Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster
jiggery_pokery

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Polls, both geeky and political

First, let's wrap up last week's "geekiest hobbies" poll. 21 votes, mean 5.10, median 5, sigma 2.56, mode 4, no significant difference in voting patterns from men vs. women, from Potter fans vs. non-fans or from people who have met me vs. those who haven't. I think this is more insightful "how I am perceived" data than the old "sum up your impression of me in one word" routine. 15 votes from men and 6 from women, though - a clearly unrepresentative skew.

Because technicalities must alas count, congratulations to you modal folks - Dan, Mark, Rob, Mike and Carl - who are absolutely correct with your estimate of four. I note that it should be three; after all, I only ever played Pokémon once, and it was with someone else's deck. When it comes to counting your geeky hobbies, gotta catch 'em all.

4/10 is not a lot; it's less than I'd've hoped. I would criticise the original list of ten for being very mainstream and American in its definition of geekiness. A British counterpart list would surely include pastimes such as DIY, home brewing and - yes - transport enthusiasm. It seems that all my geeky games-related overenthusiasms are too small to make an impression. Surely lots of little geekinesses should add up to one great big geekiness? Better luck next time, I guess.


As much as I like the three ladies on my Friends list who are proud supporters of the Conservative Party, as much as I feel that some of their policies might be preferable to those of other parties, as much as I feel tradition and history have a place in politics, I still want to see the Tories implode messily and permanently. I suspect that the probable selection of Michael Howard as leader will represent very little change from the current situation, except removing the Betsy Duncan Smith vulnerability. I am taking an interest in the current party political machinations, though my commentary is mostly here in malachan's journal and behind a friends-locked entry in karen2205's journal. I shall adapt and excerpt the latter.

Economically, I'm definitely fairly strongly statist, mostly through a low opinion of people's decision-making ability. Socially, I am somewhat less authoritarian and indeed strongly libertarian on a few issues. I would be likely to prefer a new party which was overtly more statist than those which exist to today's mainstream three. (I would also strongly consider voting for a party which decided to officially take a secular standpoint, though I'm not sure I would favour a violent and messy disestablishment of the Church of England.) I think both the major parties are undesirably broad churches. I would prefer to see smaller parties which were free to take more radical stances, with coalition government being ruled by consensus. Not enough to make me want to move to Italy, but enough to make me admire the model to some extent.

I believe I've always voted Liberal Democrat in the general elections, but I know I've voted for councillors from all 2.51 major English parties over the years, as well as the local independent who has a reputation for being out for himself only. (Our ward had a Conservative councillor who died quite recently who was very kind to Mum in her enquiries about roadside trees - that's my excuse for the blue vote.) Not really convinced that my reasons for LD support are necessarily that sound; the first time I can remember taking an interest in the concept of politics was being attracted to the Alliance party on the grounds that (a) I thought that the concept of alliances in general and an alliance party was cool and (b) I generally approved of the rough concept of centrism - (b) may well have been encouraged by such hard-hitting and incisive political treatises as Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Happily the LDs shift left-of-centre (relative to the other parties...) has roughly coincided with mine.

The snappily-named qwghlmBlog points to a very entertaining Guardian column from Wednesday, proposing one B. Johnson Esq. for the Conservative leadership. While much of the article is left-wing haw-hawing at an opposition in trouble, the situation does warrant it just a little and it's written entertainingly. Nevertheless, in the anteanteantepenultimate paragraph, a fascinating and disturbingly plausible theory of "narrative politics" is discussed: voters, their minds shaped by television and cinema, are drawn to candidates whose triumph represents the biggest plot-twist or most extraordinary final scene. Could there be something to it? A worrying trend.

While we're on politics, Tom Watson points to London Elects, detailing the city's European, Mayoral and Assembly elections taking place simultaneously on June 10th. Entertainingly, all three have different voting systems. Tom and many others also point to the BBC's iCAN, a site aiming to gather activists for local political campaigns. Putting the two together, I think I know what campaign I want to start: Fair Representation for Small Parties in the London Assembly Election.

The European election is run by a slightly complicated system. It's not very complicated, but I wouldn't call it easy. In a country where 15,000,000 adults lack basic maths skills, it's at least a little bit tricky.
British MEPs are elected by a system of proportional representation called the Regional List system, using the d’Hondt formula.

All European states are divided into regions. Each region elects a set number of MEPs to the European Parliament. The United Kingdom is split into 12 regions. For the 2004 election, London is likely to elect nine MEPs.

Each political party prepares a list of candidates ranked in order to match the number of seats to be filled in that region. Once votes are counted, the first seat is allocated to the party or independent candidate with the highest number of votes. If an independent is the highest then the seat is allocated to that individual. If the seat has been allocated to a party it will go to the first candidate on that party’s list: that party’s total is then divided by two and the second seat is allocated to the next party or independent candidate with the highest number of votes. The process continues until all seats have been allocated.

With the list system, the number of MEPs elected for each party roughly reflects the share of the votes for the party or independent candidate received in that region.
Now the London assembly election is slightly more complicated still.
There are 25 members of the London Assembly: 14 Constituency Members, and 11 London-wide Members. The London Assembly is elected using an electoral system known as the Additional Member System (AMS). This system combines elements of First Past The Post and a form of proportional representation using the d’Hondt formula.

Voters cast two votes: one for a Constituency Assembly Member and one for the independent candidate or political party they would most like to see represented in the Assembly on a London-wide basis.

Constituency Members each represent one of London’s 14 Assembly constituencies. They are elected by the First Past The Post system, where the candidate with the most votes in each constituency is elected. If there is a tie lots are drawn by the constituency returning officer.

If all Assembly Members were elected in this way, some independents or parties whose votes were spread right across London might not win any individual seats. All the people who had voted for the candidates who were unsuccessful in the constituencies would have no representation in the Assembly, making it unrepresentative of London as a whole.

So, voters cast a second vote for an independent candidate or party. These votes are counted and then the number of constituency members is topped up with 11 additional London-wide members, using a modified d’Hondt formula.
The d'Hondt formula operates as above. However, the modification adds one very important exception which isn't given very much publicity at all. From Fact Sheet 6 (PDF file), Parties must gain a minimum of 5% of the votes to be included in the contest. In short, if your party gets 4.9% of the vote, you don't get a single seat in the Assembly via the top-up method. Given that there are 25 seats in the assembly in total and the intent is (roughly) for each seat to represent one twenty-fifth of the votes cast, it seems most unfair that a party getting more than one twenty-fifth of the votes cast cannot earn one twenty-fifth of the seats.

Now this may sound like a terribly technical quibble. To an extent, it is. However, let's look at the actual results from the 2000 election and see how the top-up seats were applied in practice.

                        Cons    Labour     LibDem     Green   Seat goes to:
Constituency seats won     8         6          0         0
Round One    1st sum     8+1=9     6+1=7      0+1=1     0+1=1
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/1 183,910/1
             Total    53,450    71,839    245,555   183,910   Lib Dem
Round Two    1st sum                          1+1=2
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/2 183,910/1
             Total    53,450    71,839    122,778   183,910   Green
Round Three  1st sum                                    1+1=2
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/2 183,910/2
             Total    53,450    71,839    122,778    91,955   Lib Dem
Round Four   1st sum                          2+1=3
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/3 183,910/2
             Total    53,450    71,839     81,852    91,955   Green
Round Five   1st sum                                    2+1=3
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/3 183,910/3
             Total    53,450    71,839     81,852    61,303   Lib Dem
Round Six    1st sum                          3+1=4
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/4 183,910/3
             Total    53,450    71,839     61,389    61,303   Labour
Round Seven  1st sum               7+1=8
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/8  245,555/4 183,910/3
             Total    53,450    62,859     61,389    61,303   Labour
Round Eight  1st sum               8+1=9
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/9  245,555/4 183,910/3
             Total    53,450    55,875     61,389    61,303   Lib Dem
Round Nine   1st sum                          4+1=5
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/9  245,555/5 183,910/3
             Total    53,450    55,875     49,111    61,303   Green
Round Ten    1st sum                                    3+1=4
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/9  245,555/5 183,910/4
             Total    53,450    55,875     49,111    45,978   Labour
Round Eleven 1st sum               9+1=10
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/10 245,555/5 183,910/4
             Total    53,450    50,287     49,111    45,978   Cons
Top-up seats won           1         3          4         3
Total seats won            9         9          4         3


However, let's look at the same data again, this time without the stipulation that a party needs to get 5% of the vote to be eligible to win a top-up seat. For the sake of screen width only, let's change that 5% to 2½%. Using the numbers of top-up votes cast quoted by the BBC:

                                                             Christian    British
                                                              People's   National
                        Cons    Labour     LibDem     Green   Alliance      Party   Seat goes to:
Constituency seats won     8         6          0         0          0          0
Round One    1st sum     8+1=9     6+1=7      0+1=1     0+1=1      0+1=1      0+1=1
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/1 183,910/1   55,192/1   47,760/1 
             Total    53,450    71,839    245,555   183,910     55,192     47,760   Lib Dem
Round Two    1st sum                          1+1=2
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/2 183,910/1   55,192/1   47,760/1
             Total    53,450    71,839    122,778   183,910     55,192     47,760   Green
Round Three  1st sum                                    1+1=2
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/2 183,910/2   55,192/1   47,760/1
             Total    53,450    71,839    122,778    91,955     55,192     47,760   Lib Dem
Round Four   1st sum                          2+1=3
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/3 183,910/2   55,192/1   47,760/1
             Total    53,450    71,839     81,852    91,955     55,192     47,760   Green
Round Five   1st sum                                    2+1=3
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/3 183,910/3   55,192/1   47,760/1
             Total    53,450    71,839     81,852    61,303     55,192     47,760   Lib Dem
Round Six    1st sum                          3+1=4
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/7  245,555/4 183,910/3   55,192/1   47,760/1
             Total    53,450    71,839     61,389    61,303     55,192     47,760   Labour
Round Seven  1st sum               7+1=8
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/8  245,555/4 183,910/3   55,192/1   47,760/1
             Total    53,450    62,859     61,389    61,303     55,192     47,760   Labour
Round Eight  1st sum               8+1=9
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/9  245,555/4 183,910/3   55,192/1   47,760/1
             Total    53,450    55,875     61,389    61,303     55,192     47,760   Lib Dem
Round Nine   1st sum                          4+1=5
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/9  245,555/5 183,910/3   55,192/1   47,760/1
             Total    53,450    55,875     49,111    61,303     55,192     47,760   Green
Round Ten    1st sum                                    3+1=4
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/9  245,555/5 183,910/4   55,192/1   47,760/1
             Total    53,450    55,875     49,111    45,978     55,192     47,760   Labour
Round Eleven 1st sum               9+1=10
             2nd sum 481,053/9 502,874/10 245,555/5 183,910/4   55,192/1   47,760/1
             Total    53,450    50,287     49,111    45,978     55,192     47,760   Christian People's Alliance
Top-up seats won           0         3          4         3          1          0
Total seats won            8         9          4         3          1          0


You see? It makes a difference in practice as well as in theory. I thought it would only actually make a difference in artifically-constructed degenerate cases which rely on far more parties getting small proportions of the vote, but it actually makes a difference in the real-world case of the 2000 election. The 55,192 top-up votes cast for the Christian People's Alliance - fully 3.3% of the total - were completely ignored. If they had received, say, 82,000 top-up votes, or 4.9% of the top-up votes cast, then they still wouldn't have won a top-up seat, despite being eligible for one as early as round four. Evidently all votes are equal, but some are more equal than others.

There's an argument that the requirement for a minimum 5% of the vote is to guard against extreme parties getting any influence. While I have little love for any overtly religious party, whatever the denomination, and by far less love still for the far-right BNP, it seems positively antidemocratic to me to be prepared to discard up to 4.9% of all the top-up votes cast for each small party - indeed, in 2003, about 15% of all the votes. The CPA deserve a seat on the London Assembly fair and square; I would argue that a London Assembly with 8 Conservative, 9 Labour, 4 Lib Dem, 3 Green and 1 CPA would be more accurately representative of the votes cast than the actual figures of 9 C, 9 L, 4 LD and 3 Green. (For the record, there would have had to have been fifteen seats awarded by the top-up method, or 29 seats in total, before the BNP would have stood to win one.)

What I would advocate for fairer representation would be to scrap this minimum requirement. By way of demonstration that this works, the European elections use a pure d'Hondt formula; there is no requirement for a minimum proportion of the vote in order to be eligible to win a seat within a region. Indeed, this is exactly how the UK Independence Party managed to win themselves three seats in Europe. (On the other hand, the regions are a little smaller - no larger than eleven representatives per region.) It would be interesting to see how different the results would have been from a single Great British constituency electing 84 representatives.

I can't recall hearing anything about this at the time, but I'm sure people must have pointed it out - not least the Christian People's Alliance themselves. I have to say I was pretty shocked when I found this out. Am I the only one?


4/10 indeed. Now that's geekery.

  • LJMaps meme? A poor man's GeoURL. Let's have automatic but overwritable userinfo-quoted-location-to-GeoURL conversion instead as a generalised solution and make our pretty maps based on that instead.

  • Sneaking in just under the wire, a wonderful thirtieth to daweaver! I hope he won't mind me praising the way he wrote a 39,000 word autobiography for keeps in a month, which (word count emphasis aside) is at least a para-NaNoWriMo acheivement in my view. It's his to share (or not) as he will, but it's one of the most ambitious pieces of writing, whether fiction or otherwise, I've seen on LiveJournal yet and fulfils its considerable promise remarkably well.
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