Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas

Additional research by Maria Arbiter of the Fabian Society

The Liberal Democrats will be the party most affected by the cut in the number of seats announced by Nick Clegg on Monday, research undertaken by Left Foot Forward reveals. In his statement on constitutional and political reform, in which he confirmed the news broken by Left Foot Forward a week ago, that a referendum of electoral reform would be held on May 5th next year, the deputy prime minister unveiled plans for a boundary review – resulting in the loss of 50 MPs.

More than 40 per cent of Lib Dem seats (23 out of 57) are isolated, surrounded entirely by seats of opposing parties – including Mr Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency – while his Coalition partners are the least likely to be affected: just 1.3 per cent of Tory seats (4 out of 307) are isolated. For Labour, the figure is 4.7 per cent (12 out of 258).

As a consequence of the boundary review, some seats will stay the same size while others will get much larger, which we haven’t accounted for. On a uniform enlargement, however, it is clear the Liberal Democrats stand to be affected the most from enlarging constituencies to take in areas of non-Lib Dem held seats.

While it has been suggested by some that Labour’s opposition to the propsed changes is purely cynical, there are many principle reasons for opposing these particular reforms, one of them being that cutting the number of MPs would do nothing to improve proportionality, as explained below.

During the writing of the Jenkins ‘Commission on the Voting System,’ Dr. David Butler, the eminent psephologist, was asked to convene a group of academics – including Vernon Bogdanor, John Curtice, and Patrick Dunleavy – to consider a series of questions including, “Can deviation from proportionality under the current system be corrected to any significant degree by changing the criteria for redrawing constituency boundaries?”

They replied:

“The principal sources of disproportionality have nothing to do with boundary-drawing or the detailed statutory rules which the Boundary Commissioners have to apply. Changes in these rules would do very little to make results more proportional…

“In general, no significant reduction in disproportionality can be expected from further action to improve the workings of FPTP.”

The Butler discussion also looked at ‘bias‘ which has swung from the Conservatives in the 1950s and 1960s to Labour in recent years. They outlined a number of solutions, including “more frequent drawing of boundaries” but concluded that:

“All of these policies would be likely to prove controversial. In any event only a limited net difference could possibly result from pursuing these approaches. They could not cure the disproportionality of the sort experienced by the SNP and the Liberal Democrats.”

More recently, the Independent recently cited new research at the University of Plymouth :

“The geography of each party’s support base is much more important, so changes in the redistribution procedure are unlikely to have a substantial impact and remove the significant disadvantage currently suffered by the Conservative Party.”

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30 Responses to “Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas”

  1. Left Foot Forward

    Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas:

  2. Grace Cunnington

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas:

  3. Philip Painter

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas: < 1 wattle 1 vote

  4. Chris

    Very interesting, it is looking more and more that Clegg is a crypto-Tory. His policies are rooted in right wing ideology, for example the raising of the income tax personal allowance was first suggested by advocates of a flat income tax. And now he is fig leafing this reduction in the number of MPs, a policy the Tories have had in their manifesto since at least 2005, which will do nothing to improve proportionality – aren’t the Lib Dems the party who have campaigned for a fairer voting system for decades?

    Labour should start campaigning for the introduction of a totally proportional voting system, perhaps do away with constituencies entirely as the Tories are hell bent on gerrymandering the system in their favour.

  5. Jonathan Taylor

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas:

  6. Trakgalvis

    Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas: via @leftfootfwd

  7. steve white

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas:

  8. Jones Mayer

    Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas | Left Foot Forward: Additional research by Maria Arbiter of the Fabian Society…

  9. Mark Thompson

    Chris. If Labour did this and we could believe that they would actually do it were they ever to form a government then lots of Lib Dems would be delighted. It would make a future Lib Dem/Labour coalition much more likely.

    However there are lots of tribal Labour MPs who would never vote for it and the phrase that inspired the title of this blogpost explains the main reason why.

  10. Roy Bailey

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas:

  11. Steve Ainsworth

    One more argument for changing our system from FPTP to AV RT @leftfootfwd: Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas:

  12. christ_mas

    Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas | Left Foot Forward: Additional research by Maria Arbiter of the Fabian Society…

  13. Judy Torres

    Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas | Left Foot Forward: Additional research by Maria Arbiter of the Fabian Society…

  14. anyleftiwonder

    every cloud has a silver lining !!

  15. apptmetotheboard

    Presumably the thinking here is that PR will offset the gerrymandering. And that 23% of the vote under the new system will get them a bigger share of the 600 votes than FPTP and 650 seats does. That, plus the assumption that we’ll be a grateful nation for the next five years of austerity.

  16. Rich

    It’s pretty obvious people aren’t understanding what gerrymandering means. The current system suffers from it already, and new boundaries fixes the disparities in constituencies. Just because a current imbalance would be fixed doesn’t make it gerrymandering. Labours defence of the bad status quo is a bit pathetic really. Putting your party before voters again?

    The article is pretty demonstrative of how Labour is attacking the Lib Dems on anything. One moment we’re in the coalition out of pure greed, then you say we’re idiots doing something that’ll hurt us. Have you thought that perhaps we have principles that we’re staying consistent to?

    The quote from the Jenkins ‘Commission on the Voting System’ seems to miss the very bit it quotes, in that boundaries are part of the problem, just not the principal issue. It finishes that changes in the rules wouldn’t significantly effect the FPTP system, with no mention of the effect when combined with any form of PR or AV. Poorly written article it seems, that assumes we won’t read the articles it selectively quotes and interprets poorly.

  17. Chris


    Spouting the LibDem party line yet again. I understand perfectly what gerrymandering means and the reduction in the number of MPs is a perfect example of it. One of the key aims of the Boundary Commission has *always* been to produce constituencies of approximately equal size and the next one won’t be any different except the upper and lower bounds on size will be tighter and county boundaries will be ignored if necessary. That is *not* gerrymandering, the last boundary review has only just been implemented and didn’t affect the election very much.

    Now, reducing the number of constituencies is a blatant attempt at gerrymandering. The financial reasoning for the reduction is totally undermined by the fact they are planning to pack the Lords with over 100 new peers, all getting a nice fat allowance for turning up. How can you claim to support a fairer voting system and be staying true to your principles, when you are supporting a policy which will actually make FPTP less proportional.

    Arguments that Labour seats are smaller in population terms are overblown, people who vote Labour are generally more transient and less likely to be on the electoral roll. That is why there are an estimated 3.5 million people missing from the electoral roll, Labour have tried to increase voter registration in government but it is actually local councils job to do so. Also, Labour voters are less likely to vote if they live in a safe seat where as Tory voters, in general, see it as more of a civic duty and thus turn out to vote in seats that have been tory since time began.

    Another nail in the coffin of this policy is that the redrawing will be based on this Decembers electoral roll and the 2001 census. If the LibCons waited for a year they’d have the 2011 census data which would give a much more accurate picture but that wouldn’t suit the Tories. By using the old data it is more likely that the seats that will be merged are inner city Labour seats. Also, they are desperate to push this through in time for the next general election. As they’d like to have some extra gerrymandered safe seats for themselves while simultaneously reducing the number of safe Labour seats.

  18. Rich

    How is it gerrymandering for constituencies to have the same number of electors? You fail to address this point, and spout a lot of stuff unrelated to the actual specific issue. Their is a vast difference between constituencies, something very clear to me going from inner London to a Welsh seat and the amount of people able to vote.

    How does this make FPTP less proportional exactly? As for those missing from the electoral roll, Labour failed to make progress on this issue, and the coalition has started a push to actually do something.

    You seem to be blaming the coalition for Labours failures, and blowing up small issues into big ones. Stop calling it gerrymandering. Straw was an idiot when he used it in parliament, and repeating it doesn’t make it anymore accurate! He’s one of the worst people in your party, especially if you’re supposedly on the left. You’re just repeating a bad line by a right wing politician.

  19. Chris


    “How is it gerrymandering for constituencies to have the same number of electors?”

    Its not!!! And I and stated categorically in my first paragraph that it wasn’t, FFS can’t you read? One more time to re-enforce the point for the illiterate Lib Dem apologist – Equal size constituencies are not gerrymandering but the reduction in the number of MPs is.

    Reducing the number of MPs will favour the Tories, it’ll mean fewer inner city seats and towns more likely to be part of a much larger rural seat. This is exactly why the Tories have had this proposal in their manifesto for years. Your question about proportionality is answered in the article but as your illiterate I doubt you read it.

    On the subject of voter registration, you say Labour made no progress – you are *totally wrong*, Labour spent time and money to increase voter registration including setting up the Electoral Commission and funding adverts in TV, papers, online, etc. I’m not blaming the LibCons for Labours failings, I am attacking the LibCons for engaging in a blatant attempt to gerrymander the electoral system by reducing the number of MPs, using outdated census and voter registration data when better data is available within a year. And finally for not conducting a voter registration drive before forcing through dramatic changes to our constitution. They are, as you put it, putting their parties before voters although in the LibDems case they’re putting their party behind the Tories.

  20. Rich

    The issue of constituency size and the number is linked when you’re starting from the basis of constituencies already being different sizes. Reducing the number of overall MPs has also been Lib Dem policy for sometime. As for what the article says, rereading it yet again, it oddly seems to say what I originally thought it said still.

    Labour made a start on electoral registration, although as usual with an oddly half hearted effort. For Labour to suddenly start criticising the coalition on this, when it’s also said it would be tackling voter registration is bizarre.

    On using outdated information, this is true at any point in time. The boundary commission will continue to update boundaries as it always has with the most recent information. It has to start sometime. As usual, your argument is based on party politics over the nation. You’d come up with reasons to stop any progress being made, as is evident already. The Lib Dems aren’t the Tories lap dogs, just as we were never Labours lap dogs as so many of you thought was natural.

  21. Chris

    “The issue of constituency size and the number is linked when you’re starting from the basis of constituencies already being different sizes.”

    No it isn’t, the size of constituencies in population terms can be brought closer to the average than it already is without reducing the number of MPs by 50. That is exactly what the boundary commission have done in the previous boundary reviews.

    “Labour made a start on electoral registration, although as usual with an oddly half hearted effort.”

    Yeh, just like Labour half heartedly invested billions in the NHS, education and policing to name a few. Did Labour half heartedly introduce the human rights act? Devolution for Scotland and Wales? Stop genocide in Sierra Leone? Tackle the greatest financial crisis since the 1930s while Cable flip-flopped on recapitalisation, QE, stimulus measures, etc.

    “For Labour to suddenly start criticising the coalition on this, when it’s also said it would be tackling voter registration is bizarre.”

    LOL, the very point Labour are making is that the LibCons aren’t tackling voter registration they’re sweeping it under the carpet while enacting a huge change to our constitution.

    “On using outdated information, this is true at any point in time.”

    Now you really are contorting yourself to defend the Lib Dems here – which is out of date the 2001 census or the 2011 census? Please I thought you sound reasonable, if a little tribal.

    “The boundary commission will continue to update boundaries as it always has with the most recent information. It has to start sometime. As usual, your argument is based on party politics over the nation. You’d come up with reasons to stop any progress being made, as is evident already.”

    How am I arguing based on party politics? Your the one defending an attempt to gerrymander the electoral system.

    “The Lib Dems aren’t the Tories lap dogs, just as we were never Labours lap dogs as so many of you thought was natural.”

    Look I never thought the LibDems were Labours lap dogs, for many years they were more of an intellectual opposition to Labour than anything the morally bankrupt tory party could manage. I had great respect for Charles Kennedy and the Lib Dems for their opposition to Iraq, which many Labour MPs and supporters also opposed including me. However, what does annoy me is the Lib Dems who speak in the language of the centre-left but whose policies are rooted in the centre-right. Nick Clegg states he wants less income inequality but then actually encourages Osborne to slash tax credits which are the key policy that has stopped inequality reaching 19th century levels during the past decade of unprecedented salary inflation at the top.

  22. Anon E Mouse

    I see that reducing the number of MP’s can only be a good thing, who on earth wants MORE government – this article shows a complete lack of understanding of the electoral position that the Lib-Dems are now in. They are in government not opposition.

    AV comes in. By 2012 the feel good factor will be in with the Olympics, the coalition will be on top of the legacy that last useless government left them with.

    Unions giving money to one political party will be reformed, squeezing Labour again and the coalition will simply suggest that under AV the Tories give their second preference to the Lib Dems and vice versa.

    The result? Labour crushed at the next election. I was completely vindicated last time with my prediction (made after Blair was unfairly ousted btw) and will be again.

    It doesn’t matter who is elected Labour leader (hope it’s David Miliband and not his weird brother though) they are becoming more and more irrelevant by the minute.

    For once I agree with Polly Toynbee who shares this irrelevance point and adds herself that if Labour doesn’t buck it’s ideas up they will be considered petty and spiteful.

    Labour needs to lose the group think, get a grip and act intelligently and the picture here of Nick Clegg shows how little the left wing blogs have learned – “Fire Up The Quattro” anyone?

  23. Mark Pack

    You’ve not said much about the methodology used, but if I understand it right, it seems to be pretty inaccurate because you’re assuming that parties won’t campaign differently (and so voters vote differently) if boundaries change?

    If an area a party hasn’t previously campaigned in seriously gets added to a seat it holds, then that level of campaigning is going to change drastically and so the previous vote figures won’t be a particularly helpful guide.

    (This isn’t just a theoretical issue, it’s one that we’ve seen played out time and time again when boundaries have changed; assumptions that campaigning patterns don’t change often lead to very misleading projections for parties whose levels of campaigning varying greatly across the country.)

  24. Anon E Mouse

    Mark Pack – Absolutely agree on the different types of campaigning but unless the coalition falls apart next time the Lib-Dems can say “We took the serious decisions in government” and indeed they may have.

    AV or not this will work well for the Lib-Dems I feel and regardless of the AV outcome we may actually enter a world of three party politics…

  25. Chris

    @Mark Pack

    “pretty inaccurate because you’re assuming that parties won’t campaign differently”

    You mean the tradition LibDem method of misleading voters by misrepresenting their actual policies, as they ran throughout the 2010 election. Voters memories are longer than you think, they won’t forget VAT bomb shells very soon. Unless there is an economic miracle the LibDems will be in a very sticky situation.

  26. Anon E Mouse

    Chris – The recession is already over, you can feel it. That may not be down to Lib-Dem policies in government; I suppose as useless a Chancellor and Prime Minister Gordon Brown was he did get the theory right on the economy turning round.

    Like David Miliband I won’t forgive him for destroying the popularity of Labour ( or the spin, lies and bully boy tactics he engaged in but the economy has turned.

    On that basis all bets are off regarding the Lib-Dems. They are in government yet has a decrease in seats at the election.

    Lib-Dem voters, need to get real – you don’t affect peoples lives by bleating on with silly childish ideas like getting rid of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. They should grow up.

    I do agree with you though about voters memories being longer than you think and after the way Brown treated the electors in this country Labour has a long time in opposition….

  27. Chris


    Yes the recession is over but the economic miracle I was referring to was the one where the private sector creates ~2 million net jobs over the next five years. Where industry investment rockets and Britain manufacturing goes through an unprecedented renaissance. Unless that happens we risk five years of high unemployment and stagnation.

    Tory voters won’t care in the main, either they’re rich or poor and totally bonkers but LibDems voters will.

  28. Coyote

    One point that’s missing over the reduction of MPs. The post devolution settlement.

    Given that we have the Scottish Parliament now, and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies, it is clear that Parliament has less workload than it did before 1997 and any devolution (full marks to Labour for supporting devolution). Eg: Scottish education – devolved matter, Northern Ireland policing – recently a devolved matter, etc.

    Therefore, it seems sensible to reduce the number of MPs in Parliament considerably. A reduction of a few MPs from Scotland clearly isn’t enough.

    Cost also comes into this. We have a budget deficit that is criminal in size. I’d rather get rid of 100 MPs than close a hospital somewhere, any day of the week.

    With regards Marks point about changes in campaigning, I’d agree with that. The Lib Dems have a habit of targetting 1 seat in a region – they feel like a party that hasn’t got the resources to fight an all out general election.
    Hence them winning seats like Burnley.

    With boundary changes will come a change in Lib Dem targetting. And one thing is clear from their resources, the Lib Dems target above all else.

  29. aaron peters

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas

  30. The coalition are conspiring to lock the left out of the electoral process | Left Foot Forward

    […] Lib Dem turkeys vote for Christmas – Shamik Das & Maria Arbiter, July 8th 2010 Share | Permalink | Leave a comment […]

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