Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP, says she is considering running as a joint Conservative-Ukip candidate in the 2015 general election. She claims others might do the same, as a means to avoid a split on the right as the UK Independence Party eats away at the Tories’ right flank.
Dorries claimed having two logos on the ballot paper had been made possible by legislation passed by the coalition government, and seeking a Ukip endorsement was “something that I know MPs are looking forward and considering now”
I had missed any piece of the Conservative-LibDem coalition’s political reform program including this ballot provision. If Dorries is correct in her interpretation, does this imply that the coalition partners were trying to make it more feasible for their candidates to run jointly, back in the coalition’s rose-garden days?
As most readers of this blog likely know by now, there was a by-election in the UK last week. In the constituency of Eastleigh, the two governing partners, Conservative and Liberal Democrat went head to head. Except they didn’t. The UK Independence Party candidate finished in between them, in a close second. The LibDems held the seat, despite more than a 14-point swing against them.
The Labour candidate finished a distant fourth.
I see a couple of comments already have appeared at an earlier UK thread.
I will have more to say (I think) later on, but for now, here is an official discussion opportunity…
Do I need to revise those lecture points about “fusion of powers” and “ceremonial head of state”?
Papers prepared by the Cabinet Office and recently made public shed light on the UK monarch’s employment of the veto (Guardian, 14 Jan.).
Most of the cases cited involve bills that directly affect crown interests, although one bill vetoed in 1999 was a private member’s bill concerning military actions against Iraq, and others have been on agricultural and housing bills.
The withholding of consent is on “advice” of ministers, so it would be misleading to see this as a runaway unaccountable monarchy blocking the normal functioning of parliamentary government. On the other hand, it seems a significant curtailment of “parliamentary sovereignty” if executive ministers can “advise” the monarch to veto bills duly passed by parliament.
Moreover, it seems that the veto can be to individual provisions of a bill. If so, then maybe I need to add UK to cases of not just veto, but also item veto!
London mayor Boris Johnson will attend his Conservative Party’s upcoming conference “to reveal the secret of how to get re-elected against Labour in a time of austerity in what will be seen as fresh evidence of his ambition to succeed David Cameron”, reports the Guardian.
This comes in the wake of a YouGov poll that shows Johnson as Britain’s “most respected” politician.
Is Boris going to replace David Cameron as PM? I would not bet on it, for two reasons that I can draw out of my research on career trajectories of prime ministers, in comparison with presidents.
First, Johnson’s formula for being (re)elected against a Labour Party that is otherwise well positioned–whether in London politics, or in current national polling–is based on direct election of an individual. That is, “presidentialization“. To expect the same effect if Johnson were the PM candidate (and, presumably, sitting PM) at the next election is to fail to understand how direct election, as with the London mayor or a president, is fundamentally different from selection by and dependence on a party organization, as in a parliamentary democracy.
Second, he would be swimming against a pretty strong current of institutional effects here. Let’s look at the broad patterns of executive recruitment in democracies, comparatively. Out of 390 prime ministers in parliamentary systems in the post-WWII era, how many have been former mayors? If you guessed about 10%, you are a bit high. The answer is 34, or 8.7%. Parliamentary parties just do not look to mayors very often for their chief-executive talent.
Twelve of these PMs are from the French Fourth Republic (including Antoine Henrie Queuille, who counts as a newly appointed PM three times). Five more come from Norway (including another three-time appointee, Einar Gerhardsen). In fact, these two countries, France and Norway, account for half the ex-mayor PMs, and two politicians count for almost 18% of them. There is just one British PM in the list, Clement Atlee.
It is worth noting that mayors are far more likely to become president, where there is such an elected executive post, than to become PM in a parliamentary system. About the same number of presidents in the dataset have been former mayors, 37, but this is out of 236 total presidents. This rate among presidents, 15.7%) is significantly greater than the rate among PMs (p=.04).1
Of course, this pattern is not surprising: mayors in some major cities (including London now) possess a talent that parties in presidential systems desire: proven ability to win a direct election, which often means appealing beyond (and in some carefully chosen ways, against) one’s party. Such skills are not nearly as in demand among parliamentary partisans. What is striking is that the pattern regarding ex-mayors shows up without our having considered whether the politician in question was a directly elected mayor or not.2
None of this means Boris Johnson is not on his way to residing at No. 10. But it does mean he would be a rare case.
Data note. The data reported here come from the data for Chapter 3 of David J. Samuels and Matthew S. Shugart, Presidents, Parties, and Prime Ministers (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
It makes no difference to the significance of the finding whether we include presidents in semi-presidential systems, as in the numbers cited here, or look only at pure presidential systems. In the latter, 15.8% are former mayors. How about premiers in semi-presidential systems? Of these 12.81% are former mayors. That rate is statistically different from pure-parliamentary PMs (p=.05), but not from that for semi-presidential presidents. In other words, it is PMs in parliamentary democracies that stand apart from either type of executive in regimes with elected presidents. [↩]
It would require additional data collection to determine which of the mayors in the data were elected by the city electorate and which were selected by a city council or appointed by the center, or some other mechanism. I suspect most of those in the data–though certainly not Atlee–were indeed popularly elected. [↩]
Deputy PM Nick Clegg, of the Liberal Democrats, has played one of the few cards he has against PM David Cameron and the Conservative Party. After admitting defeat due to Conservative backbench resistance and pulling the plug on the plans for House of Lords reform, he has now said that his party will renege on its prior consent to support reducing the size of the House of Commons by 50 seats. The resulting redistricting, according to most accounts, would hit the LibDems proportionately hardest, and might be the Conservatives’ best hope for a (manufactured) majority in 2015.
Never mind that the LibDems’ support for the reduction-and-redistricting was linked in the Coalition Agreement not to Lords reform but to the referendum on the Alternative Vote. The referendum went ahead, albeit with Cameron leading the charge against the proposed change, and its going down to ignominious defeat.
There just are not many good cards left in Clegg’s hand. It is hard to see how he had any other choice than to do this. Labour is also opposed to the redistricting and presumably will vote with the LibDems on this one out of party interest. So he can inflict a defeat on the Conservatives on this issue and thereby has leverage.
Selected news accounts:
Daily Mail (the headline and story are overly dramatic–as usual–but the story has a good overview of the controversy appended to it).
Despite earlier news items that suggested the reformed body would be called the Senate, it will actually remain the House of Lords. However, members will not be called Lords, though it is left to parliament to decide upon a title.
At the first election, anticipated with the general election of May, 2015, there would be 120 elected members. By the third electoral period that number would have risen to 360. There would continue to be 30 appointed members at each electoral cycle (thus 90 at steady state), as well as a declining number of Lords Spiritual. There will also be some ministerial members (appointed by the monarch upon nomination by the PM).
An elected member of the House of Lords serves a 15-year term.
The bill makes clear that the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 will continue to apply. (These allow the Commons to override objection by the Lords after one year; there has been concern that a popularly elected second chamber would be more assertive.)
Elections concurrent for the two chambers, except in the case of a Commons election that happens within two years of the previous one. (The Coalition has already legislated fixed Commons terms, but there are still provisions under which an extraordinary election could be held.)
A list system of proportional representation in Great Britain, but Single Transferable Vote in Northern Ireland. (Earlier drafts had called for all members to be elected by STV.)
The districts will coincide with those used to elect Members of the European Parliament. Their number of elected members will range from 3 (Northern Ireland) to 16 (South East) at any given election (see Schedule 2). This will mean an average district magnitude of 10, and only three districts are set to be below this average. There is a provision for redistribution of magnitudes across districts.
The electoral formula in Great Britain is D’Hondt. Lists are flexible: a candidate can be assured election to an available seat for his or her party only upon obtaining preference votes equal to at least 5% of the list’s total vote; seats not filled via preference votes are assigned in “the order in which they appear on the party list” (see Schedule 3).
Former members of the House of Lords will be unable to stand as candidates for the House of Commons for four years.
One example from the linked item:
Conservative aide Conor Burns said: “If I lose my job for something that was a mainstream view within the Conservative party in the last parliament which serving cabinet ministers held, so be it.”
The following is a guest-post by Alan Renwick, Professor at the University of Reading in the UK. It originally appeared at the Reading Politics blog.
I asked Alan if I could reproduce this essay here at F&V, figuring it would be of interest to this community.
All of what follows is by Alan. I will also copy over a comment that I originally posted at Reading Politics.
Electing the House of Lords: Should there be above-the-line voting? Alan Renwick
The parliamentary select committee that has been examining the government’s proposals for reform of the House of Lords will be publishing its report in a couple of weeks’ time. Rumour has it that they want an electoral system different from the one proposed by the government. Nick Clegg and colleagues argue that the Single Transferable Vote (STV) form of proportional representation should be used. But the committee has been interested in finding a system that will give voters a choice between voting for individual candidates and for a single party ticket (see the transcript of their oral evidence session last December, when the quizzed Iain McLean and me on this subject). According to the Guardian, the committee is going to recommend the form of STV used in many Australian elections, where voters can vote ‘above the line’ for a party or ‘below the line’ for individual candidates.
The Electoral Reform Society is crying foul over this. Calling the proposals a ‘dog’s breakfast’, they say that STV with above-the-line voting will return power to the parties, rather than allowing voters to determine who gets elected.
What should dispassionate observers make of this? I think three questions need to be considered. First, how much power would the inclusion of a party voting option give to parties and to voters? Second, how much power should parties and voters have in determining which candidates are elected? Third, are there any other considerations that we should take into account before deciding whether we think that possibility of above-the-line voting should be welcomed? Most of this rather lengthy (sorry) post will focus on the first of these questions; I’ll say a little about the other two at the end.
Even when embedded in a broader political system that is firmly parliamentary, direct election of an executive matters.
From UK Polling Report’s summary of a recent poll in the London mayoral race:
57% of Londoners say they like Boris Johnson, compared to just 36% who say they like the Conservative party – meaning Boris is outperforming his party by 21 points.
Some folks identify results like this as one major aspect of the phenomenon of “presidentializaton”–where separate election of an executive allows for the building of electoral constituencies that are broader than (or different from) that of the executive candidate’s party.
The election is on 3 May. The electoral formula is the supplementary vote, which is a form of “instant runoff”, but not a good form. Unlike the alternative vote, all but the top two candidates, based on first preference vote, are eliminated. Second preferences are then redistributed–if no candidate had a majority of first preferences–and the winner is the candidate with the most votes after redistribution.
The guy is a complete arse (yes, we editorialize around here from time to time), but he most certainly is interesting. His claim to “have won the most sensational victory in British by-election history” is arguably more self-congratulating than accurate. But it is certainly a big deal.
Previously on Galloway and his “Respect” party at F&V: analyzing his loss in 2010. I am pretty sure I was by no means alone in assuming we wouldn’t have Respect to kick around anymore. Wrong.
British MPs from the governing Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties are threatening “rebellion” against new electoral district boundaries, The Independent reports.
Plans for redistricting are being published, and several senior MPs could see their districts combined with those of other MPs, or substantially changed. The proposal is part of the plan to cut the size of the House of Commons from 650 to 600.
Labour, which accuses the Coalition of gerrymandering, will oppose the changes. Both the Tories and Liberal Democrats accept they face rebellion from disgruntled MPs – in the form both of Commons votes and parliamentary wrecking tactics.
The new districts, and their likely impact, only underscore what a bad deal the LibDems brokered on political reform, one of their signature issues. They got their referendum on the Alternative Vote, and in exchange, the Conservatives demanded and won this review of districts and assembly size. Of course, the referendum was defeated badly, but the new districts are likely to go ahead anyway.1 Failing to agree on some version of this plan would put the LibDems in breach of the coalition agreement. Looks a lot like a sucker’s payoff for Clegg and the LibDems.
A noteworthy change in the district-drawing procedures:
Because of the rigid new formula for calculating constituency size, the Commission will for the first time have to cross county and council boundaries.
Unlike in the USA, districts are drawn by an independent Boundary Commission, not by politicians. But the criteria to be used, as well as for determining the total number of seats, are determined in legislation.
The changes could substantially alter the degree of “localism” in UK representation, as well as the balance among the main parties.
Even the AV proposal in the referendum was a compromise for the LibDems, who would have preferred a proportional system to be put up for a vote. [↩]
Wilf Day sent me a link on a proposal to change the MMP system in Wales.
Alan Renwick, in a feed I get on electoral reform, says there are plans to change Hungary’s system as well. Apparently to remove the partial compensation linkage between the tiers, change to FPTP for the nominal tier, and reduce the size of the (overly large) assembly. (Link in Hungarian, in case someone can read or translate it).
It is often alleged that projects to develop high-speed rail systems are cases of “pork-barrel” politics. Lots of money, sexy projects, and politicians can’t resist “targeting” the spending to areas of benefit for their reelection campaigns.
With respect to the funds to assist high-speed rail that were in the “stimulus” package early in Obama’s presidency, I addressed this charge: as best I could tell from the information available, it was not pork, at least at the legislative stage.
On the other hand, I have heard allegations that certain lines and stations in Japan’s system are “porky” in that they were built in regions that supported key Liberal Democratic Party politicians, but had less obvious merit in terms of the coherence of the rail system itself.1
The distinction here is in the extent to which a public project is sited in a way consistent with programmatic criteria, on the one hand, or for political objectives, on the other. There is not always a bright line between programmatic decisions and pork-barrel decisions in individual cases. Sometimes the objectives are even aligned! Yet conceptually, the distinction is fairly clear. If the decision regarding where to place a line (for example) are based on objective criteria, where some panel of nonpartisan experts scores various competing proposals in order to determine which ones have the most merit, it’s not pork. If politicians determine where to put a line based on the value of that line for their party (or individual politicians’) constituencies, it’s pork.2
So the politics of a proposed high-speed system in the UK are interesting. Normally, at least in US discussions of pork-barrel politics, we assume that projects get sited based on their providing benefits to the districts of politicians who are strategically positioned to influence the choice of routes and stations. We do not normally think that the electorally secure politicians whose districts the lines will traverse will oppose the project, while the project will mainly benefit locations not currently represented by politicians in the governing party or coalition.
Yet the latter pattern is what we observe in the UK currently, as The Independent reported on 26 June.
David Cameron is pinning his hopes of an outright victory at the next election by pushing ahead with a controversial high-speed rail project. Ministers are convinced the expensive rail link will give Tories the breakthrough in northern cities that they need to gain a majority.
The PM is risking the wrath of the Home Counties, where 14 Tory constituencies with rock-solid majorities are affected by the building of the £33bn line.
The news article goes on to note that the high-speed rail line may cost the Conservative party votes in these “rock-solid” districts, but the party will win them in the 2015 election, anyway. The project will be popular enough in northern areas where the party is targeting many seats for possible pick-up in the next election, so there will be a net gain for the party.
At least within the classic US frame, pork is about rewarding incumbents for their incumbency, and rewarding voters or interest groups for their support of the incumbent. But apparently that is not the case in the UK, for this project.
The difference lies in the highly party-centered nature of parliamentary politics, UK style. As opposed to the more decentralized parties and candidate-centered politics of the US presidential system, in the UK politically based decisions on where to build projects are driven by collective party needs, instead of by needs of individual politicians.
This is exactly the pattern we should expect in a political system like that of the UK. If there is pork–and generally it is assumed that there is some just about everywhere, but not a lot in the UK–it should be based on party criteria. If the article is accurate in its portrayal of the politics of high-speed rail, party pork is precisely what we are seeing. Top governing party leaders propose to spend on a project that may earn the party votes in areas it needs to win the next election, even if the project is opposed by some of the party’s own secure incumbent MPs.
This does not mean that the shinkansen project as a whole has not been beneficial, only that certain parts of it may have had political, rather than technical, criteria behind their selection as priorities for spending. [↩]
Note that this implies that the criteria to evaluate programmatic vs. porcine policy are thus largely ones of the process of decision-making, and certainly not normative judgments of whether one likes a given policy choice or not! [↩]
The Tory backbench rumour mill suggests that Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, is dusting down the rules about how a “confidence and supply” arrangement would work.
If this were done, it would mean the cabinet would become a minority government, but the LibDems would agree not to vote in favor of a no-confidence motion. They would also commit to supporting (or at least not defeating the government over) the budget. In exchange, they would continue to be consulted on policy, but would forfeit their voice around the cabinet table.
Confidence and supply agreements, which have become the norm over the past decade in New Zealand as well as being common in other multiparty parliamentary systems, give the support party more flexibility while also preserving stability.
I have wondered since the election over a year ago why this was not the arrangement negotiated between the parties. Of course, the LibDems wanted ministerial positions and the greater policy influence that comes with them. But it was also apparent at the time that Conservative leader and PM David Cameron preferred a formal coalition over a minority government. Perhaps he still does, but as the next election draws nearer, both parties will have electoral interests in differentiating themselves. A confidence and supply agreement would make that easier.
If this change were made to the current UK governing arrangement, it would not change a provision of the original coalition agreement by which the parties agreed to legislate fixed election dates.
Ending the Coalition would not mean an immediate general election. A Bill is going through Parliament that should ensure it takes place in May 2015, which suits both parties.
I highly recommend a post by Stuart Wilks-Heeg and Stephen Crone of Democratic Audit, writing at the LSE blog, on trends in British opinion regarding proportionality.
A short summary would be that public support for the principles of proportionality or “fairness” vs. “effective government” has been quite stable over the past three decades. However, results of polls that specifically reference a possible shift to a PR system have been more volatile. There was a sharp, but temporary, uptick in support for a PR system according to polling in 2009, yet in 2010 there was a sharp increase in opposition to PR.
In other words, while underlying democratic values may not have changed, the public has become more polarized about the issue of adopting of a proportional representation system.
In reviewing the extensive entries about the recent UK electoral system referendum, which had been posted at the LSE blog on British politics over the past year, I was struck by Professor Patrick Dunleavy’s claim that the Supplementary Vote would have been a fairer system to propose. The Supplementary Vote (SV) is another form of “instant runoff,” and thus bears considerable affinity to the Alternative Vote (AV)–the option that actually was put up against the status quo in last week’s referendum (and was defeated resoundingly).
Under SV, voters are allowed to give just two preferences. If no candidate has a majority of first-preference votes, then all candidates in the contest other than those with the top two totals of first preferences are eliminated. Second choices are then redistributed among the top two, and the candidate with the most votes at this stage is elected.
This procedure differs from AV in at least two fundamental respects. First of all, under AV the voter may (or if we are talking about the Australian House of Representatives, must) rank all the candidates, not just two. Second, AV is a sequential elimination method. Rather than eliminating all but the initial top two, it eliminates the weakest candidate at each stage of the count, up until a winner has been determined. AV thus emulates, in one “instant” act of ballot-marking, the sequential processes used in many political parties and legislative institutions to choose a leader, rather than the two-round majority rules used to elect many national presidents, as does SV.1
SV is used to elect the London mayor and those of some other English cities; it is used nowhere to elect legislators that I know of.
The London form of AV also has the great advantage that it creates a run-off between the top two candidates in a local constituency – only one of them can win.
I must admit to having a hard time understanding why this is a virtue for a ranked-ballot method. If the race has two clear front-runners and one or more also-rans, fine. The two systems would produce the same result, and such a result would be “fair” by almost any standard, I should think. However, if there is uncertainty about the top two as the election day looms, SV poses a real problem for voters. Not only must they know their two top preferences (easy enough), but they must also think strategically about them (potentially a challenge). If one’s first preference is likely to place third or lower, then one must be careful that one’s second preference will clear the initial top two. Otherwise, the second preference will not be counted, as it will have been wasted on an eliminated candidate. By contrast, under AV, if your second preferred candidate has been eliminated, the counters look to your third (and so on).
But isn’t SV a truer (instant) runoff, inasmuch as it is a top-two system? Here is where the instant-ness ceases to be an advantage. In an actual two-round system of majority runoff, the top two choices of the electorate as a whole are revealed before the voters must give their second preference (i.e. before voters whose initial choice was eliminated in the first round decide which of the two remaining candidates to support in the runoff). The risk of a relatively more extreme candidate winning would be greater under SV than under either AV or two-round majority: if more moderate voters lost their second preferences by tending to have cast them on the third-place candidate, relatively more extreme voters may elect, by less than 50%, their preferred candidate. I have no idea how common this would be in practice, but it seems it would be a not implausible effect of SV. In an actual second round, under this scenario, the voters can “update” and vote for the less extreme of the remaining candidates in the runoff. 2
Given the substantial number of UK constituencies in which there is a close race between second and third, SV would seem to be clearly less fair than AV to voters confronted with strategic choices about estimating which two candidates are the top two of the electorate at large. (By the way, it is also the case that in presidential elections by two-round majority, the gap between the second and third candidates tends systematically to be less than that between the top two, suggesting that SV would indeed be a poor choice for these elections.)
I fail to see why a case could be made that SV is fairer, especially in any setting in which the “Duvergerian” tendencies of an existing FPTP (plurality) system have already broken down–which are pretty much the only situations in which it would be considered in the first place.
Intermediate variants are also possible. For instance in some US jurisdictions that have adopted forms of instant runoff, voter preferences are restricted to the top three. The counting process in these jurisdictions typically otherwise follows the AV approach, rather than that of SV (as far as I know; there may be exceptions).
There is also the so-called Contingent Vote, which allows voters to express more than two preferences, but shares with SV the immediate elimination of all but the top two candidates if none has a majority. Thus the Supplementary Vote and the Contingent Vote arguably have more in common with one another than either has with the Alternative Vote, although the Contingent Vote is less likely to waste votes of those who gave their second preference to an already eliminated candidate. (A form of the Contingent Vote seems to be what Sri Lanka uses to elect its president.) [↩]
I recall this point being addressed somewhere in the political science literature; apologies for not having a citation. [↩]
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4