Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
27 JULY 2010
Q120 Stephen Williams: We come to
AV now. Bristol West is still a marginal seat and in previous
General Elections it was a three-way marginal seat, so voters
have been treated to leaflets from all parties with competing
bar charts and claims about: "If you vote for this candidate
someone really nasty will win", etc. Does AV eliminate tactical
voting considerations from our electoral process?
Professor Dunleavy: The answer
is, in theory no but in practice yes. Essentially, what AV will
tend to do, I think, for all MPs, is it will encourage them to
reach out beyond their immediate party supporters and to appeal
to supporters of other parties, and they will particularly tend
to do that, I think, through contacts with interest groups and
local associations, and so on. If you look at the London Mayor
elections both of the candidates who have been elected in the
three electionsKen Livingstone and Boris Johnsonhave
been very savvy candidates who have actually managed to represent
the City in a much better way and get a lot of enhanced legitimacy
because of that change. So some of my colleagues will draw you
fancy diagrams or construct hypothetical situations in which tactical
voting is still possible in AV, but tactical voting can occur
under every electoral system. The thing that will tend to swamp
all of that and to dominate is: does the candidate read out and
project beyond their own party and get second preference votes
from other parties?
Professor Fisher: The limited
evidence that we do have of campaigning under different electoral
systems, particularly the Scottish local government elections
and the European elections, suggests that regardless of the system
in place parties tend to campaign in almost exactly the same way.
So whereas in Australia you find that there are voting instructions,
effectively, issued by parties to encourage tactical behaviour,
we have not yet in this countryLondon perhaps is a slight
exception hereseen the widespread behaviour such that parties
reach out beyond their own party and, perhaps, encourage people
from other parties to back them, and vice versa. This could be
a cultural thing and it could take time to bed in, but the argument
that parties will suddenly campaign in a different wayperhaps
form alliancesis not borne out by the limited evidence
that we have to date.
Q121 Stephen Williams: So there is
no evidence that parties chase second preferences as an alternative
to tactical voting?
Professor Dunleavy: If you look
at the first London Mayor election, the Labour candidate was Frank
Dobson, and he was asked what would he advise people to do with
their second preferences. He said, well, he was not giving any
advice. If you contrast that with, let us say, Ken Livingstone,
he advised people how to cast their second preferences and appealed
for second preferences. He said: "I would advise them to
vote Green". The reason he said that was because he wanted
to get the Greens' second preferences. If you look at Mr Dobson's
campaign, it was fairly lamentable; he came a very poor fourth;
a large proportion of his voters did not cast any second preferences
and quite a large proportion of them voted for him twice. So it
is very important that the candidates should actually respond
to the change of our election system, and of course subsequent
Labour candidates have responded to that. It does take a little
bit of time, but most MPs already reach out in hustings, in their
leaflets and in their contacts with constituents to people from
outside their own party. The personal vote has been increasing
as an important element of MPs being elected. It is definitely
worth about twice as much as it used to be.
Q122 Chair: Which is what?
Professor Dunleavy: It is about
3,500 votes, 4,000 votes now, whereas most people would say it
was only about 2,000 votes. That is partly because MPs do a fantastically
much more vigorous job as representatives of their constituents
then they did two decades ago.
Q123 Chair: So it is up from 3 or
4 to 8 or 9%?
Professor Dunleavy: It is up to
about 4,000 votes, one would say, which would make a big difference
to an MP. I think the sitting MP will always be reaching out anyway,
and the serious candidates will be reaching out. I think it will
have a very big and transformative effect and it will have a much
Professor Fisher: It is important
to point out that the London Mayoral elections are rather different
from constituency elections. While Ken Livingstone was standing
under the Labour flag Boris Johnson stood to a slightly lesser
extent under Conservative flag. They are not as tied into the
party machine as you can see at constituency level.
Stephen Williams: A final question on
ballot papers. As Professor Fisher mentioned there is a risk that
people do 1, 2, 3 and this allows me to plead to Professor Dunleavy
not to use (a fictional, I presume) Stephen Williams as a Conservative
candidate in demonstrations of ballot papers in the future! If
you think there is an argument for doing away with the traditional
practice that candidates should be listed in alphabetical order,
certainly a multi-member
Chair: I take exception to that!
Q124 Stephen Williams: Certainly,
Mr Allen, in multi-member council elections, just by observation
it is fairly obvious that often people will vote for the party
candidate who is Allan or Bones or something first and then, perhaps,
not find their way down to a Williams or a Young at the bottom.
Professor Dunleavy: I think there
is a very strong rationale for introducing 1, 2, 3, which does
sort of tend to suggest an ordering to people, otherwise to randomly
rotate the order of candidates, and that is what the Australians
in the end
Q125 Stephen Williams: The Australians
Professor Dunleavy: Yes, you still
get the people at the top getting more votes but at least it is
sort of random.
Q126 Stephen Williams: Your ballot
papers are in alphabetical order.
Professor Dunleavy: Absolutely.
That has been the sort of standard UK practice but I do think
if you were going to numerical voting then if you are saying to
people 1, 2, 3, it sort of suggests an order to people, and then
I think you would need to really compensate by going for random
ordering of candidate parties.
Q127 Simon Hart: Can I just go back
to the international comparison discussion earlier on, a number
of witnesses in previous sessions have in a sense justified whatever
proposal it was we were discussing on the basis that it worked
well in another country or indeed another area. Does it automatically
follow that a system that works in Papua New Guinea (which was
one such example) would also work with just as much ease in Pembroke
Dock, for example? It strikes me that we are sometimes a bit flippant
in just assuming: "It works there, therefore it will work
here". I do not have the answer which is why I am asking
the question. The second part of the question is in relation to
your model ballot paper. This is a bit of a bugbear of mine, but
projecting yourself forward to 2015 and a General Election, which
will coincide with a Welsh Assembly election, I would be quite
interested seriously to see a ballot paper which accounted for
the fact that there would be two languages, two different boundaries,
two different systems and two different Parliaments together on
the one ballot paper in a way that serves the voters' interests
rather than the political parties' interests. If you could do
that then I will wind my neck in.
Professor Dunleavy: On international
comparisons, it is very important to not imagine that the way
a system like AV works somewhere else will work in the same way.
If we look at Australia, for example, we have a very strong dominance
of two main parties. There are other parties in Australia but
they tend to be quite small and they have not developed in the
way that the British party system has developed. The British party
system now is becoming increasingly a standard West European liberal
democracy with six or seven parties that range all the way through
from Greens through to anti-foreigner parties on the right. So
we have three parties on the right in the UKConservatives,
UKIP and the BNPand we have a couple on the leftLabour
and the Greensand then we have the nationalist parties
in Scotland and Wales who sit in the middle and create extra dimensions.
So I am absolutely completely convinced that if you are thinking
about how AV is going to work out and you are trying to project
it forward do not assume it is going to work in the same way as
the Australian way; in particular, we are much more of a multi-party
system than the Australians and we are heading that way much more
rapidly than the Australians. So things like: do you get more
candidates; do you get more fragmentation of the votethese
are serious issues to think about. I am sorry
Q128 Simon Hart: Complicated ballot
Professor Dunleavy: Yes, complicated
ballot papers2015. It would be particularly interestingI
do not know whether there are any local government elections also
Q129 Simon Hart: I cannot remember.
Professor Dunleavy: It is very,
very hard to ask people to do X voting and numerical voting on
the same day. I would say that wherever possible you should avoid
that. The way to do that is that if you are very committed to
doing numerical voting then you have got to probably do numerical
voting a lot more. The other lesson from Scotland is do not put
them all on the same ballot paper; so have separate ballot papers,
separately coloured, and so on. If there is a Welsh Assembly election
on the same day or a Scottish Parliament election on the same
day that would be a real problem.
Professor Fisher: My view of international
comparisons is that they are useful for information but I would
completely agree with Patrick that you cannot simply transplant
one to another. If we look at it the other way, in the way that
Britain exported first-past-the-post to much of what was then
the Empire, it was successful in some places and not in others.
So wholesale transfer, I think, is ill-advised. In terms of confusion
of the voters, I think one can overstate this. There are already
examples of people having to cope with this. It was clearly done
badly in Scotland last time around, but I remember, in 2000, I
voted with three different systems in the same booth with three
different ballot papers, in London, voting in the European elections,
SV for the London Mayor and AMS for the London Assembly.
Professor Dunleavy: The reason
for that, with respect, is that these systems are all very carefully
designed to be consistent with each other.
Professor Fisher: Crosses and
Q130 Simon Hart: The point of my
question was that in the Welsh Assembly election, in our area,
7% of postal ballots were incorrectly completed as a result of
confusion, and in a result which only had 100 votes between first
and third that definitely affected the outcome.
Professor Fisher: Therein lies
the folly of postal voting.
Q131 Chair: Can I just clarify London
and the three ballot papers, Professor Fisher? You are saying
that they were confusing, Professor?
Professor Fisher: No, no, they
were not confusing.
Professor Dunleavy: I think you
are thinking of 2004 when there was a London election and a European
Parliament election on the same day. The Mayoral ballot paper
for London has two Xs; the Assembly election has two different
X components and the European Parliament is a single X. So actually,
five election votes were cast on the same day, and there were
some extra problems there, but nothing like what you might expect
if you are mixing them with numerical.
Professor Fisher: My point was
that the problem can be overstated.
Q132 Mrs Laing: I would like to come
back to the perceived fairness or otherwise of the AV system.
Would it be fair to say that some people's votes count twice or
even three times? You said just a short while ago that one of
the expected changes that would occur if we have AV instead of
first-past-the-post is more votes for minority parties. Is that
likely to occur because people feel that instead of saying: "I
have only one vote and actually I cannot stand the Conservative
candidateI hate Margaret Thatchertherefore I have
got to vote Labour", they might say: "Oh no, actually
I really want to vote BNP but my vote will not be wasted because
of AV so I will vote BNP and then I will vote Labour second",
in which case that person has two votes whereas someone who is
just voting for the Liberal Democrats has only one vote?
Professor Dunleavy: It is quite
complicated to think about how AV operates. Basically, the first
thing you have got to think about is a disjuncture between if
somebody has majority support; in this case we are just going
to count up the first preferences and as soon as somebody reaches
50%+1 we are going to say they are elected, so we are not going
to look at any second preferences in that set up. However, if
nobody has 50%+1 we then look at the second preferences. There
is a difference really between the Australian AV, where you carry
on looking at preferences however many you have expressed, and
the London AV, where you will only look at second preferences
for the candidates who are still in the racethe top two
candidates. So, basically, you only have first or second preferences
expressed in a London AV, whereas in the Australian AV you go
1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. It is perfectly likely that one of the reasons
why vote fragmentation will increase is, supposing I am a BNP
supporter but I do not want Labour to win, I might be voting Conservative,
but now I can vote BNP 1, UKIP 2, Conservative 3, and I can still
be confident that I am going to influence the result. So there
will be some voters, particularly voters who express a lot of
preferences, particularly voters who express a lot of preferences
for small parties that then get eliminated, where we will be counting
down past their first preference, past their second preference
and to their third, fourth and fifth preferences, and you might
object on equity grounds that it is not fair to be counting third,
fourth and fifth preferences of some voters only. However, the
system is designed so that your preference only makes a difference
to the outcome, allegedly, once, but in fact with small parties,
if you have got a lot of preferences, you will have more influence.
Q133 Mrs Laing: That is very helpful.
If somebody has expressed a fourth preference then that would
suggest to me that they do not really want that person to represent
them, if they have put them fourth. Yet that fourth preference
could actually change the outcome of the election.
Professor Dunleavy: I think we
can certainly tell that British voters would like to have multiple
preferences, because wherever they have been given the opportunity
to cast two votes, in Scotland, Wales and London, they have taken
it up with great enthusiasm.
Q134 Mrs Laing: That is quite a sweeping
Professor Dunleavy: In the sense
that a lot of people split their votes in these elections when
they do not need to, and they have also done that quite regularly
when they have local and general elections on the same day. We
can expect that the number of preferences people express will
decay quite quickly. So maybe three-quarters of people will give
a second preference; 60% a third preference, less than 50%, maybe,
a fourth preference. This is a political theory argument that
I cannot resolve. You certainly could make the argument that fourth
preferences should not be weighted as much as first on second
Professor Fisher: I concur with
Patrick there. It does not seem to me to be an immense problem
and something that you could design out. To go back to your initial
pointdo some voters effectively get more say than otherswe
cannot force people (well, you can force people) to do all the
preferences but it strikes me as undesirable, but it strikes me
as being no different, really, from offering people the opportunity
to vote or not to vote. As things stand, if people choose to take
advantage of that they have more say than people who do not. So
I do not think there is an insurmountable problem. Patrick raises
an interesting way of looking at that. In practice, it is very
unlikely that preferences below three will make any material difference
to the outcome.
Q135 Mrs Laing: That is very helpful,
thank you. Can I go back to that issue about voters, as Professor
Dunleavy, I think, said, that voters show enthusiasm for (I cannot
remember the exact word you usedforgive me) for multiple
preferences. Do you mean by that that when they get to the ballot
box and they discover that in front of them they have to place
not just an X but they can do 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and in those circumstances
they do, at least, 1, 2 and 3 rather than just 1? Is that what
you mean by that rather than that they are more enthusiastic and
actually go to vote? That actually there is a greater turnout
because there is a preferential system?
Professor Dunleavy: We have not
got experience of numerical preference ordering in voting except
in Northern Ireland and in Scottish local government. So I could
not comment on turnout in relation to those. In Northern Ireland
I think there are particular reasons why you might not go too
far down your preference order. So I think really, outside of
Scottish local government, we do not really know how people have
responded to numerical. In the Additional Member Systems we have
you have two votes; you have a vote for a local MSP or Assembly
member and you have a top-up vote. People have split the top-up
vote; they quite commonly will give one vote to the Conservatives
and one vote to somebody else or one vote to Labour and one vote
to somebody else. In the sense that even when people are quite
committed they tend to want to express preferences, multiple preferences.
Professor Fisher: The point you
made about voters turning up at ballot boxes is an important one.
When Scotland introduced the Additional Member System for elections
in the Scottish Parliament the use of both votes was widespread.
When it was done in London there was no public education programme
as there had been in Scotland, and there were a large number of
people who either did not use the second part of the SV ballot
or the second part of AMS. So if a different system is going to
be introduced there has to be something done as successfully as
it was in Scotland rather than as unsuccessfully as it was in
Q136 Sheila Gilmore: There has been
some discussion of tactical voting and the suggestion that there
is less of it with AV, but it seems to me from what you have said
that there is actually just as much potential for people to campaign
for the least worst. Would you agree with that? In terms of the
electoral systems, it is slightly disappointing that the turnout
in Scottish Parliament elections has actually been less good than
for Westminster. I do not think that is what we anticipated, and
I do not think that is necessarily to do with electoral systems.
Would you agree that the main problem with the 2007 Scottish system
was not so much that people had several different things to vote
for but that they had three different things they were supposed
to be doing?
Professor Dunleavy: I agree; there
were three different things that voters had to do on the same
ballot paper as well.
Q137 Sheila Gilmore: There were two
Professor Dunleavy: There was
one with two
Q138 Sheila Gilmore: There was indeed.
That was a very badly designed ballot paper, which shows how important
design can be.
Professor Dunleavy: Design is
very important. I think the Scottish Parliament elections have
been very successful. It is incredibly hard to set up a new institution
and get to a high level of voting; it very rarely happens. The
new institutions often take a long time to sort play themselves
in and Scotland has had very high turnouts, I think, considering
its role. Although Justin is right that turnout is a little low
in London, it has tended to grow over time as familiarity with
the systems grows.
Professor Fisher: At the risk
of making international comparisons, where you have systems other
than first-past-the-post, turnouts in general tend to be higher,
but they are falling everywhere so we should not see an electoral
system as a quick fix to arresting declining turnout.
Q139 Chair: If we were in this country
to elect our own chief executive or prime minister, as most Western
democracies do, which system do you think would be best to do
that to complement other changes?
Professor Dunleavy: If you are
electing a chief executive, you might want to go for the London
AV system because you might want to make sure only someone who
is in the top two on the first preference count would be elected,
so I would strongly recommend the London AV system.