First past the post split the vote tactics
Keep those leaflets coming in, folks!
There is going to be electoral reform in this country one day, maybe 10 years, maybe 20 years in the future. And ElectionLeaflets.org may be one of the few places people will be able to find facts on the ground from the campaign. And these facts will be used to beat over the heads anyone bidding to run the pro-reform campaign so they don’t come out like such an unprepared pack of numpties like this lot have been.
The First Past the Post system produces a brutal, cruel electoral calculus for the voters as well as the campaigners.
Here, for example, is the news from the Cambridge Ward of Sefton (in Southport).
The results were:
We have a good, (though nowhere near complete) record of leaflets from that area.
The record shows LibDem and Conservative leaflets for the run-up to the 2010 elections all the way through. In fact we have only one from the 2009 Euro elections.
The Southport parliamentary constituency is very much an alternating Liberal-Tory seat, and has been since 1885, with Labour rarely making it into second place.
What I hear now is that Labour are suddenly — in this election cycle — campaigning very hard in Cambridge Ward, a place where they most recently scored 8% of the vote.
Here are some leaflets from the last week. I am told there are more, including street posters, and no doubt door-to-door canvassing.
Remember, the Labour Party has never existed in this ward before. But this year they are really going for it.
Now they are not to going to come close to winning. But what they are trying to do is split the LibDem vote.
According to the numbers, if they can peel 800 votes from the LibDem result from last year, then — according to the First Past the Post system — the Tory candidate is going to take the seat.
Why is it an advantage for Labour if they can convert a LibDem seat into a Tory one?
Well, it’s all about going after vulnerabilities. The Tory vote is generally very hard (there are people who are genetically programmed to vote Tory no matter what happens).
The only tactic open to the Labour party is to take down and demoralize the LibDem party and ultimately replace them as the second party in this area.
Making more Tory councillors in the borough is a perfectly acceptable result in the short term while they move the second place party aside and make room for themselves — within the game rules of the electoral system.
Meanwhile, the voters are simply ignorant pawns in this game who don’t know what fools they are being taken for.
Looking at it from the simple approximation of the ideology, you have Labour on the Left, Conservatives on the Right, and LibDems in the Centre. Now the LibDems and Conservatives have formed a coalition which is somewhere close to the average of the two in the Centre-Right. And Labour, calling for some of the Centre-Left-minded LibDem voters to move their vote over to Labour on the Left, knows and intends for this to produce a further to the Right result.
So, essentially, the outcome moves in the exact opposite direction to what the voter intended.
This electoral gaming plays all the way through the system up and down the country, wherever the First Past the Post systems is applied. If voters really knew about it, they wouldn’t stand for it, because it is very much like being knocked around the table like snooker balls.
But there’s no way the public at large can form an understanding of the system. It’s not taught in schools. Journalists, who won’t research how party organizing works, can’t report it. And politicians aren’t going to give away their secrets.
In fact, as we have seen with this AV campaign, they generally favour a system can be played against the public in this way.
Twas ever thus. For more, read about Electoral fusion. which was the practice in America for third parties to make an influence without wasting their vote — until it was banned because it was too representative.