Friday 15 July 2011

Haintive logic

There used to be only two main types of logic, inductive and deductive, but after reading today’s offering by the former Secretary of State we’ll have to add a third, which we can perhaps call haintive logic.
Under this new way of thinking, a rejection of one proposition, such as a move to AV, must inevitably be assumed to be “a massive vote of confidence” in a quite different proposition, such as FPTP.  And, as a result, not only can support for a third and entirely separate proposition which has never been put to people be completely ignored, but those who supported the defeated proposition are now obliged to impose the one which they oppose.
Perhaps he is, as Ron Davies suggested, merely playing to an internal Labour Party audience and using the media to do so.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  Or perhaps it’s just that whatever the Tories propose he feels he must oppose, and since STV – the only other sensible alternative – is total anathema to him, he has to fall back to supporting a system that he has long sought to change in order to pick a fight with the UK Government.
I agree with part of what he says, however.  His suggestion that all AMs should be elected by the same system is one we should welcome – as long as that system is a proportional one.  It’s something that a lot of people have called for from the outset.
I wonder though, about the accuracy of some of his statements, such as “This is widely accepted to have been a disastrous decision” in relation to the decoupling of Scottish constituencies, and “Everyone is agreed on the need to avoid decoupling in Wales”.  I’m not sure what the evidence for these somewhat sweeping statements is, unless he is restricting his summary of opinion to internal Labour Party opinion.  Again, it wouldn’t be the first time.
He isn’t the only one who seems to be abandoning a long-held position.  I find it disappointing that many of those who have long claimed that they support STV have decided to back the probable Tory proposal for 30 directly-elected AMs and 30 list members.  There’s nothing wrong with coming down to a compromise position if the desired objective cannot be achieved; but this looks like surrendering before a shot has been fired.
Since the whole issue has to be re-opened as a result of the changes to the parliamentary constituencies, we have an opportunity to put all the options on the table, and seek the best solution.  Conceding defeat before there is even a formal proposal on the table seems a strange way of campaigning for change.


Anonymous said...

a gerrymandered Assembly system could be Labour's price of supporting the UK Government's Bill in Parliament that will certainly see the lose out in other parts of the UK.

John Dixon said...

I doubt that there's any way Labour will support the Bill; and the Government can push it through with no need to 'buy' Labour support anyway.

Unknown said...

Hain appears to be delusional. He still sees himself as a person of some importance, and the leader of Welsh Labour, despite the fact that he failed to get elected to the Shadow Cabinet.

It is time for Carwyn, who was elected, to take him on publicly and assert his seniority, or look even more weak and feeble than he already does.

STV is the right answer, of course, but the 30/30 proposal is a gradual step in the right direction.

I don't agree that advocating it is to admit defeat before battle is joined - it is certain that STV would be defeated, but 30/30 is a neat and sensible answer to the problem posed by the boundary changes, it is a small step and will be attractive to the tory junta as both of their parties stand to gain, however slightly.

Gwilym said...

I can't see any evidence of gerrymandering here. Hain's proposal seems quite straightforward. He is a high profile MP representing a Welsh constituency and his view merits consideration. Why should Labour benefit from it uniquely? If they do, it's because they have the confidence of the Welsh people. The present system, with a "losers' list" where parties substantially rejected by the electorate scrape together regional seats seems more like gerrymandering to me.

maen_tramgwydd said...


Unfortunately, the people of Wales are the losers (and of the UK too) by having a voting system that fails to fairly represent the views of the voters. FPTP keeps power in the hands of a political elite in perpetuity, on a minority of the votes cast.

It has put the Thatchers and Blairs into power with huge majorities, and kept them there on a minority of votes cast.

Just look at the state of the UK today - nothing works well here. It's a mess. Wales is even worse, after a century of supporting Labour. Safe seats have made politicians complacent, lazy and even corrupt.

A proportional system of representation doesn't give 'losers' seats, it shares the seats out in proportion to the numbers of votes each party has acquired. Many democracies use them, and have performed better.

The list system for a third of the seats used in Assembly elections was brought in by Labour as a device to have an element of proportionality, but one which would keep Labour in a majority. Regrettably for them it hasn't worked out that way, and they're sore losers.

As for Peter Hain, what can one say other than what Paul Flynn wrote about him in his book? I won't repeat it here, but I agree with the sentiments, wholeheartedly.

Unknown said...

Gwilym - Labour got 70% of seats on FPTP in constituency seats, on only of the vote. Thanks to the voting system they only got 50% of the seats in the assembly, which is about right.

Under the system that Hain the Vain is advocating, Labour would would have obtained 70% of 60 seats - 43 on only 45% of the vote. How is that in any way a representative democracy? If we are to change the way AMs are elected, then it has to be through STV.

If you need more information on STV - or indeed any voting system, I can recommend the electoral reform society website.

In any case, if Labour carry on in government as they have started, and Scotland continue to power ahead with their agenda, it is far from clear that Labour would win next time, even under the FPTP system, so Vain should be careful what he wishes for.

Anonymous said...

I find the idea of 30 top up seats in the present structure of five regions rather worrying. It will no doubt give very small parties with small votes such as the BNP an opportunity that their vote would not justify. Currently there is an average of eight constituencies to each region with four top up seats. In north Wales there are nine constituencies and in south west Wales there are seven constituencies, so there is no reason why there could not be more regions with slightly varying numbers of geographical constituencies that give a give a fair result without letting extreme parties into the system.

Glyndo said...

"STV is the right answer, of course, but the 30/30 proposal is a gradual step in the right direction."

I agree, 50% proportional instead of 33%.
Let's eat the elephant one bite at a time.

glynbeddau said...


I think its time for an all Wales campaign for STV for the Welsh Assembly.
Ideally it should be led by someone who has a lot of political experience but is not currently a member of any party.
Someone like you perhaps?

John Dixon said...

Anon 21:54,

I don't agree with the suggestion here that it should be an objective of the electoral system to keep extreme parties out. It should certainly be an objective of those of us who care about the future of Wales and the wider world to ensure that the arguments of parties such as the BNP gain no traction; but we need to stop them by persuading voters not to support them, rather than by rigging the electoral system against them.

The system in Scotland where the ration of FPTP:List seats is lower than it is here has certainly created a situation where minority parties - the Greens, the Scottish Socialists, and even Independents - have been able to gain representation despite the low level of their support. I think that's a good thing, rather than a bad thing. If it also allowed parties of which I do not approve (such as the BNP) to gain seats, I'd have to accept that as the price of a proportional system of democracy.

Unknown said...

There is a small minority (about 5% wasn't it?) who support the BNP/UKIP in Wales, and to deny them representation is undemocratic. In any case, the BNP, when it has gained representation on councils in England and the London Assembly have made such a hash of things that they have been thrown out. Ukip in Brussels are behaving more bizarrely than even the monster raving party could hardly hope to emulate.

Unknown said...

The argument about the small parties is a red herring. Most democracies have a percentage cap, and if the small parties pick up 1 seat or 2 seats it's because that proportion of people voted for them.

Wales needs a fully STV elected Assembly. I don't know of any progressive person that disagrees with STV. It works, rewards votes almost exactly and keeps a local constituent link. People that are against STV are often from the British mindset that views politics (and society) as being based on monolithic power blocs, eventually leading to a system where dangerous leaders like Thatcher and Blair ruled with huge majorities despite not winning the backing of a majority of voters.

Wales would be a better country if we could ditch the British mindset and act like a proper European democracy.