STV & the Labour Party

STV & the Labour Party

There’s a sudden revival of interest in STV as the LP adopts it as a means of electing the CLP reps. There are in my mind, three problems with STV for party managers and one for voters. The fact that “order” can be critical in the results is important. When combined with the degree of discipline within Party voting blocs and the propensity to bleed votes from the block, getting the quota early is of advantage to parties. The problem of avoiding having large numbers of your votes trapped in the losing quota is also critically important for party managers particularly if the quota is high.

The Order based nature of STV counting leads to a series of well-known problems with STV in that it is one of the easier systems to game and has a number of design features which encourage manipulative or gaming behaviour. STV is not monotone, participative, consistent nor does it meet the No-Betrayer criteria.

There is no strategy that can compensate for a bloc’s voters not voting for all the candidates in the slate. Even within the activist or membership layer, many are more committed to their faction than to the Party, which may lead people to desert their first choice slate for another as the individual candidates become distasteful to the voter. I am curious if we could model the effect this ‘bleed’. The speed of desertion may well be determined by the slate construction as some on the slate might be exceptionally unacceptable to the otherwise loyal electorate. We should also note that not transferring reduces the quota[1] and so is equivalent to a (part) vote for all remaining candidates and acts as de-facto vote in favour of the highest remaining contender.

Early success militates against having votes lost in the losing quota, particularly as the STV transfers surpluses before eliminating candidates.

If running a complete slate, the offer of a recommendation to support as a second choice is not worth so much.

The disadvantage to voters is that their optimal strategy may not involve voting in a straightforward way as it may be best if someone likely to pick up a lot of transfers is eliminated before the transfers occur. This is more acute in instant run-off elections and depends on whether they want a candidate to win or prefer that others lose.

I can’t see what to do about weak discipline. If we take the example of the UK where we have Labour, the Greens, the Lib Dems and the Tories, we can see how people, who’s first choice might be, say, Labour might switch to the Green list after one or two votes for what ever reason and the Greens might go in both directions to Labour or to the LibDems. The system is designed to have this effect.


[1] This is the failure to meet the Participation Effect. …

Labour’s leak, rights of privacy and the public interest

This is the first part of my three part article on the Labour leak of a management report into the activities of Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit (GLU) in its handling of anti-semitism complaints. This part looks at the act of the leak, the legal (or lack of) immunities, the rights of the employees and those of the management and the anti-corruption laws, basically the legal position outside the rules of the Party. For more, see overleaf ...

Voting Systems Theory and STV

Voting Systems Theory and STV

It is important to understand that a bunch of clever people have thought hard about voting systems; we don’t have to invent this. I remember that our management in Sun Professional Services tried to imbue us with the mantra, “Innovate, Don’t Reinvent” and others have declared that the process of innovation is standing on the shoulders of giants. Voting system qualities known as criteria have been defined. There may be some as yet undiscovered criteria, but it would be best if we debate the pro’s and con’s using an agreed categorisation and science.

One has to be brilliant to be both in a minority and right, and most of us are not that brilliant.

Wikipedia, on their article, Comparison of Electoral Systems, says this,

Attitudes towards systems are highly influenced by the systems’ impact on groups that one supports or opposes, which can make the objective comparison of electoral systems difficult. … To compare methods fairly and independently of political ideologies, voting theorists use voting method criteria, which define potentially desirable properties of voting methods mathematically.

Wikipedia – Comparison of Electoral Systems

One thing we should note is that not all criteria can be applied to all systems, the key differences are between single winner systems, and multiple winner systems and then between list based and non-list based systems.

While some consider and seek to judge instant run off elections, sometimes referred to as the Alternate Vote as a special case of STV i.e. an STV with only one winner, the fact that there is only one winner makes it a separate and quite different system. This is shown by the fact that it passes and fails different voting criteria. Also, in AV elections, there is no transfer of a surplus votes and the minority i.e. the wasted voted can be as high as 50% – 1. This is better than simple plurality systems where the losing proportion can easily be quite high majorities. It seems to me that one critical goal of democratic voting systems should be to ensure that the “wasted” or losing votes are as small as possible.

Some criteria only apply to singe winner elections, and while it’s hard to game an STV election, it is not impossible. Games can be played by candidate/parties or by voters. STV’s problems come from the fact that surpluses and eliminations occur in an order and thus transfers are impacted by this ordering.

The Wikipedia article tests STV against 7 voting systems criteria and fails it on five. Some of the criteria seem to be remarkably similar and, it seems to me, all relate to honesty and motivation in voting behaviour and how the voting system reflects this honesty. STV fails the Monotonicity Criterion as there are cases where you can support your preferred candidate by down ranking them. It fails the Consistency criterion, probably by design and I am not sure it’s all that desirable, but this is about sub-set aggregation which can’t be done in STV, Participation, that your voice is always stronger if you vote, and “No favourite betrayal”, where you have no incentive to vote for anyone other than your favourite.

It’s certainly not perfect but we should learn from thinkers that have gone before us.  …

Fatal Weaknesses

Fatal Weaknesses

This is part II of my commentary on the Labour Leak, it looks at the missteps and failures to control the bureaucracy from 2015 to 2019 and looks at the structural faults, the need for a robust segregation of duties, how Labour has changed its rules to make expulsion of alleged antisemites or troublemaker’s easier and how McNicol’s eventual departure allowed both damage to be continued and a cover-up to become deeply embedded within the Party.

A better segregation of duties

I have written a lot during Labour’s democracy review on the issue of segregation of duties. The General Secretary is too powerful; it’s a feature of the role’s design and this is worse at the Regional Director level where they inherit powers from both the GS and the NEC which is designed as the means of accountability and control for the General Secretary. We have been shown that a General Secretary that has the confidence of the NEC, or at least enough of it to block any sanctions can do what they like, which includes breaking the rules and maybe the law.

The Govt. Department responsible for supervising & enforcing the country’s anti-corruption laws is the Ministry of Justice, they have issued guidance which states that,

‘Improper performance’ is … performance which amounts to a breach of an expectation that a person will act in good faith, impartially, or in accordance with a position of trust.”

MoJ Guidance on the bribery act

Improper performance is the result of any action designed to having the effect of gaining advantage through an improper performance and is a crime.

The key question is how do we stop this happening again?

If we look at the literature and commentary on corruption, it is clear that anti-corruption programs have to come from the top and the critical controls are the performance management system, strong and clear financial controls, a robust whistleblowing system , the need for decisions to be taken by more than one person and an effective Risk & Audit Committee. While some may argue that McNicol has proved the need for change, we need to understand the role of those who ensured that the controls that do exist didn’t work.

The problem is the powers of the GS, and the concurrent GMB affair shows that election without controls is not the answer to the problem.

What happened here, it would seem, is that the General Secretary took a number of decisions on a highly factional basis, encouraged staff to do the same or ignored staff who behaved in this way and this has been covered up  by his sponsors/supporters on the NEC; attempts to clean the stable have failed because there isn’t the will and because those on the losing side at a national level were just waiting to inherit the same powers.

We need to consider why the NEC permitted this to happen because McNicol was gone within two months of the special bye-election for NEC places that led to the election of Momentum Chair, Jon Lansman together with Yasmine Dar and Rachel Garnham. We must assume that before that, the votes weren’t there to hold McNicol and GLU to account.

Matters other than antisemitism

The leaked report was only looking at the conduct of GLU with respect to antisemitism, it fails to document the 1,000’s of bullying complaints, and the misuse of the disciplinary system for political control, not just at national level but in many CLPs,  Labour Council Groups, together with Labour Campaign Forums especially during the selections for the all member 2018 council elections.

We need answers as to whether the decisions taken in the run up to the 2016 leadership challenge which were supported by the NEC were taken in good faith and in accordance with the principles of good governance. In legal terms, were all relevant criteria considered and all irrelevant criteria ignored. The national regulatory regimes which govern these issues are the Nolan principles i.e. the report of the committee into standards in public life & the Bribery Act.

We also need to understand if ‘improper performance’ occurred during the selections for MPs for the 2017 election;  the PLP lost 14 members in the two years of the parliament for various reasons, from perjury through sexual harassment to a lack of commitment.

These are not victimless acts, the victims are the ordinary members suspended and even those investigated and cleared and let’s remember that they invented a procedure whereby they wrote to people saying that they had no evidence but that if another complaint was made then it would be taken as a factor In any future investigations.

Labour’s rules

The NEC have rightly fought to ensure there is no place for antisemitism in the Party, and have launched two enquiries, issued three codes of conduct, and changed the disciplinary rules three times. After the original stories about antisemitism and its weaponisation in Oxford Labour Students and NOLS, the NEC commissioned a report by Baroness Royall, which found little; Corbyn commissioned a report by Shami Chakrabarti which made a number of recommendations and also proposed changing the rules, proposing the abolition of the absolute free speech defence. McNicol’s NEC refused to bring these rule changes to #lab16 and in the tradition of the Labour Party in playing the player not the ball, their allies launched a campaign to denigrate Shami Chakrabarti and the report. Despite this, the NEC brought rule changes to Conference for the following three years. (2017 – 2019). All these changes weaken the presumption of innocence.

The effect of all this is that the segregation of powers where the Conference defines the rules and thus unacceptable behaviour, the secretariat investigates complaints, the NEC decides to if there is a case to answer and the NCC acts as judge and jury taking into account the accused’s defence has been weakened. The NEC writes the Codes, and now also decides on guilt and sanctions without a right to state one’s defence. We now have evidence that the investigation process has been corrupted over the last four years. This agglomeration of power is not something we permit in our judicial system as it breaches the principle of a fair trial.

Wrong steps

The transition from McNicol’s term of office to that of Formby was not handled well. The use of compromise agreements, involving extra contractual payments for McNicol and other key senior staff. One lesson must be that the widespread use of Non-Disclosure Agreements and the use of peerages to supplement senior staff pensions needs to stop.

The fact is that Corbyn’s office were so grateful for their agreement to go that they were prepared to pay any price. The eulogy by Corbyn, reported in this Telegraph article, dated 24th Feb 2018 is shocking in the light of the allegations, I reproduce the full quote in my blog article, “Not even the basics”.

“I would like to personally thank Iain McNicol for his long and dedicated service to the Labour Party as General Secretary.

He has run our party’s organisation at a time of great change, including a near tripling of the membership, two general elections and the EU referendum.

Iain has served the Labour Party and trade union movement in a wide range of roles throughout his career and is a credit to our movement.

I am confident Iain will continue to play a major role in politics and our party, and will support our team inside and outside Parliament with his experience and skills.

Jeremy Corbyn (according to the Telegraph)

At the time McNicol resigned, the Head of Compliance, Stolling and London Regional Director, Fleming also resigned but were all allowed to work their notice. This is pretty much unheard of in the private sector.   We also need to know if others were involved. The exposure of one individual’s WhatsApp records shows that much of this was undertaken using IT tools to which Labour’s management had no access.  There may be much more to find.

The contents of the leaked report suggest that acts of gross misconduct and conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which “in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party” have occurred.  If so, employees should be dealt with under the staff disciplinary rules and if necessary, under the party’s disciplinary rules. Each allegation against those no longer employed by the Party needs to be assessed but if any compromise agreements were signed with people that have been shown to have performed acts of gross misconduct then the Party should look to recover the, in some cases, very generous compensation payments made. …

Labour’s policy consultation

Labour’s policy consultation

The Labour Party has extended its national policy consultation and so policy proposals, comments and votes can be made at https://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/. In order to vote you must have a “my labour” login and login to the policy site. If not a member, you need to register at the site itself.

I have written proposals on the economy, a post-Brexit trade & co-operation deal, employee protection, and the surveillance society & police powers. I have supported proposals on free  movement/immigration, and anti-union laws, It’d be great if if you could vote them up,

I would be grateful to be pointed at great proposals on social care, social security and education.

Other’s may find this & this on a Post-Brexit deal, inspired by Labour Movement for Europe worth voting up. …

Point of Order

Point of Order

An apology. I was led to believe that Labour’s NCC had been restricted to appeals on procedural grounds only; on a more serious reading of the rules, it would seem this is not so. Appeals can be lodged on the grounds that the NEC exceeded it powers by taking a decision other than one authorised by rules. This includes the constraint below,

There is sufficient evidence in documentary or other recorded form to reasonably conclude that the charge is proven and justify the sanction proposed;

Labour’s Rules 2020 C6.I.b.iii (P.24)

So an appeal can be lodged on the grounds that the evidence does not reasonably support the determined sanction.

Point of Order, Chair! The speaker is talking bollocks. …

Closing the Stable Door II

Tye Labour Party’s inquiry, now known as the “Forde Inquiry” after its independent chair, Dr Martin Forde, into the leaking of its investigation into the activities of its complaints team and senior management has published a call for evidence. It’s web site is at fordeinquiry,org and the call for evidence page is here and behind the image.

I plan to make a submission based on Unanswered Questions, also Closing the Stable Door and a third one based on the various acts in breach of the member’s charter, the rules and the law which impacted me personally.  …

Mushroom Therapy

I have just bookmarked Crispin Flintoff’s video made for Stand up for Labour, as part of his campaign to get the Party to spend more on the CLPs by means of remission of a higher proportion of the membership subs.

From 29:30 Dave from Milton Keynes, kicks off a discussion about the management and reporting of the Party’s finances. Two NEC members, Gurinder Singh and Jon Lansman comment on the exclusion of the NEC from the management of money. It’s really quite shocking. …

Labour Leak – Closing the Stable Door

Labour Leak – Closing the Stable Door

This blog article is one of several albeit the first published on the labourleak. It focuses on fixing the problems identified and implied in the #labourleak in a holistic way. It looks at the controls, briefly on why they failed, how the private sector manages, the question of Union collusion, IT standards & controls, the disciplinary process, the NEC and if genuine professionalism can possibly improve the quality and honesty of the decisions taken by the Labour Party; it concludes by proposing that the rules be changed to place a duty on all role holders to conform to the Nolan Principles, and that whistle blowers have better protection, but on the way recommends that the Labour Party use a series of external certifications, ask the Auditors to to inspect that payments and receipts are handled according to the Party's financial control rules, increase the professionalism of the staff and NEC committees, all of this to guarantee to its members and staff that good practice and not arbitrary actions are the guiding principles of judgement and decision.