5 most popular blog posts of 2012

And by Their Friends Ye Shall Know Them

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As the Taiwan presidential campaign enters its final week, one striking development has been an outpouring of support for President Ma Ying-jeou by some of Taiwan’s leading businesspeople, including Evergreen Group President Chang Yung-fa 張榮發 and Far Eastern Group Chairman and CEO Douglas Hsu (徐旭東).

On the one hand, it is perfectly understandable that commercial and industrial heavyweights should wish to speak out for Ma, as KMT rule has witnessed a growing rapprochement with China that has greatly enhanced Taiwan’s business environment. This cozy relationship between the party and big business can be traced back to Republican-era China, and may be best represented by the “Aladdin” classic “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me”. On the other hand, the impact such enthusiastic expressions of support may have the general populace remains to be seen, and reports have already begun to emerge of tensions between management (“suits”) and labor (“shirts”) over which candidate to support. Read the full post…

Who benefits from a Lib Dem collapse?

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The Liberal Democrats have now been flatlining at or just below 10% of the vote for nearly two years. The decision to join the Conservatives in a Coalition government looks more electorally toxic with each passing month. It is thus no surprise that bloggers and strategists for both major parties have begun to speculate about the implications of a Lib Dem collapse for their parties. Some have argued that the Conservatives stand to gain disproportionately, owing to the large number of seats in the South East and South West where the Lib Dems compete with the Tories, with Labour a distant third. If Lib Dem votes in the South East and South West head over to Labour, the Tories are the big winners, or so the reasoning goes.

This reasoning is misleading – such arguments focus on where the Lib Dems are most competitive and ignores the fact that they win large numbers of votes in places where they are not electorally competitive at all. For example, there are around 50 marginal seats with Tory MPs and Labour challengers where the 3rd place Lib Dem vote is more than twice the margin of victory. If the Lib Dem vote heads red in these seats, Labour are big beneficiaries. And there are other combinations, such as Lib Dem seats where Labour are the main challengers. Read the full post…

The Bumper Book of Coalition Rebellions

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We’ve been producing end-of-session reports detailing the rebellions of government backbenchers for several years now – but we’ve never had to produce one quite so large before.  The Bumper Book of Coalition Rebellions is available free of charge in pdf format (at the end of this post). It details every rebellion and every rebel. How much more fun could you want on a miserable Tuesday morning? But in case you don’t have the time, or the inclination, to look at more than 100 pages of info, here’s 20 key points about the behaviour of Coalition MPs in the last session.

1.      The last session saw 239 rebellions by Coalition MPs.  This is higher than the number of rebellions by government MPs in any other session in the post-war era.  Indeed, a figure of 239 is higher than in all but three entire post-war parliaments.  And there were more rebellions in the 2010-12 session than in the period from 1945-1966 combined, taking in 21 years, six parliaments and six Prime Ministers. Read the full post…

The Lords vote: notes for a rebellion

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One of our rules for studying voting in the House of Commons is that the government usually wins.  No matter how much trouble they appear to be in, they usually get out of it.  Eight years ago, when Tony Blair’s government were attempting to pass the legislation on student top up fees, the whips’ calculations on the morning of the second reading vote still put them behind by more than 20.  In the end, they won by five.  So it is sensible never to under-estimate the ability of any government to get its way.

But still, over House of Lords reform the Coalition look to be in a whole heap of trouble.  The key vote is not the Bill’s Second Reading.  Given Labour support, that will pass fairly easily, no matter how large the government backbench rebellion.  The key vote is the Bill’s programme motion, which sets out its timetable.  Lose that – as looks likely at present, with 70 Conservative MPs calling for ‘full and unrestricted scrutiny’ of the bill – and the government is no longer in control of the timetable of the House, with the possibility of gumming up its entire legislative programme.  The fact of there being two votes gives the government some room for manoeuvre – which we explain below – but it also allows for a lot of chaff to be thrown up. Read the full post…

The Redistribution of Parliamentary Constituencies (and What It Means)

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The 2001 and 2005 general election results convinced the Conservatives that they were treated unfairly by the electoral system. Compared to Labour, they got a much smaller share of the seats than of the votes cast. A major reason for that unfairness, the Conservatives reasoned, was that they tend to win seats with larger-than-average electorates. In contrast, Labour tend to win those with smaller-than average electorates. Because of population movements, this difference – and the subsequent anti-Conservative bias – is exacerbated over time (although research shows that other factors contribute much more to that bias than variations in constituency electorates).

To remove this unfairness, revised Rules for Redistribution are to be implemented by the Boundary Commissions, and these are included in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, 2011. The revisions include:

  • The introduction of a UK-wide electoral quota rather than a separate one for each country (Scotland and, especially, Wales – both Labour heartlands – currently have smaller constituencies relative to England);
  • The requirement that all constituencies (with four exceptions) have electorates within +/-5 per cent of that quota (for the current redistribution this is between 72,810 and 80,473), and only within that range could the Commissions take into account factors such as local authority boundaries, communities of interest and previous constituency boundaries (the previous rules prioritised representation of communities over electoral equality – they made no stipulation regarding the permissible range of constituency electorates, which merely had to be ‘as near the electoral quota as is practicable’) Read the full post…

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