Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Rats in a Sack (and not understanding AV!)

The Cooper and Burnham camps have traded blows over their views on Mr Corbyn and their place in the contest.

A spokesman for the former said on Monday that Mr Burnham should “step back and leave it to Yvette” if he could not provide an alternative to Mr Corbyn
BBC News Website 18 August 2015 : Labour leadership: Burnham criticises Cooper call to quit

Apart from being unedifying, it also shows a remarkable disrespect for the electorate and misunderstanding of the benefits of AV.

We have four candidates in the race and nominations have closed. For any candidate to “pull out” lets down those that nominated them and reduces the choice available to the electorate.

The only reason that candidates should withdraw is where their candidature damages the chances of someone else. This happens in First Past the Post systems – such as for Westminster elections. Here it would be totally sensible for third place Labour candidates to “pull out” in favour of second place Lib Dems (and vice versa) in order to avoid “something worse” – e.g. the Tories in the eyes of most Labour supporters and a considerable number of Lib Dem supporters. (Other permutations are available.) However we don’t see this happening – all candidates stay in the fight and we usually see a “winner” who has failed to achieve majority support (i.e. actually failed to reach the winning post!).

Yet under the Alternative Vote (AV) such considerations are unnecessary.

If Jeremy Corbyn is on track to win with an outright (first count majority) no “pulling out” by other candidates is going to affect the result.

If Jeremy Corbyn is not on course to win outright on the first count, the AV mechanism effectively “pulls the least popular candidate out”. But the identity of this least popular candidate is determined by the electorate not by “spokesmen” for any of the candidates speculating on the basis of opinion polls.

So rather than calling on opponents to pull out (and antagonising the supporters of their opponents) candidates should be seeking to attract the second preference votes of those supporters.

Somehow I suspect that most of Labour do not understand AV – or if they do they don’t want to admit it.

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