Sunday, May 04, 2008

London Reflections

Boris Johnson eating toastAnd now for something completely different? Or is it? My prediction for the London elections was that I would be disappointed. And I am. Here’s why.

First, although the turnout went up from around 37% to 45%, [with an increase in the electorate of some 222,266] it still means that over half of all Londoners did not participate. Why they do not vote is a question that greater intellects than mine have not yet unravelled so I will not even try. I have though spoken to a few people who didn’t vote – they said “they were fed up with the lot of them” and cited such failures as Wembley Stadium, the Millenium Dome, the cost of the 2012 Olympics, Crossrail, etc. etc. Can’t say I blame them.

Second, the system used to elect the Mayor, the Supplementary Vote, is worse than First-past-the-post. This system encourages a two-horse race and negative voting – it forces many of those who vote to consider voting against what they perceive as the worst of two evils. Maybe this had an effect in increasing turnout? The “Anybody but Ken” and “Anybody but Boris” campaign has had the effect of squeezing the smaller parties and the legitimate concerns they represent.

The second choice votes for Mayor are revealing: the top six being
Brian Paddick 641,412
Sian Berry 331,727
Ken Livingstone 303,198
Boris Johnson 257,729
Richard Barnbrook 128,609
Gerard Batten 113,651

My reading of this is that there are significant concerns within the voting section of the electorate on Crime, the Environment, Immigration and Europe.

Third, the BBC coverage was dreadful. I switched to Sky News.

Forth, the time taken to count the ballot papers. I thought electronic counting would be quicker?

To conclude, we have a new Mayor, Boris Johnson. He has said that crime is on his hit list, that he will protect London’s green spaces and encourage affordable housing. I would have preferred to hear the word “family” in between affordable and housing but quite how he will achieve this whilst protecting green spaces remains to be seen.

If we have, as some say, merely replaced one gaffe prone buffoon with another then we’ve only got ourselves to blame. But let’s not forget the role of the Assembly. We still have two experienced Green members and we still have our own Roger Evans. [That I exclude the others is simply because they are unknown to me.]

Judgement starts here, and will last 4 years.


  1. There is no 'perfect' voting system, but the complexities of the London system (supported vehemently by the LibDems) baffle many of the electorate and lead to silly positional voting.

    There are rumours of thousands of spoilt ballot papers - some deliberate, others the result of incomprehension of the system.

    I've always wondered about the IQ rating of those who deliberately spoil a ballot paper - do they seriously imagine that when they write something derogatory about Fred Smith of the XXX Party, some electoral officer takes it over to Mr Smith and says

    "oh look, an unidentified voter thinks you are rubbish!"?

    Back to the London Mayor:

    1. the whole system was devised to ensure that the Mayor had a lot of power within his remit, because Labour thought the Mayoralty would always be theirs;

    2. the voting system for the Assembly was designed to ensure that no one Party would dominate, thus ensuring an atmosphere of deals and behind-the-scenes coalitions.

    Don't forget that in 1997, Hazel Blears said that the Labour Govt would introduce such wonderful policies that no-one would ever think of voting anything but Labour for 100 years.

  2. Good post.

    I was surprised you thought the second prefs system was depressing though.

  3. Judith 18:36

    I have seen some of those ballot papers, I regard them as chucklesome.

    On your point 1. They lost it first time out to an “Independent”.

    On your point 2. I am not so sure that they predicted an AM Labour contingent of less than 9, which is all that is required.

    On your final point re: the chipmunk I hadn’t realised that it was 2097 already. My how time flies…….I hadn’t realised I was that old!

  4. Jim Jay 20:17,

    I didn’t say that the second prefs system was depressing. I said that it made little difference to the final result. Because the system is so focussed on the top two, and their second prefs don’t get counted it is marginal. Yes, Ken did make up a little ground this time on second prefs, but not much.

    Out of over 2million second choice votes the top two only got just over 100,000 effective [countable] votes each.

    The rest are discounted, except for stat nerds like you and me. AND if we are lucky the elected Mayor who will know, or be advised, of the situation. That’s why I highlighted the second choice order. Which IS significant although not generally reported.

  5. Sorry if I misunderstood.

    I'm not keen on fptp or this system either - although at least this system allows for more flexibility - as you say the second prefs are under reported yet very interesting.

    Although the point about people being confused by it is well made.

  6. And I believe in Havering and Redbridge for the London wide assembly list, the BNP beat the Lib Dems into fourth place.

  7. Re. voters having only themselves to blame if they elect a twerp as mayor. It's the party system that's to blame, not the electors. I voted for Red Ken when he first stood as an independant candidate, partly because I believe that the Mayor of London should be above party politics. He lost my vote as soon as he was allowed back into the Labour Party.

    I'm disillusioned with both main parties. I want to see New Labout out of Government, but the Tories have made such a pig's ear of running Redbridge - and they've lied to us - that I want to see them out of office here. So who did that leave me to vote for?

    Boris and Red Ken were the only candidates with a chance of winning. Voting for anyone else would have been a wasted vote. So why bother? The Liberal and Green Party candidates, as expected, were way down with the also-rans. None of the candidates stood any chance against the Big Two.

    Re. spoiled ballot papers. The ones that BBC News reported were clerical errors by polling clerks. Very naughty! I've worked as a poll clerk and we always used to punch holes in the ballot papers to show they had been officially issued. It appears poll clerks at some stations were marking the ballot by ink and were spoling them! A friend who voted in Redbridge reported that the back of his ballot papers were stamped with ink. It seems the old hole punches have been abandoned and polling clerks have been instructed to mark ballot papers with an official rubber stamp. Some chose the back, some the front!

    When polling clerks are confused, the system goes into meltdown. We urgently need to find out exactly what went wrong. And my friend would like to know if his ballot paper was spoiled by the official ink stamp on the back. Anyone know?

    I'd also like to know why punching holes in ballot papers seems to have been abandoned. You can punch holes in 3 ballot papers simultaniously, but marking them with an ink stamp must be done one at a time, thereby increasing the time it takes to issue them.

    Is it something to do with those damned computers which took so long?

  8. Waiting for the result made me understand to a very small degree how an opposition voter in Zimbabwe must feel.

  9. To paraphrase a famous quote - "By and large, in a Democracy, Londoners get the Mayor they deserve"

    You have voted for David Cameron as Mayor of London because the Conservative Party have no intention of letting Boris off the party leash.

    A bad day for democracy.

  10. Morris Hickey (Old Parkonian)12:17 pm, May 05, 2008

    The post from "old parkonians association" may well be the view of the otherwise anonymous writer. It is certainly not that of every Old Parkonian.

  11. I just love the way Lefties are parrotting this line 'it's a bad day for democracy' just because their guy lost.

    Hey, wake up, Parties win, Parties lose, what would you prefer? Politics a la Castro or Mugabe?

    This particular Old Parkonian (yes, really) dislikes pretty well all politicians but certainly feels a damn sight better now Ken has gone.

  12. I would like to thank all the people who voted for me on Thursday - I was elected by Conservative votes but I will be the representative for everyone in Redbridge, regardless of their politics, for the coming four years.

    The assembly is likely to review the conduct of this election, to learn lessons for the future, so please let me have your comments. One improvement this time was to have each assembly vote on a separate paper - this reduced the number of spoils noticeably. Now we just have to make the mayoral vote clearer.

  13. We voted for a Mayor, no-none really knows what an Assembly Member does or really cares. I think we should stick with the Mayoralty but scrap the Assembly. It can't be taken seriously - despite commanding a sizable salary. Roger Evans only does it as a part time thing, he is also a Cllr in Havering.

  14. The Assembly is there to scrutinise the Mayor and to hold him/her to account.
    I believe there are other Assembly members who are also Local Councillors.

  15. But it has no teeth. It's only real power is in approving the Mayor's budget. Yet, as the Assembly now is Conservative dominated, do we really believe they will go against a Conservative Mayor? No-one locally, either in Havering or neighbouring Redbridge knows what an Assembly member does or often who they are. This cannot be good for London democracy. But, Assembly members are on very good salaries. Salaries which would suggest it was a full time job. If so, it cannot be right that AM are also Cllrs. This must change, so that they can work full time for the constituency.

  16. I do not disagree with the conclusions that "anonymous" reaches, but somebody who hides a name really should not be making snide comments about a named individual.

  17. Judging by the search engine requests that arrive at this blog there are a significant number of people round here who don’t know who their MP is or what constituency they live in. Frankly, until a few years ago, neither did I, nor who my local councillors were. So, I don’t blame anyone. Does Anon wish to get rid of them too?

    I have though taken an interest in what the Green Assembly members have been doing and I can assure everyone that they work very hard in the interests of all Londoners. Over the last 4 years they have had significant influence due to the political make up of the Assembly. You may not agree with what they have done, that is your prerogative, but they have worked hard to do it and in good faith consistent with their election pledges.

    I can’t make a judgement on the other Assembly Members except for Roger Evans. He is a level-headed and decent bloke who cares. He is not, in my judgement, a Party Patsy. In case you are wondering, I didn’t vote for him, and he knows it, and why.

    Although it would appear that Boris has a built-in majority [sic!] I do expect that the Tory AMs will have their say. From what I know of Andrew Boff and Victoria Borwick I doubt that they will sit back and give Boris free rein.

    True, the functioning of the Assembly needs to be looked at. But before we scrap it, let’s see if we can make it grow some teeth.