Do UK elections now allow fusion candidacies?

Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP, says she is considering running as a joint Conservative-Ukip candidate in the 2015 general election. She claims others might do the same, as a means to avoid a split on the right as the UK Independence Party eats away at the Tories’ right flank.

Dorries claimed having two logos on the ballot paper had been made possible by legislation passed by the coalition government, and seeking a Ukip endorsement was “something that I know MPs are looking forward and considering now”

I had missed any piece of the Conservative-LibDem coalition’s political reform program including this ballot provision. If Dorries is correct in her interpretation, does this imply that the coalition partners were trying to make it more feasible for their candidates to run jointly, back in the coalition’s rose-garden days?

15 thoughts on “Do UK elections now allow fusion candidacies?

  1. The “Coupon Election” of 1918 was a similar arrangement (though it originated top-down, with “coupons” or endorsement letters signed jointly by the two party leaders, rather than bottom-up with constituency parties endorsing a joint candidate). However in those days candidates’ party or political labels/ affiliations didn’t appear on the ballot. This would be a first.

    As far as I know, South Australia is the only State here where a candidate can have the ballot label of two or more different parties. If adopted by statute for the Senate it might play havoc with Section 15 of the Constitution, as amended 1977, which gives a Senator’s endorsing party a veto over anyone the State Parliament may later appoint to fill a vacancy in that seat. Legal problems might arise if a “Liberal/ National” Senator (from a State other than Queensland, where that refers, sans slash, to a single party) vacated and the Liberal and National Parties could not agree on a replacement.

    First-past-the-post might be nearly tolerable if each separate registered party endorsing the same candidate got its own square, so you could see how many of Ms Dorries’ votes were from Tory supporters, how many from UKIP, etc. That would diminish one of the most objectionable features of FPTP – that voters have no way of knowing for certain which party should stand down for which.

  2. Interesting points, Tom. As you may know, New York has a “fusion” FPTP system whereby parties can tell how many votes they delivered to a candidate.

  3. Yeah, I was thinking of the NY precedent where the Liberal Party would endorse the Democrat and the Conservative Party would put the Republican on its line. Also remembering how Earl Warren managed to win both the Democrat and the Republican primaries for Governor of California.

    I’m curious about the mechanics of this, presumably with all parties holding their primaries on the same day. Do, say, a plurality of registered Liberal Party supporters choose “None of the Above”, so no Liberal gets the nomination, a re-ballot is held, and they vote for the Republican winner instead? Or is it decided by the party committee?

  4. The Co-operative Party’s candidates run as “Labour & Cooperative” (it describes itself as a sister party to Labour).


    In certain areas from the 1930s until the 1960s, the National Liberal and Conservative parties would make local arrangements to run joint candidates, and these would officialy be Conservative-Liberal on the ballot-in order to defeat the local Labour Party.,5753,-2144,00.html

    Could this be what Dorries meant, rather than a US-style fusion?

  5. > “would officially be Conservative-Liberal on the ballot”

    The UK only adopted ballot labels in the early 1970s, and these were voluntary “gentleman’s agreements” until persistent perceived abuse (culminating in the “Literal [sic] Democrat” rort of 1994, though I suppose Screaming Lord Sutch’s Monster Raving Loony Party was probably also a long-running irritant) led the Blair Govt to introduce official registration of parties, with in turn the legal right to control who used their ballot designations.

    My understanding, open to correction, is that before ballot labels, candidates’ affiliations were publicized via paid advertisements in newspapers, and that in some cases where few newspapers have survived or there are conflicting news reports, historians and psephologists actually have some trouble working out exactly how a particular candidate (especially one who wasn’t elected) identified him or herself and was publicly perceived.

  6. Let me call attention here to Jaffr. at comment #1, who notes the amendment to the ballot law was passed earlier in 2013.

    (This comment was caught up in the blog’s moderation queue till now.)

  7. Here is the text (see Jaffr’s link):

    After paragraph (2A) insert—

    “(2AA)If a candidate who is the subject of an authorisation by two or more parties under rule 6A(1B) so requests, the ballot paper shall contain, against the candidate’s particulars, the registered emblem (or, as the case may be, one of the registered emblems) of one of those parties.”

    I am not sure I am understanding this correctly, but this does not seem to be consistent with Dorries’ interpretation of “having two logos on the ballot paper”.

  8. I think the key thing in being a Conservative-UKIP candidate might not be in having both of their emblems, but in not having an UKIP opponent to siphon votes from the right.

    Of course, she can call herself “Conservative-UKIP” all she wants, but if the UKIP Constituency Party (from what I’ve heard, they’re mostly doctrinaire libertarians and extreme Eurosceptics even beyond their national leaders) don’t preselect her as their candidate, that idea is pretty much DOA. I’m not sure of UKIP’s preselection procedure (it hasn’t really been relevant before), but I know for the Lib Dems, you have to be on a centrally-approved list of eligible candidates before a constituency party can preselect you, and you have to pass through an intensive interview and background check process. If UKIP has such a structure, their leadership may block Tories from gaining their preselection.

    Does anyone know if Labour & Co-operative candidates have a different ballot emblem than Labour candidates not endorsed by the Co-operative Party? It’s also worth noting that membership in the Co-operative Party does not ensure that a Labour candidate will also be a Co-operative nominee–I understand a large part of the Labour caucus are Co-op Party members, but most of them are not “Labour and Co-operative” candidates.

  9. UKIP’s candidates for Parliament and MEP do indeed seem to need National Executive Committee Approval before being placed on the ballot:

    Some of the candidates that get through primaries here in the states really make me wish this kind of selection procedure in the US (at least in Texas, a political party cannot stop anyone who can either pay the filing fee or present a petition with enough signatures from standing in its primary, or from voting in its primary; I believe the latter is in response to the former state-mandated whites-only Democratic primary when the Democratic Party was the only one that mattered).

    It’s resulted in somewhat embarrassing situations, such as when a candidate named ‘Yarbrough’ nearly was the Democratic Senate nominee (many voters apparently believed he was the son of Senator Ralph Yarborough, despite the differently-spelled surnames), or the two primary victories of Kesha Rogers, a LaRouchian who wants to impeach the president, as the Democratic nominee for one of the Congressional districts (having the same first name as a famous pop star actually can make a difference, sadly).

  10. UKIP did admit during the recent local election campaign that it did not fully vet its candidates, due to (it was claimed) resource limitations. A few candidates had BNP links, which were embarrassing to the party. The implication is that the UKIP does indeed have a national approval process in place, whether or not it is effective. Nigel Farage, the party leader, assured that for EP and parliamentary elections, the screening would be more thorough.

    (The above is based on recollections of some news stories I read in late April and early May.)

  11. Chris @9: “but in not having an UKIP opponent to siphon votes from the right.”

    Good point. However, given voluntary voting (something that, I have to confess, I – and a lot of other Australian commentators – sometimes forget to factor in), simple absence of a UKIP candidate won’t move all, or even necessarily many, UKIP voters to switch to a Conservative. Assuming the Kipper polled 12%, it may be that – if she or he hadn’t stood – 5% would have turned out for the Conservative instead, 4% stayed home (given how annoyed many of the Faragists seem to be with Cameron), and 3% turned out for Labour instead.
    (Australians, marinated in compulsory voting with mandatory full preferences, sometimes tend to add the UKIP 12% to the Tory’s 35% and assume that this would have inevitably beaten a Labour candidate’s 42% in the absence of a split vote. Even under compulsory voting with mandatory full preferences, at best 10% of that 12% would flow from, say, Liberal to National. The famously disciplined DLP still had one-fifth of its voters putting the ALP second despite very bad blood between the two parties).
    IOW, moving the second and third groups into the Conservative column would require active support – ideally, endorsement – by the UKIP machine, locally and/or centrally.

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