Friday, 22 October 2010

Hoist with their own petard

So, Labour lost the Tower Hamlets mayoral election last night, to their former candidate whom they expelled and who stood as an independent, also supported by Ken Livingstone which must have carried some weight. Turnout was a fraction over a quarter.

To the Labour party's credit, they did get rid of Lutfur Rahman once they (and we) knew of his connections to Islamic supremacists (though that does not in and of itself indicate that he is one himself); but by then he seems to have amassed a strong personal vote which he took with him and has no doubt added to since.

They also expelled local Labour councillors who supported Rahman, as in the party's rule book it is (apparently) necessary to expel any member who opposes the official Labour candidate. Ken Livingstone has not suffered the same fate, for some reason...

Although there have been issues in the Tower Hamlets mayoral election regarding postal voters not all being entirely valid (i.e. non-existent in some cases), the sheer size of his majority surely outweighs any possible effect of that: it was some 52%, so the election count didn't even have to take second preferences into account (yes, it was one of those elections, as introduced by the previous Labour government).

Perhaps most interestingly, the result could conceivably have been different if Rahman's first preference vote had been just that little bit lower, under 51%, so that second preferences had been counted after all. Those might have resulted in Labour's (replacement) candidate winning instead, though even the full results don't make that clear one way or the other (at least not to me). We saw this effect with Ed Miliband only recently, beating his brother because of a peculiar and non-straightforward electoral methodology.

Labour's opposition to the coalition government's reforms to our electoral system would have suited them up until yesterday. Today, they have in effect been hoist with their own petard. I wonder whether they'll now support those reforms?

Probably not, as the manipulations they made to what was once a great democracy have benefited them so hugely that they can't afford, politically, to have them reformed. Paul Weston's lengthy but oh-so-true post on this whole topic, from earlier this month, is a must-read.

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