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

Council to sign Petition to mark Anti-Slavery Day

Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 21 October at a full council meeting will make a Chairman’s Announcement and sign the petition in support of Anti-Slavery Day which is to be marked nationally on 18 October 2010.

In March this year, the Anti-Slavery Day Bill was introduced in Parliament as a Private Members’ Bill and became law just before the General Election.

In July, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that Anti-Slavery Day would fall on 18 October every year. This date coincides with the European Union’s Anti-Trafficking Day.

ECPAT UK will be using the first observance of Anti-Slavery Day to draw attention to the plight of child victims of trafficking in the UK Anti-Slavery Day provides a great opportunity to shine a light on a largely hidden yet cruel crime being committed against adults and children in the UK and overseas today.

“People may think slavery is a thing of the past but it clearly isn’t. Adults and children in the UK and overseas are subject to human trafficking for exploitation on a daily basis. The council felt this day should be suitably marked and public awareness raised about this very emotive and brutal issue.”

Stoke-on-Trent City Council will support ECPAT UK petition to help provide greater protection for child victims of trafficking by signing up to its petition on 18 October 2010. The petition was launched by ECPAT UK asking the Government to introduce a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking. More information and a specific briefing on guardianship can be found on their website at

Human trafficking is the third largest criminal industry in the world and it is thought that 1.2 million children and young people are trafficked every year for sexual exploitation and cheap labour.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Slammed Over Election Coverage

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has been slammed for the poor election coverage on its own website during the Local & General Elections in May this year.

In a damming report from SOCITM, who surveyed a number of councils before, during and after the elections, Stoke-on-Trent City Council was singled out by the report authors who said of the council:

Communication of the results was patchy. Stoke on Trent City barely acknowledged that elections were taking place. Even on results day it still only carried an insignificant link to ‘Election notices’. Fortunately this site was an anomaly as by now elections were featuring pretty heavily on most sites

The survey was carried out on 42 council websites in 4 rounds which coincided with key dates over the election period.

  • Round 1- 10 April, the final day to register to vote
  • Round 2 – 4 May, two days before the elections
  • Round 3 – 7 May, election day
  • Round 4 – 8 May, the day after votes had been counted

The survey also looked at the use of social media by each council and finally whether they were taking part in the Open Election Data Project.

In the copy of the report seen by Pits n Pots it does not contain detailed league tables for each council surveyed but does cite good and bad practice with Stoke-on-Trent being used as an example of bad.

Pits n Pots are disappointed that Stoke-on-Trent City Council has been highlighted as an example of bad or poor practice, especially after we attended a Spotlight Review with the Press & Communications Department back in March. The review was to cover a number of items such as, developing a consistant approach to dealing with all media organisations, and use of social media especially to engage with young people.

As part of the review the Press & Communications Department were asked to spend some time speaking to us about how we use social media tools and offer advice on how best to utilise them within the council. The Press & Communications department did not contact us to continue this discussion.

The City Council were also asked by Pits n Pots prior to the election if the council would be taking part in the Open Election Data Project, so that the data would be available in a standard and easy to use format. The Council did not respond until they were contacted a second time where they explained that the Open Election Data Site was blocked, so they didn’t know what it was all about and couldn’t use it. This is despite the fact that the software used by Stoke-on-Trent City Council had been updated by the suppliers to automatically provide the election data in the format required by the Open Election Data Project.

We asked the Council if they would like to provide a quote or statement in response to the quote in the SOCITM report but they have not yet responded.

Politics After The Election

A couple of weeks ago Andrew Gamble visited Keele to speak about the general election results and what it means for mainstream politics.

He began by asking if he thought the result was as expected? One one count, it was. The spread betting turned out to be inaccurate but the exit poll many commentators sneered at on election night was spot on. The opinion polls were largely on the money too. What was entirely unexpected by the commentariat was the Tories’ decision to go for a coalition as opposed to a minority government. Gamble included himself in this group: he thought coalition was unlikely because they had only previously happened under the special circumstances of war. The 1918-22 coalition was really a Lloyd George premiership supported by the Tories, and similarly 1931 wasn’t a true coalition: it was basically a Tory government with Liberal and Labour ministers. Hence from the standpoint of British political history the present coalition is breaking new ground.

Coalition government offers certain advantages to both parties. For Cameron the alliance with the LibDems solves a number of problems. He can sideline the Tory right, drop manifesto commitments he didn’t really want (such as the pledge to cut inheritance tax), and with the LibDems in the treasury the political damage from his cuts programme doesn’t fall entirely on him. It has the further advantage of allowing Cameron to position himself as a modern, liberal Tory and dilute the hard euroscepticism and xenophobia still endemic in his party.

For Clegg the prize was getting LibDems in the cabinet for the first time since the war, ensuring his position in the annals of British politics. He can now set about dismantling its reputation as the party of perennial opposition and demonstrate the advantages of coalition politics – one that ensures the LibDems will be a contender in future elections. He will also preside over the implementation of LibDem policies, not least the referendum on the Alternative Vote.

There are a number of dangers that lie in wait that threaten to derail the coalition government. The first is the Tory right. Many Tories kept mum before and during the election for entirely pragmatic reasons. They had the disagreements and were displeased with the direction the Tory party were heading, but knew to keep a lid on things for electoral expediency. They wanted to see Labour form a progressive coalition with the LibDems and others because when it would (inevitably) fall apart the electorate would punish them by voting for the Tories in droves and return them with a healthy majority. For this scenario to be thwarted by their leader in favour of coalition has left them seething. If that wasn’t bad enough, the five cabinet posts and 20 ministerial positions reserved for the LibDems will have put some careerist noses seriously out of joint. But even more unforgivable has been Cameron’s compromises over key policy shibboleths, especially on tax
cutting. Who could have forseen a Tory government committed to raising the rate of capital gains tax? The move to an early reform of the Lords, the AV referendum concession, fixed terms, and the 55% no confidence threshold have poured more oil on the blazing back benches.

The second risk to the Tories are the consequences of the coalition succeeding and seeing out the full term. By moving the Tories more toward the liberal centre the LibDems could be partially absorbed but at the same time leave their right flank exposed. This presents the likes of UKIP and the BNP an opportunity as the Tories have traditionally mopped up the xenophobic hard right vote. With an opening of this political space some in the party might be tempted to jump ship to UKIP or a yet to be formed populist outfit, gradually whittling down the coalition’s majority.

The third is the risk the LibDems face. There has been little in the way of an organised rebellion in its ranks so far. Vince Cable might not look comfortable with his Tory mates, and Charles Kennedy has grumbled away in think pieces but it’s steady as she goes. However, seeing as the coalition will become unpopular very quickly how will the LibDems cope under the extra pressure and scrutiny? As we’ve seen these last couple of days, David Laws departure was very swift after his expenses scandal came to light. Could this be the shape of things to come? Another problem for the LibDems is that historically, previous associations with the Tories have led them being absorbed. The 1895-1912 Liberal Unionists and the 1931-68 National Liberal splits have met this fate – could Clegg lead the bulk of his party into a liberal Tory party, especially if the latter’s rebranding succeeds and presents more of a liberal face in the LibDem’s heartlands?

What about Labour? Gamble felt there was palpable relief in Labour’s ranks, especially after post-TV debate polling put Labour behind the LibDems. However that there wasn’t a total wipe out obscures the real dangers it faces. First, the number of seats gained do not reflect the slump in the vote – only the arithmetic of first past the post saved its bacon. Second with Cameron’s pledge to cut the number of MPs by 60, you can bet the boundary commission’s recommendations won’t fall too heavily on Tory seats. This will create more marginals and make it difficult for Labour to win outright in the future.

Another problem for Labour is the geographic concentration of its support – it remains disproportionately weak in England. For it to win back the marginals New Labour won in 1997 some serious thinking needs to be done. But that won’t be assisted by a leadership contest comprising of men all from a very similar background without much in the way of policy difference between them.

By way of a conclusion, Gamble noted a number of issues that will dominate the next five years. The first is the deficit. Associated with this will be a major defence review, which inevitably will downgrade Britain’s capacity to project its power (as well as invite rebellion on the part of Tory back benchers). The union will come under strain too. Between them the coalition won 36% of the Scottish vote, but given Cameron’s comments about the dependency the economies of the north, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the public sector, pushing through cuts there could be fuel for the nationalist fire.

The one thing Gamble didn’t mention was how much the ‘new politics’ is business as usual. He talked about the periods 1976-92 and 92-08 as Tory and Labour hegemonies, but these were times marked by consensus around the subordination of society to market imperatives. Regardless of what realignment the coalition brings about in Westminster (if any), policy wise the platforms of all three parties are determined to make the working class pay for the crisis by cutting public sector employment, services, welfare benefits, and raising national insurance and VAT. But working class people are not responsible for the crisis. Commentators who flag up easily available credit to explain the crash overlook the reckless business practices of the banks, practices that cannot be separated from the short termism of making billions for their share holders. This is not to forget the role governments have played in engineering regimes whereby business is cut free from any
social obligation, giving capital free reign to roam the planet for profitable opportunities.

The transformation of the banking crisis into a crisis of public finance will inevitably produce a wave of opposition up and down the country. The scenes from Greece could easily be repeated on British streets. But what remains unclear is how this will work its way through politics. Will a resurgence of the labour movement push Labour more to the left? Can dissatisfaction work to exacerbate political divisions in the LibDems and the Tories? Will small, marginal forces to Labour’s left and the Tories’ right benefit from the struggles and social dislocations to come?

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Stoke-on-Trent North Constituency



BADDELEY Melanie JaneBNP3196 
FISHER John MalcolmLib7120 
LARGE AndyCon9580 
LOCKE Geoffrey Lewis EdwardUKIP2485 
WALLEY Joan LorraineLab17815Elected

Stoke-on-Trent Central Constituency


BHATTI NorsheenCon6833 
BREEZE Paul DerrickInd959 
DARBY SimonBNP2505 
ELSBY GaryUn399 
HUNT TristramLab12604Elected
REDFERN John PhillipLib7039 
WALKER AlbyInd295 
WARD BrianCity Ind303 


Stoke-on-Trent South Constituency


ALI ZulfiqarLib6323 
BARLOW Mark HarryUKIP1363 
BREEZE MarkInd434 
COLEMAN MichaelBNP3762 
FLELLO RobLab15446Elected
RUSHTON James StuartCon11316 

Lab – Labour Party
Con – Conservative Party
Lib – Liberal Democrates
BNP – British National Party
City Ind – City Independent
Ind – Independent
UKIP – UK Independence Party
TUSC – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
SIG – Staffordfordshire Independent Group
EFP – England First Party
Un – Unaffiliated

Stoke-on-Trent Central won by Tristram Hunt – Labour

Stoke-on-Trent Central seat was won by Labour Candidate Tristram Hunt. With 12,604 votes.

Hunt was heckled throughout his speech by former Independent Councillor Jenny Holdcroft.



Full Result:  Stoke-on-Trent Central Constituency

BHATTI NorsheenCon6833 
BREEZE Paul DerrickInd959 
DARBY SimonBNP2505 
ELSBY GaryUn399 
HUNT TristramLab12604Elected
REDFERN John PhillipLib7039 
WALKER AlbyInd295 
WARD BrianCity Ind303