Bracknell shows Conservatives are inconsistent on electoral reform

Iain Dale lost his campaign to become the Conservative party's prospective parliamentary candidate on Saturday night. Instead, Dr Philip Lee won the vote. But the voting system used revealed a contradiction in Conservative policy.

Iain Dale lost his campaign to become the Conservative party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Bracknell on Saturday night. Instead, Dr Philip Lee won the vote. But the voting system used revealed a contradiction in Conservative policy.

Reports from the “open caucus” show that the electoral system used was a round by round elimination method which strongly resembled the alternative vote. The only difference was that, rather than listing preferences at the start, those present had to keep on voting in each round as the candidate with the lowest number of votes was eliminated.

A move to AV is now the policy of the Labour party. As has been pointed out previously on Left Foot Forward, it could lead to “even less proportional” results than the current first-past-the-post system. But the Conservative party oppose any move away from FPTP.

The Conservative party organisers kept the totals in each round private throughout Saturday night’s voting so it is not possible to know whether FPTP would have resulted in victory for Dr Phillip Lee. But it is fair to speculate that things could very well have been different if they had used this system. For example, Iain Dale speculates that, “I knew my best chance was to win on the first or second ballot.”

These facts highlight the inconsistency at the heart of the Conservative’s approach to electoral systems and perhaps undermine their argument that no change at all is needed from FPTP for Westminster. If that’s the case why don’t they trust it for their own party elections like this?

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