UK results open thread

It is almost 1:30 a.m. here. Exit polls are suggesting at least 300 seats for the Conservatives, short of a majority by 20-some seats. However, the LSE Election Experts suggest that, based on swings in early-declaring seats, the Conservatives could be much closer to majority status–maybe past it. We will not know for a while.

The surprise so far is projections that the LibDems may have suffered a net loss of seats. What happened? That, too, will not be clear for a while.

Comments are open…

31 thoughts on “UK results open thread

  1. I am fascinated by the contrast between the media narrative and the actual results. Labor is by no means doing well at all, but the media are telling a story that just does not reflect the results declared thus far.

  2. I heard two radio news bulletins and opened three web pages that gave seat totals before coming across a page that deigned to give vote totals. 38%?! That got Bush I thoroughly “trounced” in 1992.

  3. Trust Duverger! My money has been and will continue to be on the Conservative party securing a majority of seats. Needless to say, I’ll be up all night to see if I’m right!

  4. I’ve been mainly on the BBC online. I may have to scream next time I hear another specious argument that willing a plurality of votes is winning an election. Nice to see a Greens MP elected. Also interesting to speculate what the prospect of 38% translating into a majority of seats would be under AV+ or AV. Perhaps Blair should have held his promised referendum.

  5. Last week:

    “If we don’t win at least 326 seats, there’ll be a HUNG PARLIAMENT, which means no one will be able to do anything at all and the machinery of the British state will grind to a complete halt.”


    “291 seats? Near enough! Keys to Number Ten, thank you very much, we’ll be enacting our manifesto right away once Parliament re-convenes. After all, we have at least 40 more seats than any other party. Majority, schmajority… who needs 326?”

  6. The ABC calmly announced that Britain was in chaos after the election. Their footage did not seem to include any pictures of bloody revolt in the streets for some reason, but I know they must be right.

  7. For the Duverger question, the effective number of parties getting votes nationally (a count that weights parties according to their size) is about 3.69 thus far, a slight increase from the 3.59 from 2005. I need to finish grading final exams, and then will start calculating the effective numbers of parties at the district level but I suspect it will be slightly higher than the 2.6 median we have observed in recent elections.

  8. I followed BBC’s coverage of the election all evening via their website, which was excellent.

    However, I must say the broadcast left much to be desired in the early stages, when there were only two results declared and there was all sorts of ill-informed speculation about massive swings and Tory landslide victories: a simple look at YouGov’s regional polls sufficed to indicate that swings were expected to vary significantly from region to region, and the same phenomenon should have been expected among constituencies as well – as it turned to be the case (and very quickly at that, starting with the third declaration).

    Meanwhile, the much-maligned exit poll turned out to be right on target after all…

  9. Preliminary thought waiting for district-level analysis to confirm or refute it: Might Duvergerian tactical voting at the national level (“Nick Clegg can’t be PM, so don’t waste your vote on his party”) have led to un-Duvergerian outcomes in particular districts where the LibDems might have come first or second? IOW do UK voters tend to go by the national “runoff” more than paying attention to their local race?

  10. A couple more thoughts on England’s [sic] alleged non-love of coalitions:

    1. If Clegg did simply commit to supporting whichever of the Big Two has more seats, then – with FPTP voting – this means the Lib Dems abdicate their choice of PM to Labour and Tory voters. By voting Lib Dem, they had no say as to which of the Big Two came first.

    On the other hand, a preferential system lets third-party voters have a say as to which of the Big Two ends up ahead. And it is hard to imagine a case where a large majority of Tasmanian or Irish Green preferences flow to Labour/ Fine Gael but the party’s MHAs/ TDs decide to support a Liberal/ FF govt instead. I believe some independents with a balance of power (Liz Cunningham Qld 1996 and, IIRC, Karlene Maywald in SA) have cited the majority of the two-party-preferred vote as one factor swaying them to support one party over another.

    (It wouldn’t be the only factor: one could actually imagine more Pauline Hanson One Nation voters preferencing Labor over Liberal, for example, especially if the Labor leader was a populist, if the Liberal leader was ‘small L”, and if preferences were optional – but I can’t picture the sort who put their hand up for preselection as ONP candidates allying with Labor MPs, even if Labour agreed to touch them with a ten-foot speaker’s mace. Likewise, I know a lot of Nationals who would preference the right Labor candidates ahead of most Liberals, especially if privatisation/ asset sales were on the agenda).

    2. Having said that, it’s not inconsistent to say “We will support the party with the most seats – even if it’s not the party with the most popular votes – and even though we support and will work towards an electoral system that matches the two much more closely, ideally quantitatively but at the very least ordinally.” It may make good sense to work with the Parliament you have.

  11. ‘The tiny UK Independence Party helped deprive the Conservatives of at least ten seats by fielding candidates in constituencies the Tories had a good chance of winning. Nationally, UKIP picked up just 3 per cent of the vote. But in a string of seats their support was enough to stop even Eurosceptic Tory candidates winning…’

    – Jason Groves, “Did UKIP cost Tories ten seats by fielding candidates in constituencies the Conservatives were set to win?” The Daily Mail (7 May 2010).

    This seems to assume that UKIP supporters would have switched to the Tories if (a) they had only realised they might let Labour/ LibDem win by default, or (b) a Tory/ UKIP electoral pact had been in place, or (c) there had been some form off runoff or preferential voting. Lacking as I do experience with voluntary non-preferential voting, I want (in both senses) empirical evidence that voters do in fact think that way.

    I suspect, in the abstract, that most voters try to juggle the two questions asked (explicitly or impliedly) by every ballot paper: “Which candidate/ party do you like the best?” and “Which candidate/ party, of those with a realistic chance of winning seats in your constituency, do you consider least worst?” If forced to pick one, some UKIP supporters would rank “show the flag for The Cause” over “keep the bad guys out”, others vice versa, but all would presumably grab with both hands a chance to do both at once. Even if Perot supporters in 1992 had wanted to consciously snub Bush I by withholding second preferences, this message comes through more loudly if there had been an option to do otherwise.

    ‘… The other great myth is that we voted overwhelmingly for proportional representation. If Britain wanted PR we would have cast many more millions of votes for the Liberals, since electoral reform is the only real policy they have…. Yes, we need electoral reform. But that doesn’t mean abandoning the first-past-the-post system, it means redrawing the deliberately rigged constituency boundaries to eliminate Labour’s rotten boroughs. If we had equal- sized constituencies, Call Me Dave would have been sitting in Downing Street by lunchtime yesterday. Cameron’s Conservatives polled as many votes as Tony Blair managed in 2005 – a share sufficient to deliver Labour a 66-seat majority….’

    – Richard Littlejohn, “If Pretty Boy Cleggy props up shameless Brown, he’ll never be forgiven”, The Daily Mail (8 May 2010).

    Yup, equal-population single-seaters. That’ll avoid the second-largest party winning more seats all right. Look across the pond…

  12. I find it interesting that the Conservatives are holding up the wildly disproportionate 2005 results as the standard by which this election should be judged.

    Its one great example among many of the kind of rhetorical gymnastics the right are having to engage in-this result is inconvenient, to be sure, compared to previous elections, but it isnt unfair on the face of it, except for the Liberals. That seems to be sort of sinking in-apparently a poll by the Mail on Sunday, a stablemate of Littlejohn’s paper, showed 60% in favour of more proportional elections. Of course, reformers will probably make a mess of it but still…

  13. As far as I can make out, the Tories’ objections to PR are twofold:

    1. FPTP makes it possible to “remove the government” and this is a Good Thing.

    2. PR means governments are too unstable, ie, they get removed too often.

  14. It’s hard not to wonder if one of the major reasons the Conservatives are so opposed to a more proportional representation is because they fear the competition from the UKIP would not only make them loose lots of seats, but also possibly tear the Tories apart.

  15. Saw a different UK op-ed yesterday (sorry, didn’t save link) which suggested that any pre-election deal the Tories may have made with UKIP would have lost them more votes than it gained them – ie, that pro-immigration conservatives deserting the Tories would have outnumbered the UKIP “second preferences” (as it were) that they would have gained.

  16. While some Tories have expressed fears that PR could lead to a Conservative split, they remain staunchly behind FPTP because they believe that sooner or later the system will work to their advantage; in fact, FPTP is probably the only electoral system that may allow the Conservatives to win an overall majority of seats in the House of Commons on a plurality vote.

    To be certain, that was not the case this time around, but in some regions FPTP overwhelmingly favored the Conservatives: in the Eastern, South Eastern and South Western regions of England, the Tories won 83% of the seats (163 of 197) with just 47% of the vote; the figures are even more lopsided in the Eastern and South Eastern regions: 89% of the seats (127 of 142) with just under 49% of the vote. Given that most Conservative MPs come from these regions, it’s no wonder they like FPTP so much.

    Incidentally, the regional distribution of Conservative and Labour seats is now practically back to the point where it stood in 1992 (when the Tories held a nearly identical popular vote lead), with two very important exceptions: London and Scotland. In the former, the Tories only won 28 of 73 seats (as opposed to 48 of 84 in 1992), while in the latter they had just one seat of 59 (as opposed to 11 of 72 in 1992); Labour also won eight fewer seats in Scotland than in 1992, largely because of the reduction in the number of Scottish seats after devolution. In other words, the Conservatives’ failure to capture an absolute parliamentary majority (as they did in 1992, when they won 336 of 651 seats) boils down to the election outcome in these two regions.

  17. > “89% of the seats (127 of 142) with just under 49% of the vote”

    The sort of result that leads to overhangmandates in MMP systems…

  18. Replace the words Tories and Conservatives with Labour in the first paragraph of Tom’s comment-does that explain why the unreconstructed wing of the Labour Party rejected a Lib-Lab deal?

    I’ve been comparing the Tories with Fianna Fail in Ireland-if they learn to love PR, or some attenuated form of it, it could actually help them stay in power. They had maximum resources and media support in this election and they couldn’t quite crack either the South-west of England or London, areas where the Liberals are not insignificant.

    Fianna Fail refused coalitions on principle until 1989, so they left the opposition groups Fine Gael and Labour aligned together, by default. After they agreed to their first coalition, they haven’t actually lost an election, as such-a coalition they formed collapsed half way through its term in 1994, and they returned to the opposition benches without an election, but they subsequently returned to government in the next election, and were able to form all of the governments subsequently, with varied coalition partners and cupport from independents.

    If its Labour that has the real problem with the only probable coalition partner they could have under FPTP or AV, for that matter, the Lib Dems, then Labour may spend a very long time out in the cold…

  19. Sorry, that should be “the first paragraph of Manuel’s comment”, #17-my compliment son Electoral Resources on the Internet, by the way.

  20. It will be fun to see what the coalition agreement says about electoral reform. I ended up watching the transition on the BBC. I have to say it’s a lot more high-flown than an Australian transition.

    I was interested Brown said he would be advising the Queen to send for Cameron. in 1983 Malcolm Fraser lost a general election. He waited upon the governor-general to tender his resignation and then advised the governor-general to send for the opposition leader. Someone who was there has told me His Excellency was quite firm in saying that resigning prime ministers do not get to advise who should be the next prime minister.

    Fraser, of course, was part of an inglorious farce in 1975. The governor-general had him stashed at Government House, with his car parked out of sight round the back, so that he could accept office as soon as Gough Whitlam was dismissed.

    PS Do Canadians kiss hands, metaphorically or otherwise? We don’t.

  21. DC, thanks for your kind remarks about my site.

    To answer your question, I agree that what I said about the Conservatives in the opening paragraph of my previous comment could be applied to Labour as well.

    In fact, the existing electoral system continues to favor Labour, even in defeat, as it completely failed to amplify the Conservatives’ seven percent popular vote lead in the House of Commons; instead, the Conservatives have a seat lead over Labour of just 7.2%.

    Moreover, in northern England and the Midlands the electoral system continues to show a bias in favor a Labour: despite having a popular vote lead over the Tories of just 0.5% (35.1% to 34.6%) in the five northern English regions, Labour won 143 of 262 seats (54.6%) to 106 for the Conservatives, and just 13 for the Liberal Democrats (who polled 21.7% in that part of the country). And once again the numbers are even more lopsided in the three northern regions (North East, North West, Yorks & the Humber), where Labour won 104 of 157 seats (66.2%) with just 38.5% of the vote.

    However, I believe the fact that Labour and the Liberal Democrats together were still eleven seats short of an absolute majority doomed the so-called “progressive coalition” right from the start: many Labour MPs were probably less than enthusiastic about a coalition with the Liberal Democrats to being with; but on top of that having to depend on the goodwill of a myriad smaller, fickle parties – many of them bitter adversaries of Labour – to achieve a parliamentary majority was perhaps too much to ask. What’s more, even if such a coalition could have been cobbled together, it would have been labeled “a coalition of losers” right from day one – and I’m almost certain that label would have stuck.

    In addition, it’s expected that the incoming “Con-Dem” coalition government will have to make some painful decisions on the economy front, and I think Labour decided it would probably be best to remain in opposition and let the government parties get clobbered on account of the unpopular measures they’ll have to enact.

    Finally, the comparison with Ireland is interesting, but I’m sure most Tories would prefer to think the current coalition government is a one time-only affair, rather than the first of many coalition cabinets to come. That said, I wouldn’t rule out the Tories having a change of heart over supporting electoral reform, given the right circumstances.

  22. Why do I foresee one or two debates here on whether the offer of an MPV Commons/STV Senate is better than the current system?

  23. by MSS elsewhere:

    That is, without major gerrymandering on a scale not practiced in the UK, unlike the USA.

    On the other hand the UK has a serious malaportionment and a considerable bias to Labour in the present boundaries. When the Conservatives spoke about electoral reform they focused on reducing the bias int he existing system. Whether that can be done with single-memebr districts is another question. The Liberal Democrats have a considerable educational task before them.

  24. “Why do I foresee one or two debates here on whether the offer of an MPV Commons/STV Senate is better than the current system?”

    Actually I generally favor using single member districts for the lower house, and proportional representation, either nationwide or with very large districts, for the upper house. That way you get two chambers with very different electoral roles -one to represent localities and one to represent national political currents.

    If you view having locally elected representatives as important, proportional representation presents a problem because at some point you need large electoral districts. The most popular way around this, combines representatives elected from single member districts and (sort of) proportional members in the same chamber. I don’t understand why they couldn’t be put in different chambers, which would scrutinize legislation differently based on the different ways they were elected.

    I’m a fan of the other solution, STV, but with 3-7 member districts its not quite as local as single member districts and not quite as proportional as systems with larger districts. But where upper chambers exist, you could make the upper chamber more proportional than STV and keep single member districts for the lower chamber. The UK happens to have an upper chamber that is in need for some method of being elected.

  25. @Ed

    I tend to disagree about the need for single member districts. Irish TDs continually complain that STV forces them to do too much constituency work and too little legislating. Tasmania, far and away the most localised of our states, has an STV house of assembly and an MPV legislative council. The last time I lived in a district held by an MHR from the party I oppose I tended to talk to a senator from the party I support. I do think the Coalition proposal would be better than the current mess in Britain.

  26. The 55% dissolution rule is fast overtaking death panels as the furphy of the decade. Indeed Andrew Sullivan excitedly gushed that because the Conservatives have 47% of MPs they can block any no confidence vote forever.

    Fixed term parliaments generally have a dissolution supermajority. They continue to defeat governments vy >50%. The excitable voices about the collapse of parliamentary democracy as we know it really should read the Scotland Act, S3(1) which has required a dissolution supermajority since it was first passed.

    On reality, the Conservative percentage means that they cannot pass a dissolution on their own and are transferring a significant power from the executive to the legislature.

  27. One of the more depressing tendencies (NPI) of British Conservatives is to dismiss proposals such as STV (used in practice for 50-100 years outside the UK and road-tested in theory in hundreds of academic works) as “untried novelties” while jumping on faddish new proposals – Clause 28, the poll tax, open primaries, recall, and now this “55% to dissolve” idea – almost overnight.

  28. By the way, now that Britain – like India, Canada and Pakistan – has a hung Parliament, on my estimation this leaves… Bangladesh as the world’s most populous FPTP-using country (#7 overall, with 162 million) with an absolute majority for the governing party in its lower house. (Putting aside the USA as a special case where there is a numerical majority but not really a disciplined party in practice).

  29. One suspects that not a lot of Tories will be pointing to the happy example of Bangladesh as proof that FPTP brings stability.

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