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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6 Responses to “Bracknell shows Conservatives are inconsistent on electoral reform”

  1. Blah

    Utter rubbish – you’ve got to really want to find it to see it! You’ll literally pick on anything to have something negative to say about the Tory party – pathetic.

  2. Jack Storry

    I find this article a little silly. Part of being progressive is being even handed with your criticism. Labour oppose a move to proportional representation yet have introduced the Additional Member System for election to the Scottish parliament, the Welsh assembly and the Greater London assembly. Labour has also used nulti-ballot elections for years in candidate selection while supporting FPTP for Westminster elections.

  3. René Kinzett

    RT @markreckons If it's so good, why do Tories not use First Past the Post for primaries like Bracknell? via @leftfootfwd

  4. Mark Thompson

    Blah – There are a number of times I have written on my blog where I have been positive about Conservatives or Conservative policy on certain issues. I am not an instinctive Tory attack blogger by any means. It just so happens that this is one issue where I think they have got it wrong and their approach to their own primaries highlights an inconsistency that I think is noteworthy.

    Jack – I have been very, very critical of Labour’s approach to electoral reform both on LFF and on my own blog. If Labour (or any other party) were moving to a new system of open primaries where they used a system that was against their own stated policy for Westminster I would equally question that too on here and elsewhere.

    I would be interested to hear what both of you actually think about the disparity highlighted in the article.

  5. Sunder Katwala

    @leftfootfwd point out: if pref voting so need 50% to win wrong for GenEl, why use it to select Tory candidates?

  6. Jack Storry

    Mark – I do think it is a interesting disparity but at the same time I think using a different electoral system for candidate selection is less consequential than using it for electing a parliament and thus a government.

    At the end of the day when using a different system for candidate selection all you are changing is who the candidate is. When using it for a parliamentary election you can end up fundamentally changing not just who governs the country but how it’s governed i.e. whether the system of governent is majoritarian and single party or consensual and multi-party

    Therefore, while I think the Conservatives shoud certainly be more open when it comes to electoral reform it does not surprise me that they are prepared to experiment with different systems when it comes to candidiate selection.

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