Archive for September, 2010


Keneally’s grab for cash

The NSW Labor government is currently using the cover of supposed “campaign finance reform” to rig the public funding system to give more money to major parties and radically cut the funding to smaller parties.

Last Tuesday, Keneally announced that she would be proposing campaign funding reform legislation before the impending state election. While the details were vague, they included a cap on donations of $5000 and a cap on spending of $100,000 per electorate. Pretty weak, but a step in the right direction.

Hidden in her plans was a vague reference to plans for a “tiered” funding system.

A Sydney  Morning Herald article on Saturday revealed that this plan is to fund a proportion of each’s candidate’s expenditure, with a greater proportion for candidates receiving a higher vote. This scheme would massively increase funding  to major parties, while slashing it for smaller parties, and forcing political parties, particularly smaller parties, to rely on even more donations to supplement the limited public funding.

In addition, it’s now been revealed that the Keneally government also plans to introduce a new scheme for funding of administrative party activities outside of election periods.

In New South Wales we currently have the “Political Education Fund”, which gives funding to all parliamentary parties for non-election work outside of election periods, based on the number of Legislative Assembly votes received at the last election. While it is meant to be spent on ‘political education’, all parties use much of their funding for general costs of running a party outside of campaigns.

The new administrative scheme would be based on the number of Members of Parliament each party has elected. It doesn’t need to be said that this would also massively assist the major parties, due to the current electoral system disadvantaging smaller parties by locking them out of the Legislative Assembly. It doesn’t seem clear to my why a party with more Members of Parliament, with all the extra resources that provides, needs a disproportionately greater amount of public funding to run their party.

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Breaking down the UK Labour vote

The UK Labour Party has provided a great deal of data on how members voted in the recent election for the leadership of the party.

The Labour website has published the full preference ballot for all Members of the House of Commons and the European Parliament. They also published the primary vote results for each local branch of the party and each affiliated organisation.

After extensive analysis, you find that the result does not vary wildly across the country. On primary votes, David Milliband won the most votes in 546 constituencies, Ed Milliband in 73, Andy Burnham in 11, and Ed Balls in only two. Diane Abbott won the most votes in no constituency. In contrast, all four other candidates won in their own constituency. Using an estimate of preference flows to calculate a “Two Milliband Preferred” figure, you end up with David winning 467 constituencies and Ed winning 166 constituencies, showing a very consistent result, considering David only won 54.4% of the result nationally.

When you examine constituencies according to which party won each seat at the 2010 general election, you find some interesting trends. David Milliband won just under 55% in both Labour and Conservative constituencies, but only won 51.5% in Liberal Democrat constituencies. It’s worth noting that, despite Labour winning far less than a majority of seats in 2010, 49.9% of Labour members who voted live in Labour constituencies.

When you examine how each individual constituency MP voted, you find a very different picture. Abbott received the vote of 7 MPs, Balls 40, Burnham 23, David Milliband 105, and Ed Milliband 78. Four MPs did not vote: former leader Gordon Brown, acting leader Harriet Harman, chief whip Nick Brown, and party chairman Tony Lloyd.

In addition, thirteen Labour Members of the European Parliament also voted. 6 voted for David, 6 voted for Ed Milliband, and one voted for Andy Burnham, giving a second preference to Ed Milliband.

Amongst MPs, the two-candidate preferred vote broke down as 134 for David Milliband, 115 for Ed Milliband, and 4 that exhausted. Those four exhausted votes included the votes of leadership candidates Diane Abbott and Ed Balls, Balls’ wife Yvette Cooper, and prominent left-winger John McDonnell, who originally planned to run before dropping out and endorsing Abbott.

You can also break down the vote amongst MPs by gender. Amongst women, who make up about a third of the voting bloc, Ed Milliband performs much more strongly and Andy Burnham much worse. On a two-candidate basis, David wins 55.5% amongst men, and Ed wins 51.8% amongst women.

I have also broken down the results by the nine regions of England, as well as Scotland and Wales. In most regions, David Milliband wins a slim majority on preferences, amongst both MPs and party members. It’s worth noting that in a number of regions there are a really small number of Labour MPs. In the East of England, Labour only holds the two seats in Luton. They only hold four seats each in South East England and South West England.

There are few exceptions. Out of Burnham’s 24 MP votes, half of those are in the North West, where he won more MP votes than Ed Milliband. He also polled over 19% amongst members in that region, despite not getting over 10% in any other part of the country. Burnham holds a seat in Greater Manchester, so it’s not at all surprising.

In the West Midlands, Ed Balls won the votes of 8 MPs, to nine for David Milliband and seven for Ed Milliband. This isn’t due to any local link: Balls and his wife hold seats in West Yorkshire. Neither did he perform particularly well amongst party members in that region.

Ed Milliband won a majority of MP votes in Wales and Yorkshire. In 168 constituencies, the Labour MP cast their primary vote the same way as the plurality of their constituency, but in 81 their paths diverged.

Below the fold are a bunch of maps I have made showing this geographical distribution:

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Ed Milliband wins UK Labour leadership

In a remarkably close result, Ed Milliband has won the vote of Labour MPs, Labour Party members and union members to become the next leader of the Labour Party, in the first close-run result under the hybrid electoral system.

The UK Labour Party elects its leader using an electoral college where votes are weighted, with one third of votes going to MPs and MEPs, one third to members of Constituency Labour Parties, and one third to members of affiliated organisations (mainly being unions).

The primary results had David Milliband leading with 37% to his younger brother Ed Milliband on 34%. After three rounds of elimination the final two-party result of 50.65% for Ed Milliband.

Amongst MPs and MEPs, David won 140 to Ed’s 122 in the final round. David also won 54.4% amongst Labour Party members. Ed overcame this deficit with 59.8% of the  vote amongst union members.

The result is a challenge for the party. The Labour electoral system pretty much prevents the loser in a close contest to challenge again, as you would expect in Australia (as happened with Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull, and many earlier leadership contests). Having said that, the younger Milliband ran on a platform of rejecting New Labour, and managed to win only with the support of union members, with slim majorities of MPs and party members going for David. This will make him vulnerable to attacks from the Conservatives as a puppet of the unions, although it is worth noting that the union vote comes from individual members (with 211,000 voting) rather than from union leadership.

The UK Labour website provides a remarkable level of detail on the result, which I hope to analyse for another post tomorrow. They include primary vote breakdowns for each Constituency Labour Party and for each affiliated organisation, and the entire preference flow for every MP.


USA 2010: Colorado Governor

Colorado’s current Govenor is Bill Ritter (D), who is not standing for re-election in 2010, after being elected at the 2006 election.

Colorado’s gubernatorial elections were dominated by Democrats throughout the 20th century, holding office for 60 years in the 20th Century. The Democrats held office continuously from 1975 to 1999. At the 1998 election, sitting Democratic Governor Roy Romer stood down after three terms, and a close race was won by Republican Bill Owens. Owens was re-elected with a landslide in 2002.

In 2006, Owens was term-limited, and the election was won comfortably by Democratic candidate Bill Ritter, a former District Attorney in Denver. Ritter is stepping down at this year’s term, although he would be permitted to run for a second term.

The Democratic primary was won by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper with no serious opposition.

The Republican primary was expected to be won by former Congressman Scott McInnis. He was leading for most of the campaign, but in July his campaign went off the rails when it was discovered that he had committed plagiarism in writing papers for a fellowship he had held around 2005. He narrowly lost the primary to businessman Dan Maes.

Maes’ chances were badly damaged when former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo announced he would be running for Governor as the candidate of the minor American Constitution Party. Tancredo demanded that both Maes and McInnis drop out, and after the Republican primary many GOP officials attempted to convince Maes to clear the way for Tancredo to give them a chance of defeating the Democrat. Maes has so far refused to drop out.

Tancredo was a strongly anti-immigration Congressman, and announced his presidential candidacy in 2007. His campaign was overshadowed by other contenders, and he dropped out before the first primary.

Polling in June showed Maes neck-and-neck with Hickenlooper in a two-horse race. He started to slip behind in July, but the entry of Tancredo in late July saw his support plummet. While Maes and Tancredo between them have been polling about the same as Hickenlooper, the divide between the two right-wing candidates puts them out of contention of winning. Tancredo has been polling very strongly for a minor party candidate, often polling over 20%, and in the most recent poll receiving 4% more than Maes.

Despite the fertile opportunity for the Republicans to pick up this race, it appears that Hickenlooper is set to retain the Governor’s office for the Democrats. It seems unlikely that either Maes or Tancredo will drop out, and it is almost impossible for either to win in a three-horse race.


UK Labour chooses a new leader

The UK Labour Party is currently entering the final stages of a months-long process to choose a leader to succeed Gordon Brown, following their election defeat earlier this year.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown resigned, both as Labour leader and as Prime Minister, on 11 May, six days after the general election produced a hung parliament, leading to a coalition of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Under Labour Party rules, the Leader and Deputy Leader of the party are elected by a vote of three groups of people, with their votes weighted such that each group makes up one third of the votes counted:

  • Labour members of the House of Commons and European Parliament
  • Individual members of the Labour Party
  • Individual members of affiliated organisations (mainly trade unions)

Votes are counted using preferential voting. In 2010, voting will close today, September 22, with the result announced at the Labour conference on Saturday September 25.

It’s important to stress how different this is to how all political parties in Australia elect their leaders. Under this system, which was introduced in 1993 and used to elect Tony Blair in 1994 and Gordon Brown in 2007, grassroots members of both the party and affiliated organisations become much more significant, although the one third of the vote cast by Members of Parliament is nothing to sneeze at.

At the leadership election in 1994, Blair was easily elected, winning over 50% in every category, although that varied from 52% of party members to 60% of MPs. In 2007, Brown was elected unopposed.

The only close election conducted under this system was the party’s deputy leadership election in 2007. None of the six candidates gained more than 20% of the vote in the first round, with the three voting groups leaning towards different candidates. After a series of eliminations, Harriet Harman narrowly defeated Alan Johnson. Johnson won a majority amongst affiliated organisations and MPs, but lost due to Harman winning a larger majority amongst party members.

There are five candidates standing in 2010. Former Foreign Secretary David Milliband; former Climate Change Secretary Ed Milliband; former Education Secretary Ed Balls, former Health Secretary Andy Burnham; and London MP Diane Abbott.

Each candidate was required to receive 33 nominations from Members of Parliament. Left-winger John McDonnell originally made an attempt at achieving  this number, before withdrawing and endorsing Abbott. David Milliband, who was nominated by many more than 33 MPs, “loaned” some of his nominators to Abbott to get her over the line.

Four of the five candidates are strikingly similar, while the fifth stands out. Abbott is a member of the party’s left and held no ministerial office in the Blair/Brown Government. She is the only woman and the only candidate from an ethnic minority standing. She has been a Member of Parliament since 1987, while none of the other candidates was elected to Parliament before the turn of the decade.

The leading candidates are the brothers Milliband. David, the older brother, was elected to Parliament in 2001 and was previously a senior advisor to Tony Blair. Ed was elected to Parliament in 2005 after serving as an advisor to Gordon Brown.

Ed Balls was an advisor to Gordon Brown in opposition and the early years of government, going on to serve as chief economic advisor at the Treasury before being elected to Parliament in 2005. He went on to serve in the Brown Cabinet, alongside his wife Yvette Cooper, who has been a member of Parliament since 1997. Cooper was considered a possible candidate for the leadership, but withdraw in favour of her husband.

Andy Burnham has been an MP since 2001, and served as Health Secretary from 2009 to 2010, and a number of other roles before that.

Limited opinion polling has shown that, on primary votes, the Milliband brothers stand out ahead of the rest of the field, a September poll showed Ed Milliband slightly ahead, although David was winning a slim majority amongst MPs. Their campaigns have drawn a sharp distinction in terms of the direction of the Labour Party. David Milliband has emphasised the need to win back the voters lost to the Conservatives by maintaining the centre ground staked out by Tony Blair, while Ed Milliband and his supporters have talked more about winning back those alienated by Tony Blair’s “third way” agenda.


USA 2010: Minnesota Governor

Minnesota’s current Governor is Republican Tim Pawlenty. After eight years in office, Pawlenty is not running for a third term this year.

While Minnesota has voted Democrat consistently at every Presidential election since 1972, and has leaned Democratic in Senatorial and House elections, the Governor’s office has been dominated by Republicans.

Republicans held gubernatorial office in Minnesota continuously from 1860 to 1899. Two short periods of Democratic rule in the early 20th century did not last, and the Republicans remained dominant. The Republicans lost office in 1930 not to the Democrats, but to the Farmer-Labor Party, which held the Governor’s office for two terms in the 1930s. The Farmer-Labor Party merged with the Democrats in the 1940s.

The DFL won back power at the 1954 election. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party held power for all but ten years until the 1990 election, when power was lost to Republican candidate Arne Carlson. Carlson was re-elected in 1994, and did not run for a third term in 1998.

The 1998 election was contested by Republican Norm Coleman, DFL candidate Hubert Humphrey III, and Jesse Ventura, running for Ross Perot’s Reform Party. Ventura was a former professional wrestler who had served as Mayor of Minnesota’s sixth-biggest city in the early 1990s. In a three-horse race, Ventura defeated Coleman 36-34%.

Ventura served as Governor for one term, with a variety of policy positions from across the political spectrum. Ventura retired at the 2002 election, and that election was won comfortably by Tim Pawlenty, who was re-elected in 2006.

State representative Tom Emmer won the Republican primary largely unopposed after his main rivals withdrew, due to him winning the support of delegates at the state convention.

The Democratic primary was won by former Senator Mark Dayton. Dayton had won a Senate seat in 2000, but retired at the 2006 election, to be succeeded by Amy Klobuchar. In the August 2010 primary, Dayton narrowly defeated Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who had won the support of the DFL state convention in April.

Polling has shown Dayton leading over Emmer in most polls, although recent polls have him only narrowly in front, with both major candidate polling under 40%. Minnesota has a long history of third party candidates performing strongly, and Tom Horner, who is running for Ventura’s Independence Party, has been polling over 10% in recent polls. The Independence Party candidate polled over 15% in the 2008 Senate race, when the Democrat defeated the Republican by only 312 votes out of over 1.8 million.

The race appears to be narrowing. In polls in late July and early August, Dayton led by around 10%. But the last two polls have Dayton leading by only 2% in one poll, and tied with Emmer in the other.


Tea Party makes its mark in Republican primaries

The Tea Party movement has significantly shaped American politics since it emerged early in 2009. The movement emerged out of the Ron Paul campaign for President as a libertarian-conservative campaign against taxation, which quickly spread to cover most right-wing causes, and acting as an anti-establishment movement, strongly opposed to Obama administration policies such as national healthcare, but also opposed to the Republican establishment. The movement also has included prominent elements who have cast doubt on the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency, questioned his citizenship status and compared his government to socialism and fascism.

In the last few months, Tea Party activists have shifted the direction of a number of Republican primary races, shifting the Republican party to the right and risking their chances of winning or retaining those Senate seats.

In Florida, Governor Charlie Crist was challenged by the further-right candidate Marco Rubio, and Crist eventually left the Republican party to run as an independent. While Rubio is still the frontrunner and may well win the seat, there is now a high chance that the Republicans will lose the seat to the newly independent Crist.

In Kentucky, a solidly red state, the Republican primary chose Rand Paul, son of Texas congressman Ron Paul, over the establishment candidate. Paul made a number of controversial comments immediately after winning the primary, criticising President Obama for being critical of BP for their role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and defending the right of businesses to discriminate on the basis of race. Since then, Paul’s campaign has settled down, and he is the favourite to win, but his lead over Democratic candidate Jack Conway is not very solid, and he is having to campaign hard in a state that would normally go easily to a Republican.

In Alaska, incumbent senator Lisa Murkowski was seen as one of the more moderate Republicans, although hardly out of the Republican mainstream. Murkowski was challenged by Joe Miller, who received the endorsement of former Governor Sarah Palin. Like in Kentucky, the Republican candidate in Alaska is still the frontrunner in the Senate race, but Miller’s victory energised supporters of Democratic candidate Scott McAdams, with Democratic bloggers raising substantial sums of money for a Democrat running in such a small state.

In Delaware, a state dominated by Democrats, the seat previously filled by Vice President Joe Biden will be filled in a special election in November. The Republican establishment swung in behind Mike Castle, who has held Delaware’s only seat in the House of Representatives since 1992. Castle was challenged by Christine O’Donnell, who won the primary with the active support of Tea Party groups. Prior to the primary it was predicted that the Democrats had little to no chance of retaining their seat in Delaware, but O’Donnell is now the underdog in the Senate race.

There is no doubting that the Tea Party movement has revitalised the Republican party after their large defeats at the 2006 and 2008 elections, giving the party a platform on which to fight the Obama administration, and motivating Republicans to vote in the midterms, when it is notoriously difficult to get voters to turn out. On the other hand, the Republicans are aiming for a large victory that could possibly give them ten more Senate seats and a Senate majority. They won’t be able to do that without winning solid blue states like Delaware, or falling short in usually reliable states such as Florida, Kentucky and Alaska.


USA 2010: Delaware Senate

Delaware is going to the polls this November in a special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden in 2008.

Biden won his Senate seat in 1972, defeating sitting Republican senator Caleb Boggs, who was running for a third term. Biden served six full terms as Senator for Delaware, until 2008. In 2008, he simultaneously ran for a seventh term as Senator and for Vice President. He won both races, and resigned from the Senate shortly after.

His Senate seat was filled by his former chief of staff, Ted Kaufman. Kaufman never intended to run in the 2010 special election to fill the remaining four years of the Senate term.

Delaware’s other Senate seat was held by Republicans continuously from the 1946 election until the 2000 election. In 2000, five-term Senator Bill Roth (R) was defeated by Tom Carper (D), who was re-elected in 2006.

With sitting Senator Ted Kaufman not running, Delaware’ special election this year is an open race. The Democratic primary was won unopposed by Chris Coons, New Castle County Executive.

The Republican nomination was originally assumed to go to Mike Castle, who has held Delaware’s only House of Representatives seat since 1992, and had previously served as Governor of Delaware. Castle was opposed in the primary by Christine O’Donnell, who ran as the Republican candidate for the Senate in 2008, and was beaten badly by Joe Biden. For most of the primary campaign, Castle was solidly in front.

In late August, sitting Senator Lisa Murkowski lost the Republican Senate primary in Alaska to Joe Miller, a more conservative candidate who ran an anti-establishment campaign with the support of former Governor Sarah Palin and tea party activists. This victory saw tea party activists push resources into Delaware, where O’Donnell was close to tea party positions, while Castle has been a moderate Republican with deep establishment connections.

In yesterday’s primary, O’Donnell achieved an upset win, with 53% of the vote. It was widely predicted that Castle was likely to win a general election, flipping a Senate seat from Democrat to Republican in a very liberal state. While O’Donnell certainly has a chance of victory, her chances are much slimmer, and make Democratic candidate Coons the front-runner in the race.


USA 2010: Florida governor

The sitting Governor of Florida is Charlie Crist, who was elected in 2006 as a Republican. Florida had a long history of electing Democratic governors, but in recent years governors have been predominantly Republican.

The Democrats won every gubernatorial election from 1876 to 1964, with the exception of the 1916 election, when the race was won by the Prohibition Party. The Republicans won the Governor’s race in 1966 and 1986, but the Democrats still dominated for the rest of the century. Florida is a state that has shifted from Democrats to Republicans as the civil rights movement and the ‘southern strategy’ saw conservative white southerners move away from the Democrats to the Republicans.

In 1998, Lieutenant Governor Buddy MacKay lost to Jeb Bush, son of former President George H W Bush and brother of future President George W Bush. MacKay briefly served as Governor after the death of his predecessor in December 1998.

Bush served two full terms in Florida, but was prohibited from running for a third term in 2006. He was succeeded by Florida Attorney-General Charlie Crist (R).

In 2010, Crist decided to run for the open Senate seat, rather than seek a second term as Governor. Crist’s primary campaign did not go well, with his rival Marco Rubio convincingly beating him in primary polls. Crist was a relatively moderate Republican who had often resisted taking positions for partisan advantage. In April 2010 he left the Republican party to stand as an independent for the Senate in the face of poor primary polling, and he is serving out the remainder of his gubernatorial term as an independent.

The Republican gubernatorial primary was won by Rick Scott, a campaigner against government-run healthcare with links to the Tea Party movement. Scott defeated Florida Attorney-General Bill McCollum 46% to 43%. The Democratic primary was convincingly won by Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

Scott led over Sink in most polls until early August, but since then Sink has taken the lead, winning most polls over Scott for the last month. She has won some with large margins, although others only have her slightly in front.


USA 2010: Illinois Senate

Illinois is the fifth-largest state in the United States, and is usually a reliably Democratic state, including the city of Chicago.

At the 2010 election, the seat up for election is a Democratic seat previously held by President Barack Obama. The seat is currently held by Roland Burris, who was appointed to the seat in December 2008.

Both Illinois seats have been dominated by Democrats in recent decades, with the Republicans only winning a Senate seat once since 1980.

The seat now held by Burris was won off the Republicans at a special election in 1970 by Adlai Stevenson III, son of the former presidential candidate and grandson of the former Vice President. Stevenson was re-elected in 1974 and retired in 1980. The seat was won in 1980 and 1986 by Alan Dixon (D). In 1992, Dixon lost the Democratic primary to Carol Moseley Braun, who went on to win the seat. Moseley Braun was one of only two African Americans to win election to the Senate in the 20th century.

Illinois’ other Senate seat was won by Republican Charles Percy at the 1966, 1972 and 1978 elections, before he was defeated by Democratic candidate Paul Simon in 1984. Simon won re-election in 1990, before retiring at the 1996 election. The seat was won in 1996 by Congressman Dick Durbin (D), who won re-election in 2002 and 2008.

Moseley Braun only served for one term, losing in 1998 to Republican candidate Peter Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald didn’t stand in the 2004 election. The Democrats selected Illinois State Senator Barack Obama. The Republicans originally selected Jack Ryan, but a scandal saw him withdraw, and he was replaced by Alan Keyes, a Republican figure who had never won elected office and had never lived in Illinois. Obama won the race with almost 70% of the vote.

The 2004 campaign rose the profile of Obama, who was elected President in 2008. Following his election, he resigned from his Senate seat. The Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich (D), was responsible for appointing a temporary replacement for Obama for the final two years of his Senate term. Blagojevich was taped discussing how he would give the Senate seat to whoever gave him personal benefit, and made embarrassing comments about his attitude to appointing a US Senator. After he was arrested by federal officials, most serious contenders stood back from consideration for the seat, and he appointed Roland Burris, a less prominent figure in Illinois politics.

Burris has had a difficult period as a US senator, facing corruption allegations and extremely low poll ratings.

The Democratic primary this year was won by State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. The Republican primary was won by Congressman Mark Kirk.

Polling for the general election is very even, with Kirk and Giannoulias both winning a number of recent polls, never by large margins. Giannoulias led in most polls up to March 2010, but from April to June most polls showed Kirk in front by a slim margin. Since July, polling figures have been mixed.