Friday, May 06, 2016

Where the votes came from

Warning - election mechanics post for political anoraks only !

It can be a problem for a political party if its' vote is too evenly spread or too concentrated.

If you vote is very evenly spread indeed there is a real danger of ending up like UKIP at the 2015 general elections - lots and lots of seats where you have enough votes for a good third place and hardly any actual wins. That of course is how they managed to get four million votes with only one seat to show for it.

It can also be a problem to have your vote too concentrated, as is often an issue for the Conservatives in Cumbria, were too many of our votes are in relatively few wards, so that we can often get more votes than Labour in the county in both general and local elections, and yet fewer seats.

(Of course, a Lib/Dem might ask me "why don't you support PR, then" and the answer is because that presents other problems - but certainly not because I imagine "First Past the Post" to be perfect: it certainly isn't.

Sometimes however an even spread of votes works out as this year's PCC election in Cumbria showed: here are the first preference votes by council area for each candidate.

The votes in this election were counted by Local Authority area and the interesting thing is that

1) Peter McCall carried Allerdale, Carlisle and Eden, and came a close second in Barrow, Copeland and South Lakes

2) Reg Watson, the Labour candidate, carried Barrow and Copeland and was a close second in Allerdale and Carlisle, but was a poor third in Eden and South Lakes.

3) Loraine Birchall, the Lib/Dem candidate, carried South Lakeland with the biggest single district vote in the election but was less successful elsewhere.

The key point which this bears out - and it was even more obvious four years ago - is that the best way to get enough votes to win a multi-constituency election like this one is to work to bring out votes in as many parts of the area as possible.

Peter McCall, and before him Richard Rhodes, did not win every area. But they were both the only candidate to be either first or close behind the candidate with most votes in all six districts.

In both elections candidates who did very well indeed in one district but poorly in the rest of the county, or who did well in four of the six districts but very badly in the other two, failed to win.

This is one election in which it really pays to try to work everywhere and speak to as many people as possible. It would, of course, be a good thing for democracy if more candidates operated on that basis.

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