How our biased electoral system could change British history

31 October 2019

9:06 PM

31 October 2019

9:06 PM

Last night’s report in the Financial Times that Nigel Farage is considering a pact with Boris Johnson has terrified what remains of the ‘Remain’ movement. Their statisticians believe it could guarantee a Tory majority, and maybe a huge majority.

The smart thing to say about this election is that nobody knows anything and any outcome is possible. For what it is worth, I still believe that. Nevertheless it is worth looking at the fears of intelligent Remainers because they show how a biased electoral system and the appalling leadership of the left could change British history.

The FT reports that Farage is considering whether to pull the Brexit party out of hundreds of seats. No decision has been made – perhaps he will tell us what is on his mind today. Until he does, Farage’s promise to contest every seat in the country still stands. But in a message to his followers on Wednesday, he said ‘Important. Please all go DARK on social media. DO NOT respond to any questions about where we [are] standing, what the strategy or plan is from now on. Things will be made clear… very soon.’

Meanwhile, Arron Banks, Farage’s money man, has added: ‘If Nigel takes a tactical, pragmatic approach on where to run to help deliver Brexit he’ll be rewarded by voters. Voting for a Brexiter isn’t as straightforward as you’d think. You have to remember that the Brexit party can actually help the Tories by taking votes away from Labour in some seats. But in others like Cornwall or Devon, they aren’t going to get much traction, so what’s the point?’

It is easy to build a case that the Brexit party is preparing to give Tories a free run wherever it concludes that stepping aside will build a pro-Brexit majority.

Remainers are certainly building one. The campaign group Best for Britain uses multilevel regression and post-stratification analysis to model the electorate. In short, they pump in polling data, information from the census, and recent European and local elections to produce educated guesses on how each constituency will move. Its data suggests that, if Banks and Johnson work together, the Tories could have a majority of anywhere between 40 and 100.

It also finds, as most polls are now finding, that there is a majority for keeping Britain in the EU. But so what? First past the post ensures that the well-organised minority can impose its will on a divided majority.

Best for Britain and many a supposedly moral centre-left commentator will be begging voters to forget about the ugliness and racism and the incompetence and vote tactically for Corbyn’s Labour where it has the best chance of beating the Tories. The advice makes a kind of sense. But I wonder how many people will follow it. You cannot put morally repellent people in charge of the main opposition party then demand that voters endorse them. Or rather you can, but you have no right to be surprised if you are ignored.

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