Alternative Vote Explained

On 5 May as well as voting in the local elections you will also be asked to vote in a referendum on how future voting will be carried out.

Currently we use a First Past The Post (FPTP) system in the UK, where the candidate with the most votes wins. The Alternative Vote (AV) is where you rank your candidates in order of preference and only when a candidate has 50% of the available votes is a winner declared. The video below will explain more.

Alternative Vote

There is a lot in the news already about Alternative Vote or AV and a lot more to come in the coming weeks as parties lobby for a change in the way we vote here in the UK.

What Is AV?
In short Alternative Voting is where, rather than voting for the person you want to elect and putting your paper in the ballot box, you put a 1 by the person you would most like to elect then grade the other candidates by putting 2, 3, 4 etc after their names.

If no candidate gets a majority of all the votes cast in the constituancy, then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is removed and their ballot papers are then recounted and redistributed across the remaining candidates based on second preference. This continues, removing the lowest candidate each time until a majority is reached. See the links to the Electoral Reform Society & Wikipedia at the bottom of the page for a more in-depth description.

So How Would things Be Different In Stoke Under AV?
It isn’t possible to tell exactly how things would have played out in Stoke-on-Trent if AV was being used in the 2010 General Election, but by making some basic assumptions you can see how the vote could have been counted to come to a majority in each of the wards.

Stoke-on-Trent North
Round 1

Joan WalleyLabour17,81544.3
Andy LargeConservative9,58023.8
John FisherLiberal Democrat7,12017.7
Melanie BaddeleyBNP3,1698
Geoffrey LockeUK Independence Party2,4856.2

Stoke-on-Trent North didn’t have a clear majority in the 2010 General Election so Geoffrey Locke would have been removed from the count, his votes would be redistributed based on second preference in Round 2

Round 2

Joan WalleyLabour18,91647.6
Andy LargeConservative10,17125.3
John FisherLiberal Democrat7,56018.8
Melanie BaddeleyBNP3,3958

Still no clear majority so now Melanie Baddeley is removed from the count and her votes are redistibuted based on second preference.

Round 3

Joan WalleyLabour20,33251
Andy LargeConservative10,93227
John FisherLiberal Democrat8,12620

This is enough to give Joan Walley the 50% majority she needs to retain her seat.

Stoke-on-Trent Central
Round 1

Tristram HuntLabour12,60538.8
John RedfernLiberal Democrat 7,039 21.7
Norsheen Bhatti Conservative 6.833 21
Simon DarbyBNP  2,502 7.7
Carol LovattUK Independance Party 1,4024.3 
Paul BreezeIndependant 959 3
Gary ElsbyIndependant 399 1.2
Brian WardCity Independants303  0.9
Alby WalkerIndependant 295 0.9
Matthew WrightTrade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 133 0.4

As the bottom 6 candidates polled only 10.7% of the votes, we can safely skip rounds  2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 leaving just Hunt, Redfern Bhatti & Darby in the vote. At this point the voting would look something like

Round 8

Tristram HuntLabour13,96043
John RedfernLiberal Democrat 7,797 24
Norsheen Bhatti Conservative 7,566 23
Simon DarbyBNP  2,771 9

So after the removal of the bottom 6 candidates we are getting closer to a majority, Tristram Hunt has nearly double the number of votes of John Redfern but still not the 50% majority required. Now we take Simon Darbys votes and reallocate them.

Round 9

Tristram HuntLabour14,93046
John RedfernLiberal Democrat8,33926
Norsheen Bhatti Conservative8,09225

Still no overall majority of 50% with just 3 of the 11 candidates still in the running, so now we have to take the votes from the third placed candidate and re allocate them.


Round 10

Tristram HuntLabour17,58154
John RedfernLiberal Democrat9,82230

and finally we have an elected Member of Parliament with a majority of 54% Tristram Hunt. So in Stoke-on-Trent Central.

Stoke-on-Trent South

Round 1

Rob FlelloLabour15,44638.8
James RushtonConservative11,316 28.4
Zulfiqar AliLiberal Democrat 6.323 15.9
Michael ColemanBNP 3,762 3.4
Mark BarlowUK Independance Party 1,3633.4
Terry FollowsStaffordshire Independent Group1,208 3
Mark BreezeIndependent4341.1

Again in Stoke-on-Trent South, every candidate up to second placed James Rushton would have to be removed to give Rob Flello the majority required to hold his seat.

Round 6

Rob FlelloLabour20,52552
James RushtonConservative15,03438


While the results (based on our assumptions) are not shocking they do show how much more work would need to go in to counting the votes.

Alternative Voting Is It Any Better Will It Make A Difference?
Well based on our totally unscientific rerun of the 2010 General Election, no it wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome of the election. Until details of how the counts would actually be carried out, it just looks like a lot more work and a far longer night before results are declared.

How Are The Parties Campaigning? 
BNP are campaigning against
Conservatives are campaigning against
English Democrats are are campaigning for
Labour have no official stance
Liberal Democrats are campaigning for
The Green Party are campaigning for
UKIP are campaigning for

I made the following assumptions while calculating the new results for each constituency in Stoke-on-Trent.

  • The votes from the lowest candidate in each round were reallocated using the same % as the original vote.
  • A number of votes were lost in each round due to:
    • people not giving second or third preference votes
    • second & thrid preference votes were for candidates already out of the running
    • spoilt papers

Photo credit

Tony Walley ““ On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

Parliamentary Boundary Changes – When 3 Become 2

I suppose it was to be expected that eventually, after decades out in the wilderness, the Conservatives would force Parliamentary Boundary changes upon the nation in a bid to make sure that they remain in power for a very long time to come.

The Tories now have the added pressure of protecting their yellow friends, the Liberal Democrats, who could become all but extinct when our nation has the chance of exacting revenge on Clegg and his cronies through the ballot box for their widespread treachery in accepting their 30 pieces of silver.

On 5th May 2011 [the same day as the all out council elections in Stoke-on-Trent] we the nation, get to vote on an Alternative Voting system which could spell the end of the “Ëœfirst past the post’ system for general elections.

The referendum on AV is a part of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill which also contains proposals for a review of parliamentary constituency boundaries.

The Bill has been approved by MPs and despite the best efforts of Labour’s Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who nearly succeeded in getting the bill deferred which would have resulted in the Bill missing it’s February 24 2011 deadline, the House of Lords voted in favour.

The Labour Party had promised a referendum on AV in their manifesto but have voted against the bill in protest at what they see as a rigging of the Parliamentary Boundaries in favour of the Tories.

The Bill proposes, amongst other things, a reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600. It also recommends that each seat has around 75000 constituents; a proposal which the Labour Party argue would cost them around 20 seats.

But what of the implications for the 3 Parliamentary seats for Stoke-on-Trent, Stoke-on-Trent North, Stoke-on-Trent Central and Stoke-on-Trent South?

Talking to various sources in the know, there is a strong feeling that Stoke-on-Trent would lose a constituency, probably Central.

Stoke-on-Trent North would take in parts of the leafy suburbs of the Staffordshire Moorlands with a cut off around the Council ward of East Valley/Milton.

Stoke-on-Trent South would probably expand to take in the affluent parts of Staffordshire County Council, such as Stone, Hilderstone and Meir Heath and would end just after what is currently know as the Abbey Green council ward.

The net result is the City will almost definitely lose one Member of Parliament and the Labour Party will need to be at the top of their game and the polls to return the status quo of total domination of the Labour Party across the constituencies of our city.

The Labour party would probably insist that one of the two Stoke-on-Trent Constituencies be an all woman short list which leaves two candidates to fight it out for the other remaining nomination.

If that decision had to be taken now, despite his elevation to a senior post on the opposition benches, I feel that the party locally would opt for the charismatic Tristram Hunt as opposed to Rob Flello.

Talking to local party activists, I think that after the actions of Rob Flello post general election in the so called reorganisation of his office staff and the subsequent departure of senior, enormously well respected employees, Mr Flello’s popularity among his own is at an all time low.

In contrast to that, I understand that Tristram Hunt has built a great team in Stoke-on-Trent Central and that meetings are now enormously well attended and very interesting and engaging for party members.

I’m told there is little or no campaigning going on in Stoke-on-Trent South organised by Mr Flello’s team, whereas in Stoke-on-Trent Central Tristram and his team are out at every available opportunity knocking on doors and meeting the public and gauging their opinions.

So in summary, I liken the current situation to the pre championship fight build up between heavyweight boxers David Haye and Audley Harrison.

Both promised that the contest would be close with little between them.

In truth only one came out fighting, looked mean and lean and took the opportunity to stop his opponent at the earliest convenience.

The other had little to offer, never landed a telling blow and lost the support of his army of fans.

Enough said? I leave you to draw your own conclusions..