Good news for sitting deputies...
IF you’re hoping island-wide voting will bring change, then prepare to be disappointed. Peter Gillson explains why
The race is on. More than 100 runners and three political parties, one which claims not to be a party and has no specific policies.
What I find interesting is not who is in each of the parties, but who is not. There are some existing and returning deputies who I fully expected to be members of one party or another – but are not. Odd.
I know that most predictions are not totally correct. Mine are no exception and I face the prospect of the proverbial egg on my face, but I am going to repeat a prediction I made when island-wide voting was agreed – that after all the years of waiting, and people campaigning for it, IWV will be a disappointment.
Because it will not deliver what some people want, which is change. I do not expect this election to result in the wholesale change some are hoping for.
I would not be surprised if the majority of sitting deputies are re-elected. Of course, with only eight of the current cohort not standing there will be some change, but not the wholesale change some want.
I will explain my logic.
My first assumption is that, on average, voters will use only about a dozen out of their 38 votes. I am aware of an informal poll which suggests that the average will be about 20, but considering that was conducted among people who follow politics it is quite a low number, and I expect it to be lower still for voters who have only a passing interest in politics.
I don’t suggest ‘a passing interest’ in any way critically. I know that when I was younger, building a career, I was not overly focused on politics. Yes, I voted, but between elections it was only a passing interest. I am just recognising that at different times of our lives we all have differing priorities and, for many, politics is not an everyday worry, so the amount of time people may have to spend, or want to spend, reading over 100 manifestos will vary.
IWV will be attractive to many, while to others the sheer number of candidates and votes will be off-putting, so I am assuming a slightly higher turnout than 2016 – a turnout of around 75%. With 30,000 on the electoral roll, it means the most votes any candidate can realistically expect is around 22,500.
It is fair to assume that nobody is going to get the support of everybody who actually votes, although some well-known names will be very popular. Past poll-toppers have averaged 60% so I expect the poll-topper to get in the region of 14,000 votes.
At the other end of the scale, the last few seats will go to candidates who are not very well known and have a small support base, my guess is with under 2,000 votes.
How do I get to such a low number?
Here is the maths bit: 22,500 voters each casting 20 votes is a total of 450,000 votes cast. If they were distributed equally, it would mean each of the 119 candidates getting 3,781 votes. Of course, the votes will not be evenly spread out – some will get more, some less. So, the candidates who are placed in positions between 31 and 38 could well do so with less than 2,000 votes.
If this is anywhere near being right, it means good news for the sitting deputies. Apart from a few of the St Peter Port deputies, they all received more than 1,100 votes in 2016. Remember, that was from only 1/7 of the total electorate.
Admittedly, some will be less popular this time around, but even if they lose half of their 2016 support they are likely to more than make up this loss with new supporters from the other areas of the island.
That is why I think it is very likely all deputies will be re-elected, or if not all, certainly those who were higher up in the polls in the 2016 election.
For anybody who wanted IWV as an opportunity to get rid of some deputies, the problem is that not voting for them will not be enough, since a candidate might still get enough votes from other people to be in the top 38, even if it is in one of the lower places.
If we assume candidate X has enough supporters to get elected in position 31 out of 38, to stop him/her being elected the candidates in positions 32 to 39 would have to receive more votes than candidate X to ‘bump’ him down to position 39.
So, in order to achieve what some people expect from IWV – the ability to de-select a sitting deputy, they would not only have to vote for the candidates they support, but use all 38 votes, some for candidates who are likely to generate slightly less support than their disliked deputy, to knock him/her down the results table. Easier said than done.
Ironically, the sheer number of new candidates makes change less likely since votes may be spread too thinly across too many candidates to be an effective force for change.
The more votes people use, the greater the chance of change.
Whatever happens, I am sure it will be an interesting election. I know that I will not agree with all of the new government’s decisions, but whoever is elected I hope they form a new government which operates to higher standards of governance, is more open, issues media releases which are more accurate, and has leadership which is genuinely supportive of consensus government.
Finally, this is the last of my regular fortnightly columns. It has been four years and, while I am sure you have not agreed with everything I have written, I hope you have found them interesting and thought-provoking.
I may still return with the occasional column about specific subjects, but in the meantime, thank you for your time reading my thoughts and for the many kind comments.