally grasping the EU issue.

    The reason to vote for AV is as a first step in dismantling the old two-party system that has failed so badly over the EU issue. It is obvious that a more representative system is needed to properly represent the majority opinion in the country that desires powers back for Brussels. FPTP is only part of the problem, which includes the lack of any separation of powers to limit the power of the executive to ratify the treaties it co-authors in the EU Council, and the Whip system which allows them to force these treaties through. But AV is a step in the right direction, and may lead to governments that would take more steps. There must be no split on the AV issue among eurosceptics; all eurosceptics must support AV.

    Your problem is in thinking of people who want to stay in the EU (like Cameron & Hague) as eurosceptics. The Conservative party have no more automatic right to govern than Rover had to make cars. If you don’t meet the market demand you go out of business. One might have thought this would have dawned on the Conservative party after 19 years without winning a majority. But if you need more election defeats to underline that you need more robust polcies on the EU to capture market share, then so be it.

    Reply: You seem to think I am the problem, which is exactly what is wrong with the Eurosceptic movement and why it is losing ground. If the main aim of UKIP is to pressurise the Conservatives, the one party that gets MPs elected who do vote against increased EU powers and budgets, then the movement will fail as it has done for the last 13 years. The last Conservative government got the Euro opt out, the borders opt out and the social chapter opt out. Blair and the federalists gave two of these three away. There is no evidence that the UK public are ready to vote by a majority for UKIP , even in EU elections under PR.

    1. Freeborn John
      February 24, 2011

      The euroscepetic movement has gained enormous ground in the last 13 years. Support for the euro is down to 7% in the latest opinion polls. The business community have compeltely turned around their opinion of the merits of the euro. A majority in the country now wants out of the EU. There is a major national newspaper campaigning for EU withdrawal. It is only the unrepresentative nature of Westminster that stands in the way of converting this victory over public opionion into political effect.

      And what is your argument here except a naked defence of that unrepresentative system based on your perception of your own party’s self-interest. You want a majority in parliament even when the Conservatives don’t offer policies that can win majority support in the country! When the Tories have some policies that will can majority support in the country you won’t have to worry about FPTP vs AV.

      p.s. lets see how well the Tories do in the next EU Parliament elections under PR; i predict the Tories will come in behind UKIP just like Labour did in june 2009, quite possibly in 4th place. The Uk electorate was very wise in the last general election, whose outcome was as perfect for EU-sceptic as the voting system allowed, denying Labour any hope of power after their Lisbon lies, preventing the formation of any LibLab coalition yet denying cast-iron Cameron a majority when he had failed to ‘seal the deal’ following his Lisbon referendum climb-down. He has since revealed we were completely justifed in suspecting him. Cameron alone represents a 10-year delay in converting the EU-sceptic majority in this country into political effect; 5 years while he clings to power with LidDem support, followed by 5 years of some other government hanging on, before there is any chance of a real PM with the courage to take on the French and German governments and finally resolve this issue. That is the result of the top-down Westminster system you defend where the opinion of the one man who commands the Whips is more important than the majority in the country.

      1. rose
        February 26, 2011

        On the contrary, Freeborn John: the electorate so arranged things that there was a serious risk of a Lib-Lab coalition after the election, and only the diplomatic skills of Messrs Cameron, Osborne, Hague, and Letwin prevented that. Constitutionally, Mr Brown did not have to resign as PM. He could have bribed the Liberals with a promise of immediate electoral reform, and then clung on for as long as they and the other left wing parties would allow him to. He could easily have bribed the Scots, Welsh, and Irish nationalists and socialists to stick with him, and Miss Lucas would given him her support for nothing. Cast Iron Cameron as you call him needed all his nerve and it held. Brown’s didn’t, even though he held the winning cards.

        Reply A Lib Lab Coalition was never possible as they did not have the numbers, which is why I advised Mr Letwin to hang tough in the negotiations

        1. rose
          February 26, 2011

          Furthermore, in these very difficult times, if the Conservatives had won an overall majority, the Liberals and their friends in the media would be opposing every single measure now. It is infuriating being in bed with such undeserving partners, but without them it would be even worse politically, because of the dishonesty of the public debate.

        2. rose
          February 27, 2011

          I agree of course that a Lib Lab pact on its own didn’t stack up, but an anti-Conservative cohabitation of the willing did.

    2. rose
      February 26, 2011

      In reply to Mr R’s reply to Freeborn John: And don’t let people forget the rebate Lady Thatcher won, which Blair and Brown also gave away.

    3. Lindsay McDougall
      March 1, 2011

      The problem is, Mr Redwood, that the government has been unwilling to reinstate the two opt outs that Blair gave away. We have not even heard our Conservative Prime Minister say that he would like to like to reinstate these opt outs but cannot because the government is a coalition government. So we remain in the situation where there is a rachet effect – a m0ve towards greater political union can take place at any time but can never be reversed.

      This simply will not do. This is why I have come to believe that it is essential that UKIP win the most votes in the MEP elections of 2014. If that doesn’t trigger the right Conservative manifesto in the planned 2015 General Election, then nothing will.

  28. Tony E
    February 24, 2011

    I think the problem with looking at how result might potentialy come out under AV is twofold.
    One, the public has never voted under that system so it is impossible to predict what they might have done.
    Two , it doesn’t deal with the real reason that AV is being proposed – i.e. as a way to break the FPTP system. Once it is gone and people realise that it’s a poor system, the next change will be PR. It’s all about getting rid of FPTP, not what initially replaces it.

  29. Tim Hedges
    February 24, 2011

    I voted Conservative last time on the basis you recommend – that it is the only way to a Eurosceptic parliament – only to find that immediately after the election Mr Cameron abandoned the idea of repatriating powers from Brussels and changed his mind about AV.

    I can be cheated once, but the Tories would need a new leader for me to vote for them again. So I’ll vote UKIP, even though I don’t agree with AV.

    1. simple soul
      February 26, 2011

      But who would you vote for in four years time as your second preference?

  30. fake
    February 24, 2011

    Well, I had no desire to vote labour or conservative at the last election.

    labour = drunken sailer fiscal policy

    conservatives = Europhiles. Sorry, but I really don’t understand why anyone would describe them as anti-EU, it was clear that a vote for the cons, was a vote for europe.

    With FPTP there really is no point in me voting unless it’s for the big two.

    I really don’t see any chance of PR unless AV goes through, turns out not to work, and they are forced to re-think it. Even then they’ll probably just switch back.

  31. Mike Stallard
    February 24, 2011

    Gerrymandering. That’s what it is. The Conservatives, of course, want the FPtP system and the smaller parties want the AV as a prelude to riding to power on someone else’s back.


  32. Andrew Johnson
    February 24, 2011

    British democracy is in a terrible state. Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MP’s, with their own parliaments, voting on purely English matters, yet the English are denied their own parliament. Millions, yes millions disenfranchised because they live in a majority Lib, Lab or Con seat and their vote counts for nothing because of the first past the post system. Around one third of the electorate not bothering to vote at all, at national elections and two thirds abstaining completely from local elections. For some time now, Lib/Lab/Cons have parachuted candidates into seats, and exercised considerable control over who can be a parliamentary candidate . Add to this, the appalling whipping system, where MP’s are forced to vote as their party leader commands, or risk losing their all.
    UKIP are accused of being a one issue party – but surely that’s the point. The EU and its institutions have become so all pervasive, Europe really does affect every issue that matters to the British people. EU legislation has to be enacted. The current confidence trick being peformed on the electorate is that the Westminster Parliament is in charge of the nation’s affairs. Since up to 70% of legislation is now pre-decided by the EU, it doesn’t matter what MP’s think. The UK parliament’s ability to govern the UK’s has been massively downgraded and it’s on its way to complete subservience to Brussels.
    Worst of all, politicians (with honourable exceptions) are not listening to the views of ordinary people in many areas of policy.
    Why are Lib/Lab/Con Mp’s (with honourable exceptions) so afraid of holding an in out referendum? If the EU has been so successful in it’s policies, so good for Britain, so much better than all the alternatives we never hear about, let’s have an honest open debate and let the British people decide once and for all. Something that has been denied to us so far.

  33. Pedro
    February 24, 2011

    Whichever voting system is in place for the next election, the Conservative Party, under Cameron will lose. Notwithstanding the need for deficit, and more importantly
    debt reduction, and the social pain that that will necessarily produce, the man is no leader and does not engender trust. Sadly, the debate will not concern eurosceptics whether “blue” or UKIP since old Labour will return by default, probably with the Lib-
    Dems in their back pack.

  34. fairweather
    February 24, 2011

    I am going to spoil my ballot paper by writing EU OUT.
    Apparently I have heard the spoilt papers are all read. Suggest eurosceptics do the same.
    Why don’t the Conservative Eurosceptics break away and form a new party? The Lib Dems could join Labour and then these 3 parties would give the electorate a REAL choice. How about Bill Cash to be the leader?

  35. Denis Cooper
    February 24, 2011

    After decades of seeing how poorly FPTP works I’d be inclined to vote for AV anyway, even if we weren’t in the EU.

    But we are in the EU, and while we stay in the EU it’ll matter less and less what system we use for electing the House of Commons.

    So as I believe that AV could help UKIP to make more progress, I have that specific reason for voting for AV on top of my general dissatsifaction with FPTP.

  36. Mark Wadsworth
    February 24, 2011

    “Second preferences would easily give this seat to Labour, with the UKIP voters’ second preferences not coming into play.”

    How on earth do you work that out? For a start, you just told us that under FPTP Labour would have won anyway (they get 39% and the Tories get 37% minus 10% who vote UKIP first, Tory second).

    1. rose
      February 26, 2011

      I’m puzzled by this bit too: I thought you needed 50% +1 to win, so you would need to allocate the UKIP second preferences.

  37. Graham Gillis
    February 25, 2011

    If Libcon had the courage to ask the same question and risk an honest answer, few, if any euro sceptics would be split.
    Do you want AV Yes/No?
    Do you want FPTP Yes/No?
    I take an active interest in politics, and always vote. I value and my vote, but for the first time in my life I find the only logical option is to spoil the paper.
    UKIP’s pro AV stance should be taken to include a “Gallic shrug.” The more this puppet government waste time and money on farce, like this referendum. The easier it becomes for voters to chose.
    Liblabcon can never be trusted to allow a fair referendum, leaving the choice of;
    Vote Liblabcon to be ruled by Europe.
    Vote UKIP to be ruled by the United Kingdom.

  38. Tom
    February 25, 2011

    The Conservative and Labour governments over the last 20 or so years have all boasted about “winning the argument” in Europe when a concession is made to them. This is as realistic as a householder, who leaves his doors unlocked, congratulating himself when he occasionally gets back some of the goods stolen from his house because the burglar returns them while stealing something more valuable.

    I agree that it is quite likely that at the next EU elections dissatisfaction with the two main parties will result in UKIP winning the most seats. Most people regard the European Parliament as an expensive irrelevancy to their lives (which it is, as the power lies elsewhere in the EU) and they increasingly cock a snook at the main parties and the EU by supporting UKIP. There are, of course, tribal automatons who always vote red or blue regardless of manifestos or performance, but their numbers are being chipped away – either to UKIP/Greens/BNP or the biggest party Abstention.

    The general public is basically fairly ignorant about, and uninterested in, the details of politics, the “hip pocket vote” being what counts. But they are slowly realising that the EU affects every aspect of their lives, from health and safety absurdities to law and order, immigration etc. They are also waking up to the nonsense being peddled about carbon reduction. However none of the three main parties are willing to have a proper discussion of the benefits of the EU (“self evident” was the official response to a demand for proper examination) or the reality/cost effectiveness of climate change policies.

    The Conservatives are destroying the resources of our armed forces, wringing their hands and blaming Labour and the MOD, but gambling that we will not face another major crisis/conflict before 2020. At the same time the Coalition is increasing by £billions its foreign aid (Cameron claiming that it is a kind of substitute defence policy), including money to nuclear armed countries and African countries where African leaders/intellectuals have said it is wasted and is sapping economic vibrancy (while the EU maintains policies which seriously damage the export potential of these countries).

    The basic sickness of British politics is that it is, for all the talk of a “Big Society”, a club run in a top down manner by a party Cabal, supported by party (abusive word deleted) – sorry, whips – and an emphasis on staying in power at all costs, which also means not upsetting party benefactors, rather than free discussion of contentious issues. This, almost more than the expenses scandals, is what brings politics into contempt.

    AV is not the answer, nor is coalition with the Lib Dems (way to the left of New Labour), only enough rebellion in the ranks by Conservative MPs. But that means being prepared to risk promotion and only a few seem to be prepared to put plain speaking above ambition.

  39. LibCync
    February 25, 2011

    In your example you seem to suggest that AV is throwing up some kind of perverse result. Whilst I think you you are making a load of assumptions on people’s preferences (when given the power and choice) that you can’t possible make (and the result wouldn’t necessarily be what you think), even if we accept your premise, over 50% of the voters are saying they prefer the Labour candidate to all the others. Is it not right that the result should then be a Labour win?

    You seem to be saying vote against AV because it closes some democratic loopholes that we have used in the past to unfairly win! Or maybe I’m being naive concentrating on the merits of the system rather than any perceived party political advantage?

  40. Lindsay McDougall
    February 25, 2011

    We should reject AV and PR because first past the post is a very good system. AV will lead to the least disliked MP being elected – not exactly stirring stuff.

    Suppose that we lose the referendum on AV. Then in the implementing legislation, we should ensure that it is for one election only, as an experiment. We should be able to persuade a large number of Labour MPs to back that line.

    We might be able to spring a nasty surprise on AV supporters. If UKIP were to moderate its economic policy, quite a few Labour and LibDem supporters that do not like the Euro Federal agenda but refuse to vote Conservative might put UKIP as their second preference. I refuse to believe that the West Country, a LibDem stronghold, is full of Euro fanatics.

    1. rose
      February 26, 2011

      Is it possible to vary the system of AV so that first preference votes are worth more than second which in turn are worth more than third, and so on? There should be some preference for first preference votes. They should not weigh the same in the final balance as 2nd, 3rd, and 4th preference votes, let alone 5th and 6th which in some cases could be the casting votes.

    2. Mike Wilson
      March 1, 2011

      “Suppose that we lose the referendum on AV. Then in the implementing legislation, we should ensure that it is for one election only, as an experiment. We should be able to persuade a large number of Labour MPs to back that line.”

      Yes, a cynical and transparent admission that the thing you like about first past the post is that, turn by turn, it ensures an occasional Conservative government.

      You must explain to us why the 35% (or so) of the people who bother to vote that vote Conservative have the right to govern the country with absolute power.

      Our current First Past the Post system is not ‘very good’ – it is ‘very bad’ and has led to the vast majority of people in this country becoming completely disinterested in politics (which is, after all, how our country is run.) I think it’s VERY important that people are interested in how things are run because, when they are interested, they become involved – you know, become part of the ‘Big Society’.

      Whereas I, as a voter who doesn’t bother to vote because I am disenfranchised by your fantastic, undemocratic, morally bankrupt First Past the Post system, am completely disconnected from and disinterested in how local services are run and how my local community works. I see government, local and national, as an obstacle to the enjoyment of my life – and do what I can to isolate myself from any involvement with it.

      I look forward to retiring soon and arranging my affairs so I no longer pay income tax – so I can truly put myself outside your pernicious little way of running the world.

  41. Tom
    February 25, 2011

    For the moderator

    I realise that you can not be expected to moderate comments 24/7 but is there any reason why JR’s blogs can not be sent at the same time to everybody. I may be a relatively new reader but I receive the blog up to eight hours after you first send it out.

  42. AndyC71
    February 25, 2011

    UKIP would disappear overnight if the Conservative Party were to defend the sovereignty of parliament and the right of the British people to determine our own affairs. But it’s not going to happen; too many Conservative MPs aren’t interested. With regard to AV, I support FPTP, but I do wonder what does it matter how MPs are elected, when their sole function is to approve – never reject – decisions made elsewhere?

  43. Paul Z. Temperton
    February 25, 2011

    The system Eurosceptics should really be campaigning for is the single transferable vote (STV) in multi-member constituencies, because that system enables voters, if they wish, to choose between different strands of the same party as well as between different parties. In that way, STV tests the real views of the electorate. If those views are as you suggest, STV would favour Eurosceptic Tories over Europhile ones, in so far as there are any of the latter left.

    However, STV is not on offer at present. AV would enable UKIP voters to give UKIP their first preference without “wasting their vote”, because if (as is highly likely on their present levels of support) the UKIP candidate is eliminated, most of the UKIP votes are likely to transfer to the Conservatives as (in those voters’ view) the next best thing. As far as I can see, this ought to suit people like Conservative Eurosceptics like John Redwood, because the party split in the anti-EU vote would in effect be healed and the Tories would largely benefit.

    1. simple soul
      February 26, 2011

      This does not take account of the many different motives of voters. E.g. disgruntled working class voters who give their first preference to UKIP may in the recent past have voted secondly for the Liberals in protest. There will always be a need for a protest vote party, and the Liberals often fulfilled that function, even though they are the most pro-EU. This was because they were not seen to have dirty hands. Now that has all changed: there are now three official parties, and at least three significant other destinations for protest votes.

  44. Alte Fritz
    February 25, 2011

    Maybe AV or some variant will gain popularity with the media if it guarantess a centre left……coalition?

  45. simple soul
    February 26, 2011

    We have no knowledge from opinion polling or academic research of what the second preferences of fringe party voters would be if an election were held next Thursday. How much more, therefore, are we in the dark about the behaviour of fringe party voters in casting their second preferences in four years time, all the more so as this would be a completely novel experience for all concerned – voters, candidates, canvassers, and pundits alike. It is truly a leap in the dark.

  46. Newday
    February 27, 2011

    I agree that AV is not the way forward and would result in perpertual coalition.

    On your main point though, the split in the Eurosceptic movement, there would not be a split if the Conservative party was genuinely Eurosceptic. Probably the majority of its members, and perhaps even a majority of its MPs are. However its leadership is not, and wasn’t even before the election. As members and most MPs have no influence over policy, and the leadership dictates that, the party cannot be regarded as Eurosceptic. It is frustration at that lack of voice and lack of responsiveness that drove many members to UKIP in the past, and sees the membership continue to fall now. It continues to be frustrating for those of us in the party who are Eurosceptic. Quite simply if you can deal with that and give members a voice that can influence the leadership, then you deal with the split, and UKIPs influence is less.

  47. ITF Tory
    February 27, 2011

    Does anyone else think that “First Past The Post” is a poor name for this voting system? There is no defined finishing “post”, no defined threshold. A better name would be something like “First Choice Vote”. FPTP would be a better name for AV – the “post” is 50% and the first to get there (after re-allocations) is the winner.

  48. Mike Wilson
    March 1, 2011

    Whilst I have some sympathy with the argument that you don’t want MPs elected based on a small number of second preferences – I wonder if you would mind if we had a system where my first preference counted?

    All my life I have lived in safe seats. As a long time Liberal voter, my vote has NEVER COUNTED. So, now, I just don’t bother voting. It really isn’t worth my while hauling myself out of my comfy armchair and heading down to the polling station to cast my vote – because my vote, under a first past the post constituency based system, DOES NOT, HAS NOT and NEVER WILL count.

    If you are happy with this -fine. But please admit we live under a corrupt and morally bankrupt political system where political power has effectively been hi-jacked by two political parties ensuring that minority governments have absolute power.

    It’s almost funny really.

  49. Mike Wilson
    March 3, 2011

    I note no-one takes issue with my complaint that our current system is completely undemocratic and allows parties elected by a minority to take absolute power.

    When you read the comments on this blog it illustrates one thing and one thing only – all you are interested in is gaining and keeping POWER – you don’t give a fig about democracy.

    If you want people to become involved in the society they live in, you need to stop disenfranchising. PR is the only democratic method of electing a legislature because that’s what parliament is – a legislature. Why we need 650 legislators is beyond me. You’d think that a 100 would do, at most.

    Reply: My main concern is to promote policies which I think will promote the freedom and prosperity of the British people. If I was mainly interested in having and holding power I would have been pro the EU, as that would have been a better career move.

    1. rose
      March 6, 2011

      I wonder if that is why you are denied high office. Isn’t it that the media just dislike high intelligence and analytical detachment? They certainly seem to foster popular dislike of people who don’t run with the herd. Why, I don’t know. Maybe it is laziness on their part: they can’t be bothered to engage with thoughtful independent minds, so dismiss them as mad or bad.

      1. rose
        March 6, 2011

        And modern PMs don’t seem to want to appoint people the media have isolated.

    2. rose
      March 7, 2011

      Mike, have you looked at it the other way? PR and its relations ensure the smallest minority takes power, not the largest. Isn’t that even more unfair? I should have said so. For example, when Herr Genscher was leader of the most unpopular party in West Germany, for twenty years he always held power, always had the office he wanted – Foreign Minister – and always decided exactly when the government fell, and what the new one would be. It is called “The tail wagging the dog”, and doesn’t promote idealism in politics.

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