The Poll of Polls now show the Tories on 33% with Lib Dem and Labour on 29%. One poll shows Labour in third place.
I plugged this into the BBC seat calculator, and with our ever-entertaining First Past the Post system, this gives Labour the most seats in parliament, followed by the Conservatives, with the Lib Dems coming into a poor third.
What a farce of a system that is! One can argue the merits of proportionality, but a voting system which changes the ultimate ranking of the parties being voted for truly is broken.
The reason for this is that Labour seats tend to be held with small majorities, Conservative with large majorities, and Lib Dem with very large majorities. Once you’ve got more votes than anyone else, an extra vote doesn’t translate to an extra seat.
A Sun newspaper poll, carried out after the TV debate, suggests Labour are in third place on 28%, with the Lib Dems on 30% and the Conservatives 33%.
Applying the figures from The Sun poll, which came from a YouGov survey of 1,290 people, to the BBC News website’s election seat calculator, results in the following: Labour 276 seats; Conservatives 245 seats; Lib Dems 100 seats; Others 29 seats.
Put aside whether this poll is ‘real’ or not, but look at the outcome it’d give. Truly, this is a broken system – when a third place party can get more seats than any other party, something is wrong. I’m not an advocate for true proportionality for various reasons, my preference is STV, but this is just a perverse outcome.
So, we’ve now had our first leader’s debate in the UK, and honestly, it was better than I expected. The leaders did look nervous at the start, but that’s to be expected given the situation.
Of course this American style is quite artificial, we don’t elect Brown or Cameron or Clegg (unless they happen to be your prospective MP) – we elect an MP – the PM becomes PM indirectly.
The rules did get in the way a few times, for example when the timing rules caused the moderator to jump around between the leaders in a way more akin to University Challenge in a tense final. I really didn’t like that the audience were totally silent, except when asking questions – it just wasn’t natural.
None of the leaders said anything particularly memorable, not one of them has even a tenth of the charisma of Obama, if they did they’d make mincemeat of the others. I’m writing this the next day, and I’m really struggling to recall any specifics. This is rather disappointing.
Throughout the debate, there were tracking polls taking place. The guardian produced this graph:
This poll was produced by asking a sample of people to rate each leader as they spoke. I know this is often done with a dial, which is rotated to the right for approval, and the left for disapproval – not sure how it was done here. The combined responses of this instant survey were were used to produce the graph. It’s clear that Nick Clegg went down best of all (although it remains to be seen in this affects the polls). The graphs all return to zero at the end as the debate finished.
For me, the leaders relied far too much on personal anecdote. It was a style which seemed quite false, like a standup comedian telling a shaggy dog story ‘I was walking down the street one day, and a man came up to me… true story… and said…’.
David Cameron made direct reference to his son. Though these are tragic circumstances and the events will have given him insight into the NHS, I’m sorry to say that it did feel rather exploitative. I’m sure that it wasn’t meant like that, after all, it was the man’s son – but that’s how it played.
Gordon Brown didn’t make the mistake of trying to smile too much. It simply doesn’t work for him. He did appear the most prime-ministerial, but given that he is the prime-minister, that’s to be expected.
Though Clegg genuinely did well, he did make a classic error at the start by referring to the other leaders as ‘these two’, it made it look like he didn’t remember their names. There was an episode of ‘West Wing’ when Bartlett is being coached not to refer to his opponent by name , and he responded angrily that not to do so would make him look silly. Brown and Cameron each didn’t know where to look, Clegg had thought through whether he was addressing the camera or the audience, and he didn’t try to do both at the same time.
Cameron’s closing speech was directly referencing JFK, I thought – ‘ask not what your Conservative Party can do for you….’ okay, he didn’t say that, but it did have that flavour.
Brown talked of reforming this or that, but didn’t address the fundamental issue of why his government had not done that yet. Beware of a fully elected Lords if elected on the same basis as the commons. I’d rather have three member constituencies with one member elected every three elections (thus each lord has a 15-ish year term). This gives a chamber which reflects the wishes of the country without mirroring the commons, it gives individual lords a longer time-frame so they can act without reference to the whip if need be, as well as giving the electorate influence in the short term.
Of course, each party is saying that their guy ‘won’. I really don’t see how the Conservatives can say that (except by relating to heightened expectations).
Tonight will make the first leader’s debate. I hope it’ll be a riveting piece of drama. Something needs to spice up this awfully dull election.
There are seventy-six rules governing the debates (including that the audience cannot react during the debate and that the leaders will shake hands at the end). I do hope that the rules will provide a framework, rather than a strait-jacket for the debates. Rule 49 could be critical: "The moderator may then open the discussion to free debate between the leaders for up to 4 minutes on merit.".
Once the debate starts, if the rules are broken, what can they do? If one member of the audience reacts, they may get ejected, however, if the audience en masse react, then ….
To be honest, I’m not sure what to expect. It all seems rather American to me, it seems like it’ll be stage managed to within an inch of its life.
I am hoping for something akin to "Leaders’ Question Time" instead of Presidential ‘Debate’, unfortunately neither can come close to the ‘West Wing’ debates!
So, the general election is in full swing, and if it weren’t for the never-ending news reports trying in vain to distinguish between ‘we will make efficiency savings’ and ‘they will cut’, I wouldn’t know.
I’ve not seen a single flyer, a single poster, and heaven forfend if I see a candidate. Okay, I’m not in a city, but usually there are posters in house windows (saying Vote Blah – with little rationale).
I live in a safe seat, always have. I’ve lived in safe labour seats, and I now live in a safe Tory seat – and I never see the candidates. Here, to unseat the Tory you’d need something like a 20% swing to Lib Dem. Where I used to live you’d need a similar swing to unseat Labour. My vote is therefore of little worth and they simply don’t need to court me. The joy of first past the post. Now, if I lived in a marginal….
However, it’s rare to not see a flyer, the lowest rung of engagement with the constituents.
Even on screen, this election has been very shy on ‘meet the public’ moments – and by that I mean genuine members of the public, not invited party activists. Sure, if the big cheese were coming to town, of course the party activists would want to go – but not to the exclusion of anyone else. Sure, there are local hustings (which you can find out about be searching online) – but there isn’t anything on the screens where a politician is meeting real people.
What are we seeing this election? A lot of stage managed events with non-affiliated people reduced to shouting at the politician as they pass between event and vehicle. Gordon Brown was heckled the other day in just this way. How much better would it have been for him to stop, turn, say, ‘I’m sorry, I have an appointment, but please talk to my assistant and they will arrange a five minutes later’? He could then hook up with that person later in the day, with the media watching, listen to what they have to say and respond (with the benefit of having had some time to think about a decent response, and check if he works for another party).
A party leader doing this would get so much credos. Yes, it may open them to embarrassment, but the reward is there too, Nick Clegg, in particular, would benefit from engaging directly, he has much less to lose and much more to gain. The last time this really happened in a big way was with John Major in 1992, whether you agree with his politics or not, his ‘soap box’ tour did his chances the world of good – although arguably it might have been better for the Tories in the long run to have lost in ’92.
This thursday, there is the first of the ‘debates’ – done American style, where the audience is not allowed to react – and if I understand it right, the leaders are not allowed to directly interact. What sort of a debate is that? Are the leaders to appear on a ‘BBC Question Time’ panel? No such thing (to my knowledge) has been announced. The leaders are constrained by many rules – I will have great respect for the man who does a ‘West Wing’ and draws attention to those rules by breaking them.
If politicians really want to reconnect to the public, if they really want to raise their standing, they cannot do this by being disengaged from us.