David Davis and David Miliband - thwarted by AV

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 12 April 2011 in Diary
Diary
Under first past the post rather than AV, David Davis and David Miliband would have won their respective leadership contests and could well have been leading their parties today

Courtesy of a tip-off from one of the QI elves (the backroom brains who come up with all those clever factoids for Stephen Fry to say on television), I’ve been looking again at the data for both the Conservative leadership election in 2005 and the Labour contest in 2010, and it seem to be the case that had they been conducted using the same voting system we currently use to elect MPs, David Davis and David Miliband would have triumphed.

In the case of the Conservatives, David Davis out-polled his three rivals in the first round of voting, receiving 62 votes to Cameron’s 56 (see p.4 here for full results). Assuming that voters would have cast a single vote in the same way they apportioned their first preference (which I don’t think is an outlandish assumption to make), had the contest been conducted under first past the post, Davis would have become Conservative leader. Whether he would still be leader, and how he would have fared in last year’s election is a speculation for another time.

With David Miliband, it’s slightly more complicated owing to the way that Labour’s tripartite electoral college functions. But if, once again, we assume that if voters were to cast their single vote under first past the post in the same way that they cast their first preference, David Miliband would have received 37.78% of all first preferences compared to his brother’s 34.33%. (See the full tables of results here). Incidentally, it also adds an extra ironic picquancy to his full-throated support of the change to AV.

As Ben reported yesterday, the countdown to the AV referendum is now underway as each campaign unveils its broadcasts and strives to get their message across in the last few days before Britain goes to the polls.

While people are making their minds up about the voting system they want to use to elect MPs in the future, it’s worth sparing a thought for the internal party elections. Had they used first past the post, we could well have still had a Conservative prime minister called David facing a Miliband across the despatch box for PMQs. But perhaps with some subtle differences...

For more fascinating facts, follow the QI elves on Twitter.

Tags: Alternative vote, David Cameron, David Davis, David Miliband, Ed Miliband, First Past the Post

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