A recent poll showed the Tories with 33%, the Lib Dems with 30%, and Labor with 28%. If this is exactly what happens on election day, there will be about 245 Tory seats, 275 Labor seats, and 99 Lib Dems, according to this calculator.
How does that all work?
I think it means that John McCain becomes PM.
Simple. Conservatives and Labor both have “stronghold” seats, as well as seats where they’re essentially non-existent, while the Lib Dems have their vote spread pretty evenly across the country.
Also, it seems that strong Labor seats typically have low turnout, because they’re full of immigrants, minorities, and low-income people, who don’t usually turn out in high numbers. Conservative strongholds are more affluent, so they correspond to higher turnout.
Several stories on the tightening UK election:
Talking Points Memo
And the reader-friendly version of the Liberal-Democratic Party Platform
Imagine how it would feel if your party had the most votes but the other party still took power somehow.
Thank goodness that kind of thing could never happen here.
No future for you.
First-past-the-post can produce some strange results. Think of the gerrymandering that Tom Delay did in Texas:
Don’t blame me. I’m voting for Norsefire.
Except maybe another council tenancy.
And in the Canadian election that resulted in Tories, Party of Two (i.e 2 seats out of a potential 308), they actually got 16% of the total vote, which didn’t work out to 49 seats.
Nationwide polls don’t tell you much about what happens in Parliamentary elections. What happens at the riding/borough level is crucial.
For your edification: a sober-minded explanation of the British electoral process and a succint illustration of the concept of a “rotten borough” (part 1 of 3, you can find the other two segments yourself as I dare not risk three links here.)
The U.K. is not blessed with Faux/Pravda and a corporate owned MSM that is more than happy to transcribe fairly unbalanced talking points. Corporate Oligarchy is perhaps not the best form of government unless you’re pretty high up in the food chain.
I read an article in the Guardian about the election. This might be an interesting race. The polls seem to be running about even among the three parties. The LibDems are all fired up now and going all out to get their “peeps” registered to vote.
According to the article, a number of people are rather disappointed in the traditional parties and are willing to give the new kids a chance. We will have to watch and see.
When I first heard this, I wondered why in the fuck Johnny Rotten was singing about Tennessee.
Q: What did Johnny Rotten say to the hapless interior designer?
A: No fuchsia, no fuchsia for you!
According to a poll in the UK Daily Mail (a rag, but a fun one at times), Liberal Democrat candidate Nick Clegg actually leads all candidates in a recent poll. This is the first time that the Liberals have been in the lead in 104 years.
Note that much of this lead has been the result of Clegg’s performance in Britain’s first televised prime minister candidate debate, a variant of our presidential debates.
If this holds up, Labor will be able to put together a winning coalition and retain power.
In other international news, the memorial for the Polish president has drawn as many as 100,000 mourners. Some moving photos can be found here.
Labour is popular in the urban areas, the North and the Northwest, the Tories are strong in the South and Southeast; the Lib Dems are popular (or not, as the case may be) all over the country. The Tories barely even exist in Scotland and, to a lesser extent, in Wales. Northern Ireland has their own parties.
Beyond that, all Parliament constituencies are essentially gerrymandered by Parliament itself. In the U.S.’s federal system, that is done by state legislatures, but devolution (and the elimination of “extra” Scottish and Welsh seats) has only recently happened (and not in England), so all (roughly 630) seat boundaries are essentially decided upon, with advice, by the MP’s themselves. Imagine if Congress did re-districting with virtually no effective judicial review and you’d have the British system. Do you think, over the long term, that the Dems and the Reps would draw district lines favorably for a third party? Neither have Labour or the Conservatives; albeit the Lib Dems have been historically weak since 1922 and it hasn’t really mattered until recently (and Nick Clegg dazzling in the debate).
How’s the MRLP doing?
I’m very British-politics uneducated.
Could someone explain what the policy differences between the Labor party and the Liberal Democrats are? I get that the Labor party roughly aligns with progressives here and the Tories are roughly like the blue dogs.
For all you Duke-haters out there, normal service has been restored.
Duke 13, No. 1 ranked and previously undefeated Virginia 9. And it wasn’t as close as the score suggests.
Have at it.
Huh? Rupert Murdoch has owned the Times of London and the Sunday Times since 1981. Although there is a supposedly independent board between Murdoch and editorial, there have been tensions:
Murdoch, by the way, has announced plans to put the Times behind a paywall, as he is doing with other media assets.
Single ballot, first-past-the-post elections.
If one candidate gets more votes than anyone else in a local contest, they win. Regardless as to whether they actually took a majority (50%+1) of votes. National parties in these systems, therefor, get more benefit out of just having the sufficient votes at the district level to eek out a win against the other parties. The more districts like this they have, the better they do nationally. It works the same way in the United States.
Say there was a third party in the U.S., and one of its candidates got 40% of the vote in a district, the Democrat got 45%, and the Republican got 15%. In another district, a different third party candidate got 40%, the Republican got 45%, and the Democrat got 15%. The result is that the Democrats got one seat, the Republicans got one seat, and the Third Party got zilch.
In more proportional systems, you have simple majority runoff (or multiple ballot) voting. This means that if no candidate hits 50%+1, the candidate with the least votes is dropped and everyone votes again. Using the above example, in the first district the Republican would be dropped, and the Third Party candidate and the Democrat would fight for 50%+1.
In that system you have no spoiler candidates or wasted votes because, at least in theory, everyone’s vote counts. On the plus side: you get more political parties. On the negative side: you get more political parties.
Mets 2, Cardinals 1 in 20 innings.
Coalition government, I imagine. I know one of the party leaders said he was not interested in a coalition government, but he has been walking that back recently.
What it really means is that they’ll be having another election in the next three years.
Is it a given that the Lib Dems and Labor would form a coalition government? I thought parliamentary systems did this all the time, but I guess it’s somewhat of a rarity in the UK.
I think Gordon Brown secretly wishes he lose outright if his only alternative is placating Clegg enough to get the Lib Dems on board.
You know what would really be amusing? If the Tories agreed to Clegg’s demands first, and he and Cameron agreed to form a coalition government. It would, of course, never happen. But the ensuing riot between Lib Dem and Labour backbenchers, each racing to see who could strangle Clegg first, would make for fantastic television.
While the Tories are pretty simple to grok – they’re akin to Republicans here in the U.S. – it gets trickier trying to describe the difference between the Labour and the Lib Dems.
Lib Dems are the remnants of the original Liberals party from the early 1920s. Back then, Labour was the Third Party group who tended to be more union-friendly and more SOCIALIST ZOMG. What happened was the post-WWI turmoil in the political spectrum left Labour as the better-organized of the two factions, so when a left-leaning government needed to be formed the Liberals allowed Labour to choose who would serve as Prime Minister (Ramsey MacDonald). The Libs haven’t kept us since.
There’s really very little difference between Lib Dems and Labour: in theory, Labour is more Socialist/Leftist of the two, but in practice especially since Blair’s Third Way term of office Labour has shifted more centrist. I think the real difference is that the Lib Dems are solidly anti-war, pro-privacy rights.
The possibility of the Liberals making a comeback seems limited: do they have enough candidates in enough districts to pull off an upset? However, it’s looking as though the voting public are neither in the mood to keep Labour in power another term, nor are they convinced the Conservatives are the right people to take over Parliament. The recent three-way debate gave Lib-Dem Clegg the ‘victory’ which doesn’t sound well for the Tories. Most likely scenario now is that the Conservatives will win a slim majority of seats, but that Labour and the Libs pool their numbers and form a verrrrrrry fragile coalition government.
@BR: I wouldn’t say Labour “roughly aligns with progressives” in the US: Blair transformed Labour to compete with the Conservative party on the right, so Labour is now aligned with big business, an enthusiastic backer of the Iraq war, “tough” (i.e. vicious) on crime, rolling out a national identity card scheme, etc. It retains some left-wing credentials such as a tolerance for the unions and support for the minimum wage (until Blair got in, the UK didn’t have a minimum wage), but it’s far from progressive.
The LibDems are actually a much closer match for progressives: for example, the LibDems plan to reduce defence spending (e.g. not replacing Britain’s aging Trident nuclear weapons) and instead funnel the money into hospitals, universities, etc.; would remove income tax from the first GBP10000 of income and increase taxes on extremely high earners; and so on.
The BBC has a comparison of the three main UK parties’ policies on various areas — probably a bit more detail than you want, but the “key priorities” summaries may be helpful.
The fun part is that Brown pledged awhile back that if he enters a coalition government with the Lib Dems he will move forward on some form of proportional representation or runoff voting (can’t remember which). So if there’s a minority government, with the Lib Dems as kingmaker (so to speak, given that the UK is an actual monarchy) some such move towards real multiparty elections will presumably be the lowest price the Lib Dems will require in return for their support.
From 5500 or so miles away, it seems like the choice in the UK is between an exhausted, morally bankrupt New Labour; a glib and vacuous Cameron heading a party that beneath his thin veneer is still the same old Thatcherite greedheads (and, worse, the anti-immigrant, anti-gay spiteheads); and the well-meaning but perpetually meaningless Lib Dems. If I were a Brit, I suspect that I’d prefer a Lib Dem government, albeit not knowing much about the Lib Dems other than the old jokes, but knowing that no Lib Dem government would ever happen I might feel compelled to pull the lever for (shudder) the dregs of New Labour, just to keep the Tories out.
So maybe liberal democrats are in line with Bernie Sanders, labor is in line with Diane Feinstein, and the tories are in line with Evan Bayh? (Sorry, maybe I’m taking the analogies too far.)
Bill E Pilgrim
You’ve clearly never read the Times of London.
@BR: I don’t get enough of the nuances of US politics to comment on your analogy, but yeah, the LibDems would certainly be at the Bernie Sanders end of things. Between Labour and the Tories, there’s a lot of common ground now (neoliberal, authoritarian, deregulatory, privatising), though Labour tends to be more centralising and more socially liberal (e.g. on gay rights). Labour are kinda Clinton Democrats and the Tories are kinda pre-batshit-era Republicans… does that make sense?
My understanding is that the Lib Dems are more like what David Broder tries to be than they’re like Bernie Sanders – albeit shifted in accordance with the British political spectrum and probably more socially liberal. They’re the upright wonkish sensible centrists of Britain, disgusted with the political maneuverings and ideologies of both main parties. The Lib Dems are certainly not to the left of Old Labour, although figuring out where to place Blair’s New Labour on the political spectrum is less trivial. Maybe Blair really did manage to lap the Lib Dems.
Bill E Pilgrim
Actually Labour aligns with progressives about as much as the Democratic party does. Which is to say it includes some, but Blue Dogs are more what make up Labour, think Tony Blair for instance. Pro-war, despised by progressives, and so on.
Sounds just about right.
@Mark S.: I can’t remember a time when we’ve had a formal coalition govt here in Canada either. There tend to be alliances and agreements worked out to achieve some kind of working arrangement with another party, but they don’t tend to caucus together.
This is different than in places like Italy and Israel, where they have umpteen different parties, and if they couldn’t form some kind of coalition, the party with the most seats would be unable to form a government.
Oh, and regarding popular vote vs. number of seats. It depends a lot on regional vs national support for a party (among other things)
The PQ gets a disproportionate number of seats compared to their share of the popular vote because they are strictly a regional party (Quebec). Same happened with the Reform party – solid base of support in Alberta and a few other places resulted in more seats than you would have expected.
The NDP, on the other hand, gets a fairly decent percent of the popular vote, but doesn’t win a lot of seats because their support is spread across the country.
How does that all work?
I’m a bit puzzled why Brits have put up with the FPP system for so long. I looked on Wikipedia, and there hasn’t been government that received a majority of the votes since at least 1970 (which is where I stopped clicking). Several governments have even been formed by parties that received less than 40% of the vote.
@PeakVT: A situation like this is pretty much inevitable in a multi-party system.
Doesn’t it make Lib Dems the Olympia Snowe Party?
No one in Europe is an conservative as the Blue Dogs on social issues – not even the Tories. European politics is not comparable to American politics. Let’s face it, Dems are more conservatives than most European politicians. THey might align on some issues but on social issues, Europeans are generally more progressive.
@Anya: Just last year David Cameron said the Tories were “the party of the NHS.”
Bill E Pilgrim
@Anya: There’s no one-to-one comparison, I agree. I was really just trying to say that Blue Dogs are not the Tories as the commenter had suggested– but no one really is.
Not all Blue Dogs are the same about social issues either, some are more conservative about fiscal and tax issues.
Well, there’s no comparison as you just said, so there’s no way to make a blanket statement like that. It depends on what you mean by conservative. Sarkozy is far more “liberal” in American terms than most Democrats about the death penalty, universal health care, and so on. On the other hand he’s very right wing about immigration and other issues, and considerably to the right of Obama on foreign policy as we’ve seen recently.
@Warren Terra: I don’t think the Liberal Democrats have a good analogue in the US system.
The BBC website PPOG Penguin linked to earlier does a great job comparing the positions of all three parties on the major issues.
I think you are correct that the Liberal Dems identify as technocratic but they don’t really land between the Conservatives and Labour as Broder-style centrism might imply.
Libs to the left of Labour on:
breaking up/regulating the banks,
some econ policy,
defense issues and foreign policy,
the environment (esp. climate change)
Libs to the right of Labour on:
some econ policy,
Both parties are on the centre-left but have different agendas and strategies for acheiving those goals.
Actually, I would compare the LDs not with David Broder but with the blogger Matthew Yglesias with whom they seem to agree on everything except immigration.
I would really, really, like to hear from any Brits out there about the impressions actual voters have of the Liberal Democrats. How do most people in the UK think the LD would actually govern? Do people think they are secretly more conservative/liberal than they imply?
The funny thing about Labour and the Lib-Dems is that the Lib-Dems used to be the party in the middle, sort of the Reform Party in our completely-simplistic-analogy game. Then Blair moved Labour to the right, while the Lib-Dems stayed where they were…and now, they’re really to the left of Labour on a number of issues.
The Tories, meanwhile, have stayed resolutely where they are, though in this election, they appear to be trying very hard to take no positions whatsoever, lest they offend anyone who might want to vote for “change,” but who doesn’t want to vote for a Conservative.
If you get KCET, the PBS station in Los Angeles, you need to be in front of your teevee. “The T.A.M.I. Show” is on.
The Tories are not a true national party. They are very strong in rural and suburban England but they are weak in Wales and they barely exist in Scotland – there they are the fourth most popular party (after Labour, Lib Dems, and Scottish Nationalist, not necessarily in that order). So that’s 59 seats that they are virtually shut out of (they may take one or two). Labour victories are always built on the Scottish base. This year Labour’s fear is that left wing of the Scottish electorate will desert them and vote for the SNP, which could throw many constituencies to the Lib Dems.
Ebert’s tale of penning a script for a Russ Meyer directed Sex Pistols movie is crazy beautiful.
Another thing with the Scottish situation is that the SNP, while a classical nationalist party in some sense, that they are aiming for full independence, actually is a solid social-democratic party in almost everything else, and very well positioned to pick up a lot of votes from Labour.
In any case, the polls must have scared the shit out of both the Conservatives and Labour. Not only for the current elections, but if the numbers hold, it could well mean the end of FPTP and the hold the two parties have had on the goverment since WWI. If there’s a hung parliament, the LibDems will extract some electoral reform towards proportional representation as their price for a coalition, and, if what it looks like at the moment, they will get about the same percentage of the vote as Labour and the Tories but less than half their number of seats, if will be very hard to sell to the public not to move towards PR. Both Labour and the Tories will work very hard to avoid PR (to the point where that if there is a coalition government with the LibDems, make the government fall when the LibDems are low in the polls and before election reform has gone through), because that means their duopoly is over.
Why don’t those two get together just to prevent PR and then force new elections?
I know that Clegg has been denying wanting a coalition government but he has to. If he admits it before the election, then voters will cast strategic votes for the big two instead.
From a cultural anthropological perspective, it is interesting to note that the Tory strongholds (Sussex, Hampshire, East Anglia) are the same protestant strongholds that generated the first couple generations of Yankee settlers. The place names of the villages correspond quite closely to rural New England. So you can think of Tories as being similar to Yankee Republicans, albeit with somewhat stronger monarchist tendencies.
Edmund in Tokyo
This is completely wrong.
Recently some people in the US have been getting this mistaken impression from a clueless article by Renard Sexton, 538’s
correspondent on all American politics based on Puerto RicaEuropean correspondent based in Geneva. If you ever read his pieces, make sure you also read the comments underneath where people who actually know something about Britain explain what’s actually going on.
The commission that sets the boundaries is independent, and takes representations from all interested parties, without any particular input from the MPs. The system works against the LibDems because their vote is widely spread, not because the constituencies themselves are gerrymandered. If the process wasn’t fair, rest assured that the LibDems would be crying blue murder, which they’re not.
At least they don’t have to deal with the fact that their Tories, unlike our Republicans, are stark raving insane.
The splendid little democracy of Britain
– No written constitution
– No elected head of state
– head of government that may or may not have been sanctioned by the elctorate
– election system that condemns a party to utter irrelevance in parliament if it manages 20 % of the votes, while at the same time awarding a crushing majority of seats to a party that amasses a mid 30ish percentage of the votes
My bad – what would we do without those zany Australians ?
Here’s a tout sheet for your handicapping pleasure.
Caecilius est pater
It’s important to remember that, like most political parties, the Lib Dems have two wings: the economic liberals, the heirs to the nineteenth-century Liberal Party, and the social liberals, whose emphasis, on social justice derives from the short-lived Social Democratic Party, founded by disenchanted Labour moderates in 1981 and which formally merged with the Liberal Party in 1988. Generally, the latter faction has carried the day, but there were internal debates within the party a few years ago as to whether it ought to follow a more classically liberal course – especially in those constituencies in the south of England where the Lib Dems compete directly with the Tories rather than Labour.
Electoral boundaries are set by the non-partisan Boundary Commission which gets its funding from the Ministry of Justice. MPs have no say in the process whatsoever.
Their guidelines are to follow county and town council boundaries whenever possible. The public has an opportunity to weigh in on it as well. It’s considered a very fair system; the Commission, process and results are highly respected.
Here is their website: Boundary Commission of England
Canada and New Zealand have similar systems. In Canada it is handled by non-partisan government agency Elections Canada. Elections Canada: Redistribution of Electoral Districts
The explanation of first-past-the-post above is pretty good, and doesn’t need much, but I always like to point out that the same kind of weirdness is also possible in the US even with only two parties.
I’m too lazy to do the math, but suppose we turn the clock back to 2000 and give Gore 80-20 victories in all the blue states, and Bush 51-49 victories in the red states. Bush still becomes the president, but he probably gets only 35-40% of the popular vote.
And of course, there’s the ten’ll-get-you-forty phenomenon in the Senate.
Any place that has regionally allotted political representation can show this kind of outcome if support for certain political parties is regionally disparate.
@toujoursdan: Far as I am concerned, Elections Canada is a national treasure – and I am deeply grateful for it every time I watch an American national election.
@Lurking Canadian: In the US, that that effect is strengthened by the electoral college system – winning the majority in one state gives you all the electoral college votes for that state. Sounds like first-past-the-post to me.
Scott de B.
What I don’t understand is why the Lib Dems, or at least a large bloc of them, never attempted to merge with Labour or the Tories. You’d think being out of power for decades would encourage some compromise. Wouldn’t it be better to get power and enact 50% of your program than sit on the sidelines forever? Are the Lib Dems just waiting patiently for the British voters to come to their senses? And if you’re a British Lib Dem voter, wouldn’t it make more sense to join one of the other parties and work to get your agenda passed that way, rather than wait for some blue moon event?
@Scott de B.: A third party can actually have a fair bit of influence over the agenda in a minority government situation, if they can credibly threaten to force a new election.
It would be great to see the UK, US and Canada switch to the Mix Member Proportional system with a single transferable vote like they have in Germany and New Zealand. That would force the major parties to compromise and form coalitions with minor parties.
But it will never happen. The major parties would never give up their power.
Scott de B.
True, but that only works if there is a minority government. If the LibDems were a bloc within Labour, say, they could exert a fair bit of influence at all times.
And if they joined with Labour, Labour would win every election, all thanks to the LibDem presence. They could be like the Blue Dogs.
Scott de B.
So the LibDem support is more tactical than anything else? That’s a good argument against proportional or runoff voting. The LibDems could get a lot of seats that way from voters who aren’t committed to their platform.
@Scott de B.: Not so much – because the MPs in a party vote as a block, (except under very unusual circumstances), they have some influence within caucus, but not when bills come to the floor. In Canada, we had free votes on abortion, capital punishment and same-sex marriage, but that’s about it. In a parliamentary system, there is a lot more party discipline than in Congress.
Cool UK Election links:
The Guardian has a great and frequently updated site dedicated to the election.
Also from the Guardian, a really fun tool which allows the user to see how different election outcomes would look on a map of Britain.
Finally, a story today detailing how the Liberal Dems are targeting younger voters while the Conservatives are focused on the older and more affluent.
I don’t know enough about Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democratic leader, but it is obvious he would never survive in American politics…
Clegg is an open and unabashed Atheist.
His wife is Spanish, insists she will never assume British citizenship, and they are raising their children to be bi-lingual.
Clegg himself speaks five languages.
Clegg has lived in the United States, Austria, Finland, and Belgium.
Clegg is an avid skier and worked as a ski instructor when he was younger. (elitist photos to follow)
Clegg was active in student theater and campaigning for the rights of threatened indigenous peoples while in college.
While a student in the United States Clegg wrote his thesis on the political philosophy of the ‘deep green movement’ and interned at The Nation magazine.
Toujorsdan: False. Gerrymandering in the U.K is accomplished pursuant to the Parliament Constituencies Act of 1986 (as amended) and the Boundary Commissions Act of 1992. Rather obviously, Parliament has something to do with the process. And, as I stated, the “advice” is given by numerous Boundary Commissions (not just the one for England, to which you refer) and is implemented – pursuant to Parliamentary direction. The parliamentary parties, once again obviously, have every incentive to ensure that loyal members on the various commissions protect their parties’ interests.
With the new devolution schemes, this system is relatively new, only taking effect in its current form in 2002. Prior to 2002, there were similar advisory “commissions” – a period from 1992-2002 in which the Boundary Commissions resembled their current form, and prior to 1992, when they didn’t. They are “independent” in the sense that they now are funded by the very-new Ministry of Justice (formerly the Home Office), which, of course, is part of the government (either Tory or Labour since 1918). The statute, however, requires the commissions to render their reports to the government, which, pursuant to Parliamentary statute, then implements recommended changes (usually for the next election).
The Liberals and the SDP, of course, DID make this a huge issue and, arguably, were the impetus behind the new “independent” commissions. Only minor changes have been made since the system went operational in 2002.
So, the actual boundaries of MP constituencies are historically based on a system that allowed gerrymandering – not federally – by the major parties in Parliament (Tories and Labour). If you believe that the new Commissions are “independent” or are more independent than prior commissions, then you can believe that gerrymandering doesn’t exist in the U.K. I prefer to recognize the reality that gerrymandering does exist, has existed and has worked to the benefit of the Conservative and Labour parties for almost a century. The new systems and commissions, now housed in a new ministry, are designed to work as you say – I have yet to see any proof that they do, in fact, work.
:Geek Alert!: So, I’ve actually watched this closely, even watching the first-ever Leaders’ debate in UK history (C-SPAN3 FTW!), and some things need to be said.
One, the numbers DougJ brings up are based on Universal National Swing (UNS) calculations. UNS is the best way to do it, but it might be useless here. More on that shortly.
As for the Lib Dems, it’s a stunning development. Reading UK news right now borders on the hilarious, in that they’re utterly stupified. Understand that in 1992, the newly-formed Liberal Democrats (a merger of the old Liberal Party and SDP) had around 13% of the votes. In ’05, thanks partially to Iraq, they earned 22% of the vote, which gave them 62 (out of 650) MPs.
The Lib Dems started this campaign at 20%, but they had some things going for them. Given the “vagaries” of “first-past-the-post,” the Tories have to beat Labour by, oh, AT LEAST 5-6% to have any shot at having most seats in Parliament, and likely need a 7+% margin for a thin majority. Polls showed this would be dicey, perhaps giving you a “hung parliament” in which case Nick Clegg (Lib. leader) and the LDs are kingmakers.
David Cameron, Tory leader, was named leader in Fall/Winter ’05. He’s young, telegenic, etc. He ought to be the Change guy. Two problems.
First, the Expenses scandal, which primarily hit Labour and the Tories. It also has Brits clamoring for something new.
Two, well, Nick Clegg became LD leader in ’07, but until the debate, it’s likely 40% of the public never heard of him. Post-debate, he’s “Mr. Change.” And people like him.
Brown (who’s old, intellectually dead, and a prick) and Cameron both agreed to the debates many months. Brown thought it was his best chance to knock Cameron off; Cameron thought he could deliver the final knockout punch while looking like a PM. Oh, yeah, Clegg would be there too, but so what? Oops.
Under UNS, yes Labour could finish THIRD in the popular vote, and still have the most seats. To say that would be a debacle is an understatement.
But UNS never counted on the Lib Dems making a huge surge like this. Indeed, this is (temporarily) uncharted territory, and has blown normal calculations up.
Now, is this just a fleeting phenomenon? Maybe so, in which case, “carry on.” OTOH, if this momentum continued, then a political earthquake would be in the cards.
BTW: As to why the LDs don’t just join Labour, two things. One, blame Labour. After the ’97 landslide, Blair decided he didn’t need the Lib Dems, so no coalition and backtracking on electoral reforms. Two, while northern LDs are closer to Labour, southern LDs have some Tory in them, so all out joining Labour won’t happen.
BTW: Lib Dems lead in popular vote. Second poll to show this.
Just a note that NZ doesn’t have STV, only “pure” MMP (1 party vote + 1 electorate vote) although that is likely to change in a few years after we have a referrendum on whether to change our voting system again.
One of the more valid objections to voting systems other than FPP is that they all have their own quirks that can quite dramatically skew the results in favour of some small parties over others at the margins of the electoral vote (usually due to how they handle additional seats beyond the first electoral seat.) It’s rare that these results affect the major parties to any degree, but given that most forms of proportional representation result in coalition governments, having a small party with 5 or 6 members in the coalition can fundamentally change the character of the resulting government. There’s a lot of debate around which system works best, but they all have flaws that need to be taken into account.
Of course, it doesn’t help that the number of MPs has somehow become entwined conceptually with the voting system here in NZ for the general public, so that a majority of people object to any non-FPP system on the spurious assumption that it will reduce the number of MPs overall (which is bizarrely assumed to be a good thing.)