Of late polls on AV have shown somewhat contrasting figures. Most companies have been measuring voting intention on AV by just asking the bare question that will be on the ballot paper. This has tended to show a lead for the YES campaign. Meanwhile YouGov have a tracker question on how people would vote which they’ve been asking since last Summer, which includes brief explanations of what FPTP and AV are, until very recently when opinion started to shift towards YES this was showing a lead for the NO campaign.

The last Populus poll for the Times did both – splitting the sample and giving half of them just the bare referendum question and half of them a brief description of what the options were – describing AV as a system where “voters number the candidates they like in order of preference, and the candidate who gets more than half the support of the voters in the constituency is elected”.

They found pretty much the same pattern as the other polls – with the bare question, 41% supported YES, 29% supported NO and 30% said don’t know. When given an explanation of the systems the figures were 29% YES, 43% NO and (pesumably) 28% don’t know.

People do appear to like the idea of a change of electoral system, but are more doubtful when told about what AV actually is. In one sense this is probably better news for the No campaign than the Yes campaign as people are likely to find out more about the options on offer as the referendum campaign continues. However, whether it comes across as a good or bad change to them will be largely down to how well or badly the two campaigns sell it. It also suggests that people’s views are very open to change, and in that sense things could easily go either way.

(On other Populus news, Andrew Cooper has now been confirmed as David Cameron’s new director of Strategy, so Populus’s political polling will now be in the hands of Rick Nye)

UPDATE: Just to confirm, this wasn’t part of the normal monthly Populus poll for the Times, it was a seperate online poll.


136 Responses to “Different Populus questions show YES and NO ahead”

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  1. Thanks to Colin Green and KEITHP for their replies to my question regarding the ability to use only one voting preference.

    KEITHP says,
    Yes that can be done, but I would advise against it unless you really don’t like anyone else.

    ——— I asked the question because I never like/trust anyone else and have always considered that a vote for anyone else must always be a vote against my choice.
    My first choice is always a considered opinion, I have never been a floating voter. I have always voted since I was first able to in 1951.

    Am I ‘a stick in the mud’?

  2. JOHN MURPHY

    There’s also a key unfairness that the minority in the 200 odd seats where a majority candidate is elected still have no one to represent their views. That inequity isn’t addressed by AV. Instead AV makes voters in certain consituencies makes handful of voters even more powerful…

    Quite so, although we will need at least a couple of general elections under AV to have any statistically meaningful data regarding the 215 seats with “majority” MPs. The elimination of the penalty of divided opposition could well make some of them less “safe”.

    I do believe that for parliamentary general elections STV (with AV for by-elections as currently for Scottish councils) is by far the least unfair way of achieving this while not making it virtually impossible for independents to gain election, as any list systems do while enhancing the power of the parties – with the honourable exception of Margo.

    That said, I also regard AV as a tiny bit less unfair than the 1872 plurality system. Being the only reform on offer, it would be better to accept it than not to change at all.

    Were I able to alter the STV system used for Scottish councils, I would insist that any party standing for election had to put forward as many candidates as seats available, so that the electorate had a real choice between them.

  3. @ catmanjeff

    My sentiments exactly – well said, and more importantly on this site, it appears to be exactly what the polls are finding.

  4. You are not Bob.

    I think that we get one vote. We choose who we want to win and cast our one vote for them.

    The candidate with most votes should win, and if your candidate doesn’t win, then your vote hasn’t been wasted, you just backed a loser. You backed someone who did not convince enough people they were right.

    Next time they can stand again and try to convince the Electors again.

    Simples.

  5. I have a simple question for all those who intend to vote Yes to AV.

    Is the AV system your prefered replacement for FPTP in GEs?

  6. @ catmanjeff

    You wrote: “…….and if your candidate doesn’t win, then your vote hasn’t been wasted, you just backed a loser.”

    That’s true under FPTP, and in many cases AV too. Plus even in STV, as the voters who supported the candidate in the final count who loses to the last to be elected also are not represented. This s where there is real benefit in AMS. If your choice goes down in the constituency vote, at least your vote elects someone on the top-up. In AMS every vote counts towards electing someone at one stage or another. That is why the late Prof John Mackintosh MP preferred it to STV or any other system for that matter.

  7. Tony Dean

    I think the big difference is that John Mackintosh was an honest intellectual politician (I’ve never heard anyone have meaningful criticism of him). However, not much of what he advocated ever carried much weight within Labour’s hierarchy.

    In the discussions about the electoral arrangements to be adopted for the Scottish Parliament Prof Curtice was quite clear that “for Labour AMS avoids the worst case scenario of a SNP majority under FPTP”.

    I have to admit that my knowledge of the various alternative calculation methods for AMS – d’Hondt, St Lague, Hansard, others – is insufficient to know which was most advantageous for Labour.

  8. I must admit AMS sounds good.

    I think direct FPTP has a great link to the Constituency, but topping up from broader area can then add a sprinkle of minority voices to the Parliament.

    In effect is AMS like AV+?

  9. I think it’s instructive that most of the comment on here seems to be looking at electoral reform from the point of view of the Parties. Surely we should at least consider looking at it from the point of view of the voter.

    When faced with a list of candidates and/or Parties, most people don’t go “that’s the one for me – I despise all the others”, place their ‘X’ and leave satisfied. They are faced with different options for which they have varying feelings – often mixed.

    A preference system (to the voter AV and STV are the same) reflects the way most people actually interact with politics. A football supporter type of fanatical devotion to a particular Party is pretty rare nowadays, except possibly in certain internet forums. And even the fanatics may have opinions on who they find less objectionable among their opponents.

    If you don’t want to indulge in such subtleties, you just give your favourite no 1 and leave it at that. You haven’t lost anything.

    And everyone also misses the real point about AV (and for that matter STV). You can put the person you most hate, loath and despise at number 10 or whatever. Then you work your way up, numbering down, through the repulsive; the unpleasant; the mildly nauseous; the merely incompetent; the unknowns; the known unknowns; the OK in a really bad year; the people you could just about send out for chips; the sort of literate; the sort of numerate; the occasionally coherent.

    Then, if there’s anyone better than all that left, you give them number 1.

    Or is that just me? :twisted:

  10. Tony Dean

    Was Mackintosh in favour of the “power to the party” closed list system and double voting – or drawing additional members from the ranks of defeated candidates on the basis of vote distribution for the constituency seats?

    (OK I’m cheating. :-) I was checking a reference and came across a 1990s discussion on the different variants being discussed.)

  11. Roger Mexico

    “the occasionally coherent. …Then, if there’s anyone better than all that left, you give them number 1.

    Or is that just me?”

    I suspect that, on here, at least your lowest rating would be “usually fairly coherent”. That certainly ranks you considerably higher than most Parliamentary candidates.

  12. CATMANJEFF
    I think that asked up front, people will say they want Parliament to change. For many obvious reasons, Parliament and MPs are held in very low esteem.

    You’re right there, but the 1872 plurality system did nothing to help people change things. Tactical voting may have helped in a few places but the organised practice of it was effectively outlawed in 1872 with the introduction of the secret ballot and the first mass extension of the franchise.

    You’re also right in saying that “I think that we get one vote. We choose who we want to win and cast our one vote for them.“, but AV is merely redressing the balance by providing the elector, voting in secrecy with a mechanism to ensure that his [or nowadays her] vote isn’t wasted.

    Before voting secrecy, and with a tiny electorate, the count was effectively both public and in “real time” so that voters could choose their actions and preferences at a time to suit themselves, voting as late in the day as possible if more concerned with “stopping” one candidate than anything else, for example.

    For an excellent account of an early Victorian election, see Chapter XVII of Trollope’s Dr Thorne.

  13. TONY DEAN
    In AMS every vote counts towards electing someone at one stage or another.

    Sort of, but not quite so. With the notable exception of Margo, some party will benefit from every vote but it’s the parties who choose both the list and individuals’ order thereon, and as oldnat says there is not only one variant of AMS in any event.

  14. @RMex

    “I think it’s instructive that most of the comment on here seems to be looking at electoral reform from the point of view of the Parties. Surely we should at least consider looking at it from the point of view of the voter.”

    Quite. Except ‘consider’ seems weak to me. Above all else, the electoral system should enable the voter to express their preference. What else is an election for?

  15. ROGER MEXICO
    And everyone also misses the real point about AV (and for that matter STV). You can put the person you most hate, loath and despise at number 10 or whatever. Then you work your way up, numbering down, through the repulsive; the unpleasant; the mildly nauseous; the merely incompetent; the unknowns; the known unknowns; the OK in a really bad year; the people you could just about send out for chips; the sort of literate; the sort of numerate; the occasionally coherent.
    Then, if there’s anyone better than all that left, you give them number 1.

    Absolutely brilliant! Hope you won’t mind that example being used elsewhere.

    OLDNAT
    I suspect that, on here, at least your lowest rating would be “usually fairly coherent”. That certainly ranks you considerably higher than most Parliamentary candidates.

    Quite so.

  16. Whatever electoral system is adopted, the parties will manipulate it to their advantage – and to the disadvantage of the people. But it takes them some time to learn how to do it – as has been shown by the last 3 Scottish General Elections.

    What we probably need is a form of Mao’s continuing revolution.

    As soon as the parties learn how the system works – we change it!

  17. OLDNAT
    As soon as the parties learn how the system works – we change it!

    Best idea so far, and perhaps also why AW isn’t moderating such comments for partisanship. At least this is a cross-party issue if not all all-party issue.

  18. what the No campagn have to explain is why Lab, LD and Con all use AV (and not FPTP) to choose the leader

  19. I should have added in my comment re the pre-1872 situation that perhaps the pro AV campaign should start using such back to the future arguments in courting the grey vote.

  20. @ OldNat

    You wrote “Was Mackintosh in favour of the “power to the party” closed list system and double voting – or drawing additional members from the ranks of defeated candidates on the basis of vote distribution for the constituency seats?”

    I cannot remember now, I think it was the latter. I once had a wonderful little booklet by him with a green and buff cover. I think it was called “A Democracy that Works – The West German Electoral system” or something pretty similar. I lent it out in the early ’80s and never got it back. I look regularly on Abebooks & Amazon to see if it comes up, but to no avail. It really is the bast account of AMS I ever read. I bought it in the early ’70s, shortly after I heard him speak about it.

  21. the pre-1872 situation

    The beauty of life before the 1872 Ballot Act (if you were a voter of independent means and with no “duty” to a particular candidate!) was that you could see how the poll was progressing by observing the five-bar gates on the tally books of the poll clerks when you went up the stairs to announce your vote. This meant you could see who were really in contention, and not waste your vote on someone doing badly (even if you had previously considered them) It was a sort of “living AV in real time”

  22. TONY DEAN
    It was a sort of “living AV in real time”

    That’s exactly the point I was trying to get across in my reference to Dr Thorne.

  23. @Tony Dean (1.38 pm)

    “Why on earth did the LDs suggest this muddle, it does roughly the same as how we vote for Mayor, but makes it ridiculously complicated? Good question, I hadn’t thought of that before. Perhaps the LD strategy of using AV as a preference voting “conditioning” for eventual STV has backfired, and will end up losing them a referendum to an electoral reform most folk seemed to originally want! OWN GOAL!?”

    Tony,
    I have no recollection of the LDs ever advocating AV. It was all they were offered – prior to the GE by GB and after the election by DC. While certainly not their preferred system (remember NC’s comments before the election) at least it is felt to be better than FPTP

  24. @Barbazenzero

    Any single member constituency system leaves the losning minority unrepresented. That in its own way invalidates the whole notion of our Parliamentary representation….

    The only good thing about the current reforms is that in undermining the political geography of representation in the UK the current ACt has made it possible to argue for a more radical solution of multi member constituencies and PR.

    AV is fine as a formula of election IF it’s for a single unit e. g a party leader…though I think the London version of AV is bettter. Mind you the second round of voting system in France isn’t necessarily worse.

    Of course we’re being asked to do this blind by the government in so far as there’s no proposal for the second house. Once there is one way or another we will revisit voting systems once again….perhaps more inteligently than this time round. That’s why losing this one isn’t a big deal.

  25. Bernard,

    what the No campagn have to explain is why Lab, LD and Con all use AV (and not FPTP) to choose the leader

    FPTP isn’t suitable for all elections.

    I know the Labour position well enough so here goes:

    The party consists of three groupings who take part in the final vote for the leadership candidates

    1. Parliamentary Labour Party
    2. Labour Party Members
    3. Trade Unions and affiliated organisations (Fabian Society etc)

    Group 1 contains a few hundred electors, Group 2 a few hundred thousand and Group 3 more than a million.

    If each vote had equal weight, clearly group 3 would dominates both MPs and Labour Party members. It is considered that as MPs work with the leadership candidates, and could serve in Government under them, is it important they have a better influence than a fraction of a %.

    Each groups votes and the results combined for each group are weighted so that each get 1/3 of the overall vote. AV rules are used to get a winner with more than 50% of the vote.

    This case requires something other than FPTP, due to the unequal nature of the Electorate and the need for a Consensus Candidate.

    When voting for MPs all votes for them are equal, and the need for a consensus candidate is not the same either. It’s a straight, equal fight.

    I hope that helps.

  26. OLDNAT

    Regarding question of the counts that you asked in another place, I have now had a fairly thorough skim through the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 (314 pages – available here but still only as PDF), and the only really relevant bit I can spot is on P24 of the PDF in Schedule 1 — Further provisions about the referendum:

      (4) In the case of a region for which a Regional Counting Officer is appointed,
        the officer must certify as regards the votes cast in the region—
        (a) the total number of ballot papers counted, and
        (b) the total number of votes cast in favour of each answer to the question asked in the referendum.

    The regions are: East Midlands; Eastern; London; North East; North West; South East; South West; West Midlands; Yorkshire and the Humber; Scotland; Wales.

    Accordingly, at minimum the EC will have to provide details of both (a) and (b) at least with this level of granularity. I can’t spot anything insisting on any lower level of detail, but it’s hardly “fun” reading so may well have missed something. It will obviously be straightforward to calculate the number of spoilt ballot papers in each region from the three numbers provided, but I can find no specific statement that the number should be published, only that it should be accounted for at each stage of aggregation.

    Personally, I was more interested in seeing whether the Act invited or made any mention of international observers after the bad press the 2010 UK general election generated in that respect, but sadly the UK parliament collectively seems to think that so good are the current systems of electoral registration and postal voting that the existing arrangement are adequate and Johnny foreigner is not needed as an umpire.

  27. Thanks for the compliments folks – steal what you want (technically I was too in part – self-plagiarising a comment from September).

    I should have added that, when the Isle of Man had STV (1982 – 1994), I did have to make similar decisions and choices were as much from the bottom up as the top down. Tynwald got rid of STV because it was ‘too complicated’ at least for the politicians (to put this in context a whole 4 out of the current 24 MHKs have degrees).

    One point that has been validly made against AV is that most voters do not benefit from it – they live in a safe seat and second preferences are unlikely to matter. But the same thing applies under FPTP. Hence the concentration in past elections on a small number of voters in a small number of seats (remember Mondeo man and Worcester Woman).

    Indeed you could argue that the main effect of AV would be to increase the number of effective marginals and the number of voters whose votes would be courted in those constituencies. In a sense AV could be described as FPTP+ and this makes it very difficult for FPTP advocates to oppose the change – the faults of AV tend to be the faults of FPTP, but not quite as bad.

    Bernard Disken

    Technically only the Lib Dems use AV to elect their leaders.

    For Labour, members of the various sections vote as if it were an AV election (and may indeed vote in each section and several times over in the affiliates section). The total votes in each section are then weighted to each make a third of the total cast. The candidate with the lowest total percentage of the vote is eliminated and his/her votes re-distributed or discarded. The process is then repeated until only people called Miliband are left and one of them is declared the winner. So it’s AV with some people effectively having more or bigger votes than others.

    The Tories have ‘exhaustive’ ballots among the MPs to start with. The candidate with least votes is eliminated each time until only two are left. The survivors are then put to the ordinary members to pick their favourite by ‘X’ vote. So effectively AV for slow learners or at least in slow motion.

  28. @ Peter Bell

    You wrote “I have no recollection of the LDs ever advocating AV. It was all they were offered – prior to the GE by GB and after the election by DC. While certainly not their preferred system (remember NC’s comments before the election) at least it is felt to be better than FPTP”

    Quite so, you are right up to a point. However, if you read David Laws’ book on the development of the negotiations it becomes clear that the LDs put AV to the Tories as a “minimalist” option they thought they might get some movement on. IMHO the Tories don’t spend their waking hours dreaming of different electoral methods, and even at their highest levels are somewhat dissinterested in the topic, unless a change is about to bite at them. Consequently they immediately assumed they had to equal or better Brown’s likely offer on AV. They could have come up with a very limited AMS offer – say 90% FPTP constituencies and 10% tops-ups (about 1 top-up seat per county). The LDs would have gone for this if offered. But maddeningly the Tory negotiating team seemingly almost unthinkingly stuck to the AV agenda set by Brown. Why?

  29. Barbazenzero

    Thanks.

    It appears to be up to Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission as to whether she will appoint Regional Counting Officers at all, but she seems to have decided that should be the case.

    In the most amazingly detailed set of instructions to counting officers (whom she clearly considers to be the intellectual equivalents of worms) she outlines what is to happen in this document (now released that the Act has been passed).

    h ttp://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/108112/UKPVS-Scottish-Parliamentary-Instructions-Module-4-FINAL-distribution.pdf

    It transpires from para 6.51 that a local declaration of referendum data will indeed take place

  30. JOHN MURPHY
    Any single member constituency system leaves the losning minority unrepresented. That in its own way invalidates the whole notion of our Parliamentary representation….
    Up to a point, Lord Copper. The problem is that it’s the “single member constituency system” that the NO campaign is wedded to, and why they will be fighting hard and dirty to keep it ever so. Accepting fairer voting can only demonstrate to the public that life with AV will still not be fair and so increase the pressure for further electoral reform. To the contrary, rejecting it will be claimed to be decisive for a generation.

    The only good thing about the current reforms is that in undermining the political geography of representation in the UK the current ACt has made it possible to argue for a more radical solution of multi member constituencies and PR.
    Personally, I believe it’s broken already – possibly beyond repair – thanks in large part to the asymmetric nature of the devolution introduced just before the turn of the century. The lack of an English parliament and any sort of federal arrangement is the key to this, I think.

    The mess we have now could be tidied up a little by sending, say, 400 MPs off to a separate English parliament, retaining perhaps 80 in Westminster as the UK parliament for defence and foreign affairs while sending the rest home. But the problem would then be that the FM of England would have more effective power than the PM of the UK, while England would continue to dominate the UK parliament based on population and thus still not give the other home nations anything approaching fairness.

    A second chamber with equal representation for each nation, along the lines [but not voting system!] of the US senate, would redress that a little, but almost certainly not be enough. As a result, although I would prefer multi member STV in any legislature, I think that federalising the UK offers the only hope of saving it, for those who want it and is thus a much higher priority.

    Of course we’re being asked to do this blind by the government in so far as there’s no proposal for the second house. Once there is one way or another we will revisit voting systems once again….perhaps more inteligently than this time round.
    If the AV referendum fails to answer yes, it will be a further nail in the UK’s coffin and the result will be used to claim that no change is wanted, possibly even for their lordships’ house. Possibly first Scotland then Wales seceding from the UK will make Westminster thing again but I wouldn’t bank on a rump UK of England and Northern Ireland to be doing much progressive for a while.

  31. @Bob Milton

    “Am I ‘a stick in the mud’?”

    Not at all, though you may have stronger than average opinions. I guess it helps if your first choice is a party that is likely to win. Voters for Greens, UKIP, SNP, PC and in some parts of the country, Labour, Conservative and Lib Dems may never see their preferred candidate win. They would genuinely like to express their voting intention at the ballot box but are worried about who would win. Of the remaining candidates, many people are sympathetic to another party who, while not being ideal would be preferable to the others. Some people also have a party that they strongly dislike and would prefer anyone but them.

    A UKIP supporter might vote Conservative as a second choice then Labour third as even they are better than the BNP. A Scot may vote SNP first but be almost as happy with Labour winning; anything but the Tories.

  32. OLDNAT

    You’re welcome, and I agree with your interpretaion.

    You might also care to note that if you’re registered, as you must be to have the SNP background, you no longer seem to be put into the moderation queue if you post proper HTML links. I’m not sure what happens if you post un-modified URLs.

  33. @Barbazenzero,

    I too am a supporter of an English parliament and a properly federal UK. Where I would part company is on this idea (which has been advanced here before, mostly by Scot nats arguing that federalism can’t save the UK) that a UK wide parliament would be “unfairly dominated” by England due to her overwhelming population, and therefore representation.

    I think this ignore the diversity of opinion within England itself, and overstates the differences between England and the other Home Countries.

    There may well be circumstances when the will of the UK parliament will be determined by an alliance of Scots, Welsh and/or N.Irish interests with specific threads of opinion in England, against the wishes of a majority of the English. I don’t believe that the MPs from any of the home countries to the UK parliament would vote en bloc.

  34. This is going to sound like a stupid question but do voters receive sample ballots and voter information pamphlets a few weeks before they vote?

  35. two new ROI polls for next weeks election

    Red C polling

    Fine Gael [blues] 39%
    Labour [reds] 17%
    Fianna Fail [light greens] 16%
    Sinn Féin [dark greens] 12%

    Lansdowne polling

    FG 37%
    Labour 20%
    FF 16%
    SF 12%

    reds/blues will form a coalition based on this….

  36. OLDNAT

    PS re the EC instructions.

    So it seems that there will be counts of four categories of rejected ballot papers, per para. 6.12:
     1. no official mark [forgery?]
     2. vote for both answers
     3. an identifying mark excluding the offial one
     4. unmarked or void for uncertainty

    The logical conclusion is thus that the “INDEPENDENCE” ones will be in the 4th category and simply counted as blank while the “FFA” ones will be valid but uncountable unless the EC can be persuaded to order a count of them.

  37. Also, I think in order to be accurate, polling on a referendum has to ask the same question that voters will see in the voting booth. Otherwise you’re not actually polling true voter intent, you’re polling what voters may or may not want in the abstract. That’s problematic if polls are doing that.

    Again though, I don’t think that traditional polling analysis applies to a referendum. Any referendum that is under 50% is struggling in terms of getting passage even if the No vote trails the Yes vote.

  38. @Barbazenzero:

    I think the whole point of Union was to create a unitary Parilament based upon the English model….in return the English ceded a deliberate over-representation to first the Scots then the Irish and of course gave English titles to remaining Irish peers and a whacking pension to get it through the Irish Parliament. Finally in 1921 they divided into two political entities an entity that had previously always been a single political entity. By then they’d also abandoned a state church and religion in Wales and Ireland…

    Thus the oddities, inequities were inplicit in Union and have always existed but over time have manifested themselves in different ways at different times.

    You cannot re-imagine things through a prism of a present reality without distorting your understanding of the gain made by both consenting parties by Union. Just the UK Paliament has ceded some sovereignty to be part of the EU and the UN….or indeed members of NATO or in making any treaty between sovereign nations, it’s done so for a perceived gain elsewhere….Devolution is merely an adjustment the other way…as also in Northern Ireland….and in our relations with the Republic of ireland…

    England gains both politcal and economic clout from the union…it’s why they’ve clung on to it through thick and thin.

  39. Sounds like an excellent government in Dublin, IMHO.

  40. Barbazenzero

    Category 4 includes any paper which has been properly issued but which doesn’t identify the voter or vote identically for both alternatives.

    It doesn’t matter whether the paper is blank, has Independence, FFA or a suggestion where HM Govt can place said paper – they all end up in category 4.

  41. John Murphy

    From the English point of view the Union was only about ensuring Protestant ascendancy and securing the northern frontier.

    The Union has been of various uses to a greater or lesser degree to different groups of people.

    However, the more sensible approach is to re-examine whether it currently acts as the best system for its component parts and for each part to reassess it’s requirements from the Union.

    If the others wish to accommodate those requirements, then the Union continues – otherwise it falls. That’s what happened in the Velvet Divorce. There simply weren’t enough Czechoslovaks (=Brits) who could be bothered to accommodate the different needs of the Czechs (= English) and Slovaks (= Scots).

  42. Barbazenzero:

    I agree with your analysis of the need for an English and Federal parliament. Why is there so little debate among the political class on the merits of this sort of solution?

    Is it because party leaders would lose control?

    Oldnat:

    AMS ensures that Labour too will never get a majority.

    Roger Mexico

    AV is similar to the process many non-loyalist voters currently use to make their choice, by firstly eliminating without much thought, any prospect of voting for of all the candidates except two.

    Only the open list AMS allows the party loyalist to vote for his party but agaist a candidate who has run off with his wife.

    The demise of the Conservative party in Scotland is due to the fact that FPTP works upside down. It can be used to vote against. Those who are anti-Cons may soon exceed not only the positive supporters for Labour, but the sum of the positive supporters for all parties.

    Can the positive SNP voters be any more numerous than those who support independence? Surely they are even fewer, for many Greens and Socialists and even some Labour supporters and a handful of Conservatives are also pro-independence.

    If two thirds of the SNP vote are anti-Cons and anti-Lab, how many voters who are identified as “LAB” on the basis of the Westmnster election are anti-Cons?

    Ian McWhirter clearly supports the interpretation of the recent poll as a tide of Westmnster Lab voters flowing towards the SNP as they focus on the forthcoming SP elections. The next poll should confirm or refute that analysis. It may even show the tide is still coming in.

    If it is confirmed, what that would tell us about the composition of the next Scottish Parliament is not the most significant thing we would learn. We would learn that tribal class voting is finished. We might learn that hardly anybody in Scotland supports any of the parties.

    These swingers havn’t chnged their political objectives, they are in fact being consistent. Rightly or wrongly, they perceive Lab the best buy for Westminster, and SNP for the Scottish Parliament.

    They are anti-Cons, and probably the biggest political group next to OldLabour party members who think loyalty is a virtue.

    Some of them may even think that the LibDems are best for the EU because they are the most committed to its aims, and none of that would stop them from voting for an independent councllor or a Green with local campaign.

  43. NEIL A
    I too am a supporter of an English parliament and a properly federal UK. Where I would part company is on this idea … that a UK wide parliament would be “unfairly dominated” by England due to her overwhelming population, and therefore representation.

    There may well be circumstances when the will of the UK parliament will be determined by an alliance of Scots, Welsh and/or N.Irish interests with specific threads of opinion in England, against the wishes of a majority of the English.

    Again, I can make no response but up to a point, Lord Copper…

    First, the overwhelming dominance of English MPs is amply demonstrated by the mathematics of the number of seats:
    Seats 
     533  England
      59  Scotland
      40  Wales
      18  Northern Ireland

    English MPs can outvote all of the other “home” nations by a multiple of nearly 5. In an era when the parties of UK government are the opposition in two of the three “devolved” nations, there are bound to be more rather than less fireworks, especially with the L-Ds having abandoned their federalism and are pushing a Scotland bill which, far from devolving the meaningful fiscal powers to Scotland which all recent polling suggests is wanted, actually want to re-reserve some existing powers – something which the last UK Labour government did covertly rather than openly.

    There are undoubtedly some English regions like the South West which may share concerns with Scotland and Wales over matters like underpopulation, common fisheries policy and nuclear power, but their very underpopulation makes them under-represented in the UK parliament and would never provide a majority for such matters to be treated seriously by the central government.

    And in any event, the party whipping system tends to keep such MPs more in thrall to their party leaders than to their electorate – something they can afford to do because their electorate is smart enough to comprehend that if they choose an alternative MP from one of the “major” parties exactly the same will apply.

    It may well be best to let Belgium or Spain work out the details of how to break up an EU member state into two or more EU member states, but sooner rather than later it would seem logical for Scotland and Wales to fight their own corner on, say, fisheries directly in Brussels rather than hoping for crumbs from Westminster’s table.

    Some sort of council of the isles would be very useful at inter-governmental level, to which Man and the Channel Isles could also usefully contribute, but short of equal representation quite soon in a new senate [and remember in the US California and Rhode Island both have 2 senators], that is what is likely to happen, perhaps with England initially refusing to play.

  44. OldNat

    “There simply wern’t enough Brits who could be bothered to accommodate the different needs of the Scots.”

    The explanation of why Scotland became independent for 22ndC English schoolchildren (the privately educated few who have learned to read).

    There arn’t many Brits except those immigrants who have paid a fee to become Brits.

  45. OLDNAT
    It doesn’t matter whether the paper is blank, has Independence, FFA or a suggestion where HM Govt can place said paper – they all end up in category 4.

    I expressed myself badly re FFA. As I understood the suggestion, it is to write FFA on the paper but also to vote or not as you wish.

    If that is the case, then many ballot papers will simply be counted as YES or NO because they contain no personal identifying information whilst some such ballot papers will be rejected and may fall into any of the four categories.

  46. barbazenzero

    Some sort of council of the isles would be very useful at inter-governmental level, to which Man and the Channel Isles could also usefully contribute

    Like this you mean?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British%E2%80%93Irish_Council

  47. JOHN MURPHY
    Thus the oddities, inequities were inplicit in Union and have always existed but over time have manifested themselves in different ways at different times.

    I agree with oldnat’s response in its entirety, but would add that the Claim of Right Act 1689 – effectively a renewal of the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath and still in force unamended – gives the people of Scotland sovereignty, in contrast to the bizarre English concept of parliamentary sovereignty. Irrespective of the desires of those who brought into law the Union with England Act 1707, this means that the people of Scotland do have the right, albeit not currently the power, to say enough is enough and to terminate the union.

  48. barbazenzero

    Thanks for the tip (I mainly did that last comment to see if you could post links directly now).

    By the way I think that ‘no official mark’ thing you queried is about the the sort of embossed stamp they make on the ballot paper before handing it to you. I presume the idea is to prevent ballot stuffing with fake votes and also so votes can be separated if ones from different polling districts get accidently mixed up.

  49. OLDNAT

    Scratch my comment re links. It seems I have been put on moderation, possibly for having two in one post.

  50. ROGER MEXICO
    Some sort of council of the isles would be very useful at inter-governmental level, to which Man and the Channel Isles could also usefully contribute
    Like this you mean?

    Yes, that’s the one, although I suspect very few in England know of it. Post a break-up of the UK, it would definitely need some upgrading in areas such as border control (perhaps unless England can be persuaded to join Schengen), fisheries and coastal protection.

    And you’re welcome for the tip, so perhaps 2 links are too many.

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