The McKinnon Test 87

I am no more in favour of an alliance with New Labour than I am with the Conservatives – though if it delivered PR I would have to think hard.

But why tie ourselves to authoritarian war criminals. The culpability of Miliband in particular in strenuous efforts to cover up UK complicity in torture, should make it impossible for any Liberal to work with him.

Poor Gary McKinnon provides an important test. The Tories and Lib Dems have said they would halt his extradition under Blair’s vassal state one way extradition treaty with the USA. New Labour apparently remain determined to extradite him – and that means Miliband and Johnson in particular. That should be food for thought for anyone considering New Labour leaders touted as more acceptable to the Lib Dems,

87 thoughts on “The McKinnon Test

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  • Anonymous

    “These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people”

    Abraham Lincoln

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Devolution? Tories were dead against it – now they embrace it.

    PR? Tories are dead against it – but in Scotland, it’d give them Westminster seats (more than one, that is!). The only reason they have any seats at all in the Scottish Parliament is PR. Ironic, eh?

    In Scottish politics, the Tories are usually in fourth place.

  • Anonymous

    Craig Murray joins Lib Dems

    “The problem with always being a conformist is that when you try to change the system from within, it’s not you who changes the system; it’s the system that will eventually change you.”

    Immortal Technique

  • Clark


    it’s meant to be a stalemate. Or rather, an overall majority is not the norm under more representative systems. Debate in the House becomes meaningful, rather than a foregone conclusion based on party policy and the party whips.

    But it’s the long term effect that is more important. With a system that doesn’t favour the Big Two to the exclusion of all others, we’ll see a big change in the complexion of the House, with more independents and smaller parties represented. Voters will be free to vote for a good candidate of whichever party, even independent, without fearing that they’ll split the vote and let in someone they really don’t want.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    that’s very unfair on Craig – he’s still criticising the Lib Dem leadership as a Lib Dem party member. If he was just parroting Nick Clegg you might have a point, but he’s not.

  • writerman

    In a country like Britain, PR, whilst appearing “fairer”, may actually produce results that are the opposite of what many advocates of electoral reform want and expect.

    Introducing substantive changes to the electoral culture will probably result in a fundamental re-alignment of party politics; the demise of old parties and the birth of new ones.

  • Clark

    Mary’s post at 8:45.

    With STV, you rank the candidates in order of preference. Such preferential votes were not cast, so the figures given are an estimate.

    But as voters get used to the new system, they vote differently, so the figures are doubly speculative.

    Consider Craig at Norwich North. Many voters may have considered him the best candidate. However, they probably REALLY didn’t want the candidate of one of the two biggest parties to be elected. Unless they can be sure that enough other voters (tens of thousands) will vote for Craig with them, they’ll vote AGAINST the candidate they DON’T want, by voting for the other big party.

    This is what is so sad about the current system; it turns politics into a predominantly negative business, putting voters off, increasing apathy, depressing turnout. It is fundamentally ANTI-democratic. No wonder the Big Two parties love it and the Gutter Press and the City support it.

    Under STV, the voters of Norwich North could have ranked Craig as their first choice, and their Big Party as their second. If Craig had not been elected, those votes would have been transferred to the Big Party of their choice. No danger for the voter of wasting their vote; they can vote for who they believe in without fear.

  • Clark

    Writerman and others,

    I think we need to start being specific; a generic “PR” is too vague. Different systems lead to different results.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Writerman – how can bringing in a voting system that lets people vote for the candidate or party they agree with most, instead of voting negatively for which big established party they dislike less, possibly lead to worse results from elections? Any examples from countries that adopted PR? I’ve not seen any.

    And by PR i mean Single Transferrable Vote or else the Additional Member System used in the Scottish Parliament.

    Of course no system of voting will change the result if no-one changes how they vote, but we’ve already seen in Scotland that the Additional Member System has got Greens elected and at one point there were six Socialists elected to the Scottish Parliament.

    That’s flat out impossible under first-past-the-post election systems because under those the vast majority always vote only for one of the biggest parties to keep another of the biggest parties out.

  • amk

    Craig, I don’t recall seeing your opinion on this.

    Would you accept the offer of AV instead of PR (I assume STV)?

    By taking more information from each voter it would solve the problems of “wasted votes”, split votes and tactical voting*, as well as punishing those whom everybody hates (BNP). No longer would voters not vote LD because LD “couldn’t win” and they wanted to keep Nulab or Tories out.

    I also expect it’s the most reform of the Commons electoral system that the Commons would accept, even if one or other Labservative leadership endorses STV.

    Maybe under an AV election getting STV through would be easier.

    STV for the Lords, councils and European elections should be workable though.

    *It is provable that no single winner electoral method is immune to tactical voting, but with a preferential method unless you’re know exactly how everyone else votes trying to vote tactically will probably bite you in the arse.

  • Richard Robinson

    Andy – “Doesn’t AV sound a little like

    a nasty virus you could catch from a wild duck?”

    Personally, I think the Sexually Transmitted Vote would be more than a little retrogressive.

    Jon – “where’s Alfred?”

    Avoiding the comments left under the Voting Tree, I think.

    Unsourced quote from anon -“The problem with always being a conformist is that when you try to change the system from within, it’s not you who changes the system; it’s the system that will eventually change you.”

    Tell Gorbachev.

  • mary

    Thanks Clark for taking the trouble to explain things. Would the size of constituencies stay the same? I seem to remember from the list of regional candidates for the European Parliament in my region, I knew of none of them and many of them were several counties distant to me.

    And btw where is Cameron? I have only seen his stooges Hague and the shifty looking Letwin appearing and speaking today. Does Cameron want to lead or not? Why can’t he be more manly and tell what’s going on.

  • amk


    “The Alternative Vote certainly doesn’t seem to have made much difference in Australia”

    Not very comparable. I don’t believe they ever had a 3rd party get anything like 23% of the votes under FPTP. The old Australian Democrats got 11% before they imploded.


    “AV isn’t worth having.”

    It gives voters more choice and allows them to register much more detailed opinions of the candidates. That has got to be an improvement.

    “With STV, you rank the candidates in order of preference. Such preferential votes were not cast, so the figures given are an estimate.”

    They also don’t account of all those people who voted for X to keep Y out even though they’d have preferred Z. Under AV or STV they would have ranked them Z, X, Y. It is wildly speculative to estimate seat totals from AV without a specifically designed and probably very large poll.

  • Chris Dooley

    Nick must hold out for PR or walk away. Looks like he is doing a good job of holding out and upping the ante so far.

  • Craig

    I think STV is the best system. I don’t think AV is significantly better than FPTP. Party list systems are absolutely the worst of all.

  • Clark

    I’ve just looked up AV (Alternative Vote) on the Electoral Reform Society site. It looks OK *within* constituencies (the same as my example above), but can still return a disproportional result nationally, depending upon how the boundaried are drawn.

    Maybe my criticism of the Tory offer was misplaced. I just find it hard to believe that they (or Labour) would relinquish their periodic “elected dictatorship”. I’d suspect their offer to be false, and for them to wiggle out of it later.

  • amk

    Mary: Wikipedia is fairly good here.

    STV is a multi member constituency system. AV is the single member version of the same system (sometimes they are called STVM and STVS). A 3 member STV constituency would be formed by joining 3 current constituencies (unless you want to reduce the number of MPs).

    AV algorithm:

    Set a minimum level that would get an MP elected (50%+1).

    2. Assign each vote to the voter’s highest preference.

    If a candidate has got to the winning threshold elect him/her

    Otherwise reject the candidate with least votes and return to 2.

    The STV algorithm is similar but with different thresholds (e.g. a 3 member constituency has a winning threshold of 25%+1 as only three candidates can get >25%) and candidates with more votes than the threshold have their excess redistributed (in the form of fractions of votes) as otherwise not all positions may be filled. There are several variants.

    STV is PR, with larger constituencies being more proportional.

    If computerised voting were used other algorithms become possible. A Condorcet method is a preferential method that will always elect a candidate that would have beaten any other candidate in a one on one run off if one exists. Modern Condorcet single winner election methods include ranked pairs (which provides a final ranking of all candidates) and Schulze. A PR version is CPO-STV.

    Electoral methods are judged by criteria that can be proven (e.g. “Majoritarian: if most voters vote for a candidate that candidate will win”). Most modern systems are preferential (other systems provide little information or are too easily gamed).

    Unfortunately the best resource for this stuff is offline.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    Chris Dooley, are you asking me to defend the One Percent Doctrine? Why should I?

  • Larry from St. Louis

    Chris Dooley, are you asking me to defend the One Percent Doctrine? Why should I?

  • amk

    Craig, thanks for the reply. I agree that list systems are horrible (including AV+/AMS and variants) as they reinforce party power but I’d settle for AV at the present time. STV is the ultimate goal (actually for me CPO-STV is as soon as computerised elections can be proven as safe as paper elections).


    “I’d suspect their offer to be false, and for them to wiggle out of it later.”

    They’d campaign against it in a referendum and would get their media allies to help.The Tories attacked it in a recent PMQs very dishonestly, claiming it would make it harder to get rid of an unpopular government. In fact it would make it easier to get rid of one or any unpopular party: prefer anyone who could beat them, and your vote will go to anyone who can. This may be the real reason they don’t like AV: they suspect that many British voters hate the Tories and would prefer both LD and Lab over them. That would leave them hosed everywhere they don’t have >50% of the votes.

  • Mr M

    Milliband is overblown because Labour elites assume he will guarantee them Murdoch media’s support. The average voter does not know what this creepy little man is up to, nor does he make himself approachable.

  • ScouseBilly

    Clark at May 10, 2010 10:00 PM

    If it were false, then their coalition/pact wouldn’t last 5 minutes.

    The they’d risk the wrath of the electorate in pretty short order.

    I suspect the tories want a Lib-Lab pact that won’t last long before they clean up. Another “unelected” PM and a change in the democratic process without public consultation via a referendum when it had been offered would not make Lab or Lib look good.

  • amk

    I should say that the algorithm I gave above is for Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). AV is the election of a whole chamber by IRV in each constituency. IRV is the term usually used in the US.

    Terms can be confusing. Many people (especially continentals) use “PR” to mean list systems, which few people in the UK have ever supported. LD proposes STV.

  • gawdelpus

    I’m getting sick and tired of cretins in media and elsewhere rabbiting on about an “unelected” Prime minister.

    These morons haven’t the faintest clue how our system works, and are clearly too much schooled in American media and their presidential system.

    If this is an example of just how stupid our media are today then we’d be better to totally exclude them from any voice at all.

    Things are bad enough without ill-educated media morons running rampant talking absolute drivel.

    Close them down quickly, before they destroy us all!!

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