Friday, May 04, 2007

The elections

Due to a mixture of exhaustion and illness I decided against a live blog and instead just watched the results on the television last night. My thoughts in brief:

* A lot was made by both Labour & the Liberal Democrats and BBC commentators that once again the Conservatives failed to win seats in Manchester and Liverpool. Whilst this is true, it overlooks the fact that both these councils are comparatively small, focusing on the inner city urban area and there are Conservative councillors (I was very glad to see that Iain Lindley was re-elected in Salford - Cllr Iain Lindley: Thank you!) and even Conservative controlled councils within the metropolises. The Conservative success in Birmingham was built up over time by working inwards from the outer suburbs - but Birmingham is a council that covers both inner and outer suburbs.

* The Conservatives now control 20 councils in the North, more than Labour. Blackpool was a particularly astounding landslide. Let's here no more of this rubbish that the Liberal Democrats are the only challengers to Labour in the North!

* The Conservative gains in the Welsh Assembly were encouraging, although the inanity of the Additional Member System, whereby some of the constituency gains merely cancelled out top-up list members, makes me wonder whether this system really responds to voters. Similarly some of the Labour losses were compensated by the lists. We now have a situation where Wales can either have a Labour minority administration, a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition or a rainbow Plaid-Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. Much rests on what the Lib Dems decide, so it could come down to whether or not Michael German gets to be Deputy First Minister.

* Scotland looks scary - are we seeing the death knell for the Union? I hope that if the SNP form a government they will govern Scotland in its best interests and not run it into the ground just to stir up support for independence. But I'm sceptical.

* The huge number of spoilt ballot papers in Scotland is rightly concerning many. Having so many different voting systems at once, including some that are new to the voters, is a recipe for disaster. In 2004 London voters were given a first past the post ballot (for the constituency Assembly Member), an Additional Member System ballot (for the top-up list Assembly Members) which is not a second choice, a Supplementary Vote ballot paper (for the Mayor of London) which is a second choice and a party list ballot paper (for the Members of the European Parliament). I don't doubt many though the top-up list ballot was a "second choice", especially when they were given a second choice ballot at the same time. Similarly in Newham last year voters could easily have been confused by the council ballot paper (requiring up to three Xs) and the Mayor (requiring a 1 and a 2). Something needs to be done about the plethora of voting systems in this country, either by separating out elections or moving to using fewer systems. Would it be so wrong to scrap all the Additional Member System ballots and replace them with Single Transferable Vote?

* The English local council elections look encouraging. In my home borough of Epsom & Ewell the Labour Party have been finally wiped out of the council chamber, whilst across the country several friends have been successfully elected.

That's it for now but I'll comment again when the shape of the Scottish and Welsh Executives become clear.

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