Sunday, May 10, 2015

UK Election May 7, 2015 -- significance?

The UK election on Thursday just past confounded many pollsters, and marks a clear divide in the UK, with likely implications for overseas territories:

Daily Mail Election results map, UK, 2015

Percentages and votes:

Daily Mail

The most obvious feature is the sweep of Scotland, 56-3 by the Scottish nationalists. This marks a culmination of a long term trend in Scottish voting that saw first a turn away from the Conservatives completed in 1997, followed now by a turning from Labour to their nationalist party . . .


  Never mind, that it was only half the Scottish vote that created the result, the across the board sweep has to be faced for what it is, a definitive distinct Scottish political identity. Already, the UK PM is clearly pointing out that devolution in Scotland will be at an unprecedented level, some are counselling that putting effectively full taxing and spending power within Scotland is a means to inject reality (= accountability over taxation as well as what the taxes pay for), and there is open discussion of a round two on an independence referendum, especially if the UK votes to leave the EU in the vote promised by the Conservatives if they won an outright majority.

A clear flash-point is the austerity that the UK faces in the aftermath of the 2008 on crisis. 

A further one is the rise of the UKIP, which won one vote in eight overall -- a sign of deep dissatisfaction with the main parties, especially when the Lib-Dems lost a generation's steady gains overnight, with many candidates actually losing their deposits. Minor parties are going to think twice before entering coalitions again. 

While we are at it, the peculiarities of first past the post electoral systems will be back on the table. But, we would be well advised to appreciate that such are designed to deliver strong governing majorities and presumably more stable governments than the coalitions that tend to dominate proportional representation systems, even at the expense of disproportions in representation. With as a further factor, forcing hundreds of local elections blocking dilution of local concerns in the tide of a system-wide majority that may be locally very unrepresentative. So, the contrast between the SNP with 56 seats (1.5 mn votes), the Lib Dems with 8 (2.5 mn votes) and the UKIP which outpolled both (3.9 mn votes) but has only one seat, will give much food for thought. And as a counter-weight, the DUP with less than 200,000 votes but eight seats in Northern Ireland, adds more complexity and painful history to the mix.

One point of reference will likely be the Australian federal election system, with its associated state governments.  But technicalities* such as single transferrable voting will take some getting used to. To give an idea, here is a how to vote card, with a bloc party preference indicated:

For sure, change is in the air.

A further factor is that Britain is likely to continue its now more than century long geostrategic retreat from its post Trafalgar, Victorian era global dominance. The threat of Germany forced alliances with Japan (to hold the Indo-Pacific c. 1908) and with the 600 year enemy, France (to hold the Mediterranean), so that the Home Fleet could be strong enough to face the Kaiser's High Seas Fleet. WWI really broke Britain, and WWII finished it, triggering full-scale retreat and standing on the Atlantic Alliance.  In just a few years, we have seen going from a West Indies Guard Ship to I think it is a North Atlantic one, with a fleet auxiliary in the region esp. at Hurricane season.  Now the RAF is headed for the lowest fighter a/c numbers since the post WWI demobilisation. The Army has always -- save in global emergencies -- been small. 

We generally don't like to think about such potentially terrible things, but they are part of what we must consider to better understand our times.

The UK is on trend to become a European state reliant on the Atlantic alliance. Even, as the Americans, facing their own long term troubles, also want to pull back. In short, we are looking at a rising perceived global power vacuum, and the sort of rising powers and ideologies that are out there should give us all pause.

And while there has been indeed a determined push to ramp up DFID's aid budget to hit the longstanding 0.7% of GDP as aid target that has been said to be enough to support global development transformation (if the major countries meet and sustain that level of assistance):

Adapted, House of Lords, UK, fr. DFID

 . . . that has been quite controversial. (I think, it should be appreciated on the "a stitch in time saves nine" principle, that aid that works will invariably be far less costly than a rising tide of global chaos and wars. But, such will always be a hard sell to people facing austerity at home.)

In this topsy-turvy context, overseas territories and other Caribbean countries will need to be increasingly sensitive to the feelings and perceptions of the disaffected in the UK. 

And, it is clear that for OT's, we will have to stress our longstanding historic, centuries deep British-ness as a basis for any further moves on our part. END

*PS: Wiki has a summary of STV that shows how it achieves instant runoff by successive ranking and elimination, at the expense of complex voting procedures and even more complicated counting procedures in a context of in effect voting for a delegation:
In an STV election, a candidate requires a minimum number of votes – the quota (or threshold) – to be elected. A number of different quotas can be used; the most common is the Droop quota, given by the formula:

where the quota is an integer. When the quota is not an integer it is rounded down; that is, its fractional part is discarded. The Droop quota is an extension of requiring a 50% + 1 majority in single winner elections. For example, at most 3 people can have 25% + 1 in 3 winner elections, 9 can have 10% + 1 in 9 winner elections, and so on.

Finding the winners

An STV election proceeds according to the following steps:

  1. A candidate who has reached or exceeded the quota is declared elected.
  2. If a candidate has more votes than the quota, surplus votes are transferred to other candidates. Votes that would have gone to the winner go to the next preference.
  3. If no-one new meets the quota, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and those votes are transferred.
  4. This process repeats until either a winner is found for every seat or there are as many seats as remaining candidates.
There are variations, such as how to transfer surplus votes from winning candidates and whether to transfer votes to already elected candidates. When the number of votes to transfer from a losing candidate is too small to change the ordering of remaining candidates, more than one candidate can be eliminated simultaneously.

Because votes cast for losing candidates and excess votes cast for winning candidates are transferred to voters' next choice candidates, STV is said to minimize wasted votes.