Monday, April 10, 2017

Ranking the rank outsiders

I've been having a belated look at the full candidate list for my own ward in the May local elections.  One thing I'd forgotten about until I checked is that the ward is being expanded from three seats to four, which will make the STV process more interesting, and in theory should produce a slightly more proportional result.  The SNP are putting up three candidates and Labour are putting up two, which would often be a sign that both parties think the SNP are certain of winning two seats and Labour are locked in for one, leaving the final seat up for grabs.  However, given the political history of this area (it was a mini-stronghold for the SNP even in the days when the party was hardly winning anywhere else in the central belt) and bearing in mind the current circumstances, I struggle to imagine Labour coming out of this one with 2-2 parity.  It's probably more a case of Labour thinking their single seat is safe enough, and that there's no great harm in putting up a no-hoper second candidate for the sheer hell of it.

Two notable absences from the candidate list have made my life as a voter considerably easier - there are no independent candidates, which means I don't have to fight a losing battle against a search engine trying to work out the stance taken on the constitutional question by relatively obscure individuals, and there's also no UKIP candidate, which means I'm not faced with the nasty dilemma of whether I can bear to rank the Conservatives higher than one other party.  However, the SSP are making an intervention, having seemingly abandoned the RISE brand for the time being (I can't say I'm sorry to have a little rest from it), meaning I'm going to have to make a straight choice between two pro-independence parties for my highest non-SNP ranking.  In past years, I would have been strongly inclined to rank the SSP one place higher than the Greens, simply because the Greens have always been known to have a sizeable anti-independence minority faction.  However, at least for now, the Greens seem to have collectively reinvented themselves as the new indy fundamentalists (almost as the true heirs of Jim Sillars' former self!) so it's not quite such a clear-cut decision anymore.

Here's how I provisionally think I might fill in my ballot paper...

1 - SNP
2 - SNP
3 - SNP
4 - Greens
5 - SSP
6 - Labour
7 - Labour
8 - Conservatives

Any party putting up more than one candidate will generally have a 'vote management strategy', meaning they will put out leaflets setting out the desired order in which their own candidates should be ranked, with a view to maximising their tally of elected councillors.  I'll be following the advice in the SNP leaflet, but I'm not going to be too bothered about Labour's preferred order, because it won't make any practical difference on such low rankings anyway.  (I originally had a tongue-in-cheek comment here about messing with Labour's heads by doing the complete opposite of what they want, but I thought I'd better remove it in case it's taken too seriously!)

When I first thought about all this a few months ago, I was leaning towards the theory that it might be tactically wiser to rank Labour at the absolute bottom, just below the Tories, simply because Labour are the SNP's main rivals for power in North Lanarkshire.  But I've completely changed my mind since Theresa May framed these elections as a chance to send a message about an independence referendum, which has ensured that any Tory councillor elected anywhere in Scotland will be viewed as an outright endorsement of her stance.  Even in places like North Lanarkshire and Glasgow, if there's a straight fight between Labour and the Tories for a seat, I now think a Labour win would be the lesser of the two evils.

64 comments:

  1. I would vote Labour over the Tories all day long, but I long for a day when neither of them appear on the ballot paper.
    An Independent Scotland will have no need of the Westminster parties and their continuing decline in Scotland only serves to show we are getting ever closer to that happy day.

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  2. Why are you even putting about and Tory on your ballot? You don't have to vote for them at all?

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    1. Not about, should read labour. Damn auto correct

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    2. Because there is absolutely no point in abstaining on any part of the process, unless you genuinely have no idea whether you would rather see a Labour or Conservative councillor elected, if faced with a straight choice between those two options.

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  3. I have been entertaining the idea of holding my sensitive nose (tories) and placing Labour right at the bottom of my list (Aberdeen Hazlehead ward), simply for the absolute mess they have made of the once lovely city of Aberdeen over the past decade(s). Its' still difficult though, trying to get some folk to understand why they should rank yoons low, when their instinct is to not even list them. Keep plugging it, James. :)

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  4. James, can you remind us again about the theory of "vote 'til you boke" i.e. rank all candidates, as opposed to only ranking a few. What are the pros and cons?

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    1. There are lots of pros to doing it and no cons. Your lower preferences won't even be taken into account until and unless the candidates you rank highest have all been elected or eliminated. There is no advantage at all in not using your lower preferences.

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    2. I'll be ranking Labour rock bottom in iverclyde.

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  5. I'll be voting Greens above the SNAP, they're less likely to win, so my vote will then be transferred to the SNAP anyway

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    1. The STV-WIGM system has been setup so voting for donkeys/outsiders in round 1 does NOT work. This is not Australia, we have a different system.

      If you do what you propose it will have the opposite effect to that which I think you believe.

      Best do some reading matey, unless of course you know all this already....

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    2. Nope. I think Mike's right. I know the STV system quite well.

      If your first preference candidate fails to get enough votes to be elected, your vote will transfer, at full value, down to your next selections in order. The trick is they must still be in contention or down and down it goes.

      In Mike's case, he reckons the SNP candidate will get more votes than the Green. That's my strong expectation in my ward, too. Plus I like our local Green councilor, so I'm voting with my heart as well.

      So you're still making a tactical decision based on you you think needs your vote the most, early on, and who you reckon should be able to pass the first few rounds without you. There's room for mistakes here, for sure! The last thing you want is to vote for wee guys top and then discover the SNP falls short. But with a transferable vote you've got a second (and third…) chance to come back to help them out, unlike the Holyrood list system where you have a single shot and that's that.

      Speaking of Holyrood, yes I voted Green on the Lothian list and got 2 Green MSPs as my reward. The SNP were nowhere near contention for top ups in this region. But I agree with James in general about the Holyrood list vote being too risky to chance elsewhere in Scotland, where the SNP has a shot. Edinburgh is unique in being so comparatively strong for the Greens and weak for the SNP. And you'd never catch me vote Green first past the post!

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    3. He's wrong I'm afraid. He (like you) doesn't understand how the votes actually transfer under WIGM.

      A worked example for you :

      Say your Green gets 100 votes & is eliminated at round 1. Of those 100 votes, 20 said SNP as a second pref - ie 20% of them.

      So the votes transferred to SNP would be the Transfer Value x the number of second pref votes. The transfer value is 20/100 = 0.2. So you take the 20 votes and multiply by 0.2 which gives 4 votes.

      Your vote for the SNP has decreased in value by 80%.

      If the Green survives to round 2 then its going to be much the same but only if there's two (or more) SNP candidates. If there's only one SNP candidate then it's likely that no transfer will ever take place as they'll already have been elected before vote transfers in round 2.

      Now lets try it the other way around - SNP wins with 1000 votes & the green survives round 1. The same percentage of SNP voters put green as second preference - ie 20%.

      Votes transferred to Green = 40, not 4 as was the case the other way around.

      Same percentage reduction in the value of the vote for round 2 but as you can see, if your candidate in round 1 is successfully elected (rather than eliminated) then more votes will actually go to the second preference party/candidate.

      So voting for "donkeys" in round 1 doesn't work, it just dilutes the value of your vote. As I said above this is not Australia where it currently DOES work (for some state elections).

      Hope this helps you understand it better.

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    4. That's not my understanding of how STV works. I'd be astonished if what you described is in effect here.

      Under STV: When candidates are eliminated, their votes transfer at full value. The down weighting happens for votes for candidates who have *won*. So if I voted SNP then Green, my vote would be reduced to reflect how much the winning SNP candidate was over quota. Then the Green would get less than the full power of my vote.

      We're getting technical here! But I'd like to see documentation proving your claim. My admittedly amateur understanding is that if all transfers were reduced (including those for eliminated candidates) the system would lower quotas, as ballots keep on losing value every stage along the way.

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    5. Anon : That's not true. You've completely misunderstood what happens when a candidate is eliminated - you seem to be getting it mixed up with the procedure for transferring surplus votes when a candidate reaches the quota and is declared elected.

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    6. Percentages weren't picked by chance either.

      In 2012 some 18% of Green voters chose SNP as their first non-Green choice. Similarly some 18% of SNP voters chose "other" (which would be mainly green/ssp) as their first non-SNP choice.

      I'm sure those figures will rise in some areas but I wouldn't be confident about a big increase across the board. From what I've seen on Wings most of them can't cope with the idea of voting anything other than SNP after last years election (under a totally different system).....

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    7. Here we go. Proof that losing candidates votes are transferred away at full value: from Edinburgh in 2012.

      http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/667/ward_9_-_fountainbridgecraiglockhart_-_results_2012

      Page 2: look at the handful of votes for the eliminated Liberal candidate. They retain their full value. The only wasted votes are the handful of diddies who voted for him and him alone!

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    8. https://thecommongreen.scot/2017/04/07/how-scotland-votes-a-guide-to-the-scottish-council-elections/

      "If the quota is exceeded then something slightly different happens. Unlike other systems, your vote is not “wasted” if you vote for an already wildly popular candidate. The votes in excess of the quota are themselves distributed to your 2nd or next available choice of candidate but it is done in a slightly more complicated way than simply skimming the top chunk of papers off of the pile and moving them (as this could introduce bias depending on which ballot box was opened last).

      Instead a statistical method is applied by which the number of votes in excess of the quota is calculated. Essentially the ratio is calculated of the number of votes cast over the quota and the total number of votes. If a candidate received, say, 1687 votes but the quota was 1159 then this ratio would be 0.31298 (ratios are rounded to five decimal places). The candidate is duly elected then ALL of their ballots are transferred to the next available choice but are given a weight of that ratio. This means that your individual 2nd choice vote might be worth less than a 1st preference vote given to a candidate or a 2nd choice vote transferred from an eliminated candidate but this is balanced by the fact that if the votes were just skimmed off the top of the pile, the votes underneath (which may have been yours if your box was opened first) would be worth zero. It all balances."

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    9. Are you the same Anon as before? If so, you're getting mixed up between what happens when a candidate is eliminated and what happens when a candidate reaches the quota. If a candidate is eliminated, all their votes are transferred in full (except for any that are non-transferable because the voter hasn't given a preference for any candidate still in contention).

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    10. Graceless creature, spitting insults at our generous host. Get back under your rock.

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    11. There is an obscure case where the Gregory STV system in Scotland is different from the Newland-Britton one in Ireland.

      Say you vote first preference for someone fairly unlikely to win (e.g. Green) and then second choice for a very popular candidate (e.g. SNP). And suppose that second choice of yours gets enough first preferences from other people that they win.

      Under the Irish system, when the Green is eliminated, the SNP candidate - who has already won is out of the count, so your vote transfers at full value to them, and then transfers on to the next candidate, ie your third choice, also at full value.

      Under the Scottish system, your vote transfers at full value to the SNP (who don't need it) and then transfers as part of the surplus to your third choice, ie at the same fractional value as votes that were SNP first-choices.

      This is because there is a trick under Irish rules to put a first choice on a no-hoper and then vote your normal preferences; if your real first choice gets elected on (other people's) first preferences, then you get full value on the rest of the ballot, instead of the reduced value of a surplus.

      The Scottish system eliminates this trick.

      This is a really obscure edge-case of the rules, and yes, you will occasionally hear from Ireland and Australia to vote for someone who can't win and then your normal preference - this is pointless under the Scottish system.

      [There are cases where an insincere preference is a good idea under WIG; there have to be, as the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem proves there are under all voting systems. But there isn't a consistent pattern that can be predicted in advance to manipulate the election result. The only useful one is the usual STV one of voting for the candidates of your party in reverse order of popularity, ie vote for the least popular first]

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    12. As far as I can tell, your anonymous has heard about this and is getting confused.

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    13. That's interesting, I hadn't heard about that wrinkle. As you say, it's an edge-case scenario. Would that Scottish voters understood the system well enough to be able to figure that out!

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    14. I've belatedly deleted the highly abusive comment from Mr Anonymous. I politely asked you whether you were the same Anon as before - if you weren't, you could simply have explained that without using the most extreme swear-word. But if you were the same Anon, I haven't a clue what you're moaning about, because you clearly were talking about excluded candidates, not about surplus votes.

      By the way, that kind of extreme swearing will always be deleted as soon as I see it, so don't even bother doing it again.

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  6. Whilst wishing that I could put negative numbers on my ballot for yoon candidates I can accept that voting Labour to avoid May's crowing would be a good idea. Then again we do have an independent candidate standing in our ward so my conscience will be clear if I vote for him further up the list

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    1. Unfortunately I think votes for Labour are also set to be counted as a thumping mandate against another referendum. Red tories to the core.

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    2. Only first preference votes will be counted when the election is analysed in that way so what you do with your later preferences won't matter at that point.

      Just use them to vote the Tories bottom.

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  7. You are lucky not to have any Independents. I am faced with two and from what I know of them I boak at putting them above Lib-Dem and Labour. Yes, they actally are that bad.

    By the way Neither the Conservative nor Labour Candidate live in the ward.

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  8. Marcus RubinsteinApril 10, 2017 at 9:59 AM

    Nice array of choices you've got there. Here in Edinburgh, there's just not enough SNP candidates to go around, and sometimes just not enough canidadates, period. Look at Ward 15 - Southside/Newington and try to fathom what everyone's up to: 5 total candidates running for 4 seats!

    http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/20033/elections_and_voting/1558/who_you_can_vote_for

    In my own Inverleith ward, we currently have a Green an SNP a Slab and a Tory councillor. The Green is Nigel Bagshaw who I was delighted to elect with my first preference last time, where he beat the Libs. This time Labour is most likely to fail the game of musical chairs, as the incumber is former Edinburgh Provost Lesley Hinds, who's retiring.

    I'll be voting Green and SNP, but they're only running 1 candidate each. Who else is pro-indy here? No SSP at all in Edinburgh. And I can't find the constitutional position of the Libertarians.

    Knowing the way Edinburgh went last May, I expect the Libs will be favourites to take the Labour seat in my ward. I may vote for them with my third or lower preference just to push the Tories aside, who are the only sneaky bastards running 2 horses in this race.

    Seriously, why did the SNP run so few candidates in most wards across Edinburgh? I get the Greens going for 1 canididate per ward, but leaving Yes voters with a maximum of 1 SNP + 1 Green to vote for is just handing representation to the Yoons.

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    1. The simple answer is that they don't understand how the STV-WIGM system works - the failure to take Glasgow in 2012 was crystal-clear evidence of that.

      I have do doubt at all that SOME people in the SNP understand the system, but they're clearly not being listened to by anyone else in the SNP :(

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    2. Libertarian are pro-indy. Give em a vote!

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    3. I'll keep an eye on their propaganda. If they state they support Indy and indyref2 before EU exit then they'll get my support. Think they're meant to be Euroskeptic though, so it won't be top!

      I may well rank the independent candidate Tina Woolnough above the Yoons, too. Again depends on her public position. Searching the web turns her up as an active local busybody and a floating Yes/No voter in 2014 hustings. Guess a mibbees aye is better than a naw!

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    4. The SNP has an exaggerated fear of fielding too many candidates and so causing both to fail by spreading the first-preferences too thin. It's not nearly as likely an outcome as they think it is.

      But there's another problem. There is a lot of disquiet about the candidate vetting process. Well-qualified and experienced party activists were failed at the vetting stage for things like "lacking media skills". Recently I heard that of 2,000 applicants originally, the vetting process whittled that down to only 500 approved candidates. If that's true it's simply insane. There is no possible way that three-quarters of the people who applied to be candidates were unsuitable.

      It was so bad in places that wards were struggling to find eligible candidates who had passed the vetting - and that was in places with only one SNP candidate per ward! I think some people are just waiting for the election to be over before starting a bit of a fuss about this.

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    5. And yes, it's absolutely true that the SNP leadership don't understand how the system works. If they did they'd have fielded far more candidates, and they'd be telling all their supporters to rank every candidate all the way down the ballot so as to put the Tory last.

      It's a shocking failure of leadership and some heads need to roll.

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    6. Yeah the Libertarians are pro-independence-outwith-the-EU. I'm kindof inclined to rank them just above the Tories though: our first prefs are what will count for the main indy/union score, and after that there is a question of who'll be good for Edinburgh Council. Libertarians definitely won't be that: they'd happily let the Queen turn Holyrood into a car park in the name of freedom, and we've enough shite "development" going on already. Anyone know anything about the Independent candidate, Tina Woolnough? Can't find a manifesto from her (or SNP for that matter).

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  9. Like others here, I am unclear if there is a good reason to list, eg, Tories at all on the ballot paper. Are we missing something basic here? Sorry if it's a daft question.

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    1. If you're talking about the very last preference, in my case the eighth preference for the Tory, then it doesn't make any difference whether you leave that one blank. But yes, there is a very good reason for ranking other unionist parties higher than the Tories - it makes it less likely that a Tory councillor will be elected.

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    2. Also if you're unfortunate enough to have more than one Tory, then you might end up being the person who decides which one becomes a councillor and which doesn't.

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    3. I don't think that scenario is likely. In a ward where the Tories are fielding more than one candidate, the first Tory is already going to be elected before any votes of independence supporters get that far down the list.

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  10. I don't understand James. If a candidate gets no votes, he/she can't be elected. Therefore why even bother to vote for SLAB/Tory/LibDem.

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    1. Because those preferences will only be taken into account if all pro-indy candidates have already been elected or eliminated. If it's a straight choice for the final seat in a ward between, say, Tory and Lib Dem, I would obviously prefer the Lib Dem to win, so I'd be crazy to abstain on that part of the process when I have the opportunity to influence the outcome and prevent a Tory councillor from being unnecessarily elected.

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    2. Might want to put a Liberal above the Tory on your ballot in that case! Unless they're not even running in your ward.

      I don't like the Libs at all. Edinburgh suffered during their administration, I still remember all the iced up bike lanes and the incompetence with the tram project. Of all Westminster parties, they should be the bleeding heart liberals who back our chance to have our say on Indy before we're dragged out of Europe. I've no respect for them opposing the vote. Localists my jaded hairy arse!

      Still, everyone's better than a Tory in this referendum by proxy. Vote till you hit the blue team.

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    3. Is your first comment directed at me? Of course I would put a Lib Dem ahead of the Tories if there was one standing - there isn't. As far as I can see, the Lib Dems have no candidates anywhere in North Lanarkshire. That's very much the norm - they rarely bother here.

      There are eight candidates in my ward, and I'm ranking all of them.

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    4. The village where I live used to be LibDem central. They tolled the poll in 2012 and actually stood two candidates (although only one was elected). In the by-election in 2013 I think the failed candidate from 2012 thought she was hot favourite for the seat even though the vacancy was caused by the resignation of the Tory in the ward. She didn't even get close, and the Tory won comfortably.

      Fast-forward to 2016 and the Holyrood election. I was actually sampling the ballot box from the village and I couldn't believe my tally sheet. The LibDems were nowhere. Gone. Melted into the Tories in one direction and the SNP in the other.

      If the LibDem collapse is as comprehensive as I think it is they'll be struggling to get anyone elected at all in the ward. And if they fail, that means we'll get two Tory councillors.

      SNP (and Green) supporters have an opportunity to give the LibDem a wee boost by ranking him above the Tory candidates. If could make all the difference. We could deprive the Tories of that seat, and in so doing we could even deprive them of enough councillors to take control of the council.

      But what are we doing? We're telling people just to vote SNP, end of. It's brain-dead.

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  11. Yes, it was. 8 candidates and not a single Lib Dem? I envy you! I've nary enough nationalists to root for.

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  12. I'm really a very simple person so my list will be 1/SNP, 2/SNP, 3/SNP,4/Green, Then blank unless there are two greens in which case it would be 5/Greens, then blank the rest.Interesting blogg James will get some folk thinking and that is what is needed,brain exercise.

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    1. Your brain certainly needs exercise if you vote Tartan Tory.

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    2. The troll calls scottish people "jocks", advocates arming Leave campaigners, claimed Jo Cox's husband was a fascist, uses racial and ethnic slurs, pretends to be Labour (badly) while espousing far-right racist hate-speech, praises Theresa May and the tories and displays a perverted poisonous obsession with Scotland's First Minister & her predecessor.

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    3. Charles, do read the next article and realise what's being said. If the final seat comes down to a choice between two unionists, one a Tory and one not, why would you pass up on your chance to vote down the Tory? That's what you'll be doing if you don't #ranktorieslast

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  13. The real choice is between Labour and the Tartan Tories / Blue Tories. Both Tory parties carry on with Thatcherite policies and have hammered Glasgow with cuts.

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    1. How would you know, Cheltenham?

      The troll calls scottish people "jocks", advocates arming Leave campaigners, claimed Jo Cox's husband was a fascist, uses racial and ethnic slurs, pretends to be Labour (badly) while espousing far-right racist hate-speech, praises Theresa May and the tories and displays a perverted poisonous obsession with Scotland's First Minister & her predecessor

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    2. Sad man you are. Dae ye hiv the hots fur cox and may ya perv.

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    3. No. Although, of course, this classic illustrates the nature of the troll's relationship with its Tory overlords:

      https://youtu.be/uiaAfd0_EdM

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  14. My ward in North Ayrshire has 7 candidates for 3 seats. My probable preference votes will be

    1. SNP (existing councillor)
    2. SNP (other candidate)
    3. Independent (about whom I know sod all, and expect to be eliminated early)
    4. Independent (stood as Lab in 2007, but left Lab 8 years ago. Probably a Unionist but has a good chance of picking up the later preferences of many - as the former Independent councillor did)
    5. 2nd Labour candidate
    6. Labour (existing councillor)

    There is also a Tory (nice chap) - but I'm not voting Tory, even for the lowest preference.

    If I lived in a different ward/council, my preferences would be decided by the circumstances there. Each ward is different.

    I know most of them - normal in wee towns) and on a personal level would be confident that any of them would be good councillors for the area. But the Yoons have decided that this election is about indy, so my vote is designed to minimise their bragging rights

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  15. This is nonsense, here is a link to how it works: http://www.moray.gov.uk/moray_standard/page_68268.html

    Now lets say there are 3 candidates running for 1 seat.
    Candidates A, B and C.

    The quota for this example will be total valid votes cast / (number of seats available +1) then add one to that result, as in the example I linked.

    Now lets say as in the total number of votes cast is 8000 the quota would be 8000/(1+1) = 4000, then add the 1 = 4001.

    Now if Candidate A & B get 3500 Votes each and candidate C gets 1000. No candidate is over the quota so the 1st round is finished with candidate C being eliminated.

    In the 2nd round the 2nd preference of Candidate C's voters is looked at lets say 200 were for A and 800 were for B.
    These votes are 'Transfered' to each candidate depending on who was the 2nd preference.

    Candidate A gets 3500 1st pref from 1st round and 200 from 2nd round, B gets 3500 1st pref from 1st round and 800 from 2nd round.

    So after 2nd round A has 3700 and B has 4200, B wins.

    In fact this shows that there are only cons to listing all preferences and no pros.

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    1. If you want service delivery ignore all the above Nat si figures and their crap. Vote Labour and oppose the two Tory parties in Scotland who are responsible for the cuts. The Greens are a bunch of middle class pretend lefties.

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    2. "Anonymous", no matter how often you spam that comment on these threads, your interpretation is still wrong. Utterly and completely. You need to recognise what people are trying to tell you and figure out your mistake.

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    3. The troll calls scottish people "jocks", advocates arming Leave campaigners, claimed Jo Cox's husband was a fascist, uses racial and ethnic slurs, pretends to be Labour (badly) while espousing far-right racist hate-speech, praises Theresa May and the tories and displays a perverted poisonous obsession with Scotland's First Minister & her predecessor

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    4. You are one of the idiots that will makes the sensibles vote Naw tae yer proposed Nat si State. Thanks and do carry on regardless. GSTQ LOL.

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    5. The troll calls scottish people "jocks", advocates arming Leave campaigners, claimed Jo Cox's husband was a fascist, uses racial and ethnic slurs, pretends to be Labour (badly) while espousing far-right racist hate-speech, praises Theresa May and the tories and displays a perverted poisonous obsession with Scotland's First Minister & her predecessor

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    6. We Unionists are still ahead in the polls inspite of yer Knickerless Crusade.
      Bring oan ra referendum Nat si fash bhoy. Still going with the cox and may crap!

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    7. The troll calls scottish people "jocks", advocates arming Leave campaigners, claimed Jo Cox's husband was a fascist, uses racial and ethnic slurs, pretends to be Labour (badly) while espousing far-right racist hate-speech, praises Theresa May and the tories and displays a perverted poisonous obsession with Scotland's First Minister & her predecessor

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    8. The fascist Nat si hates the English. Admires Knickerless and Kim Jung Eck.
      Detests the Scottish people that voted to remain in the Union. Would sell out Scotland to foreign powers. Probably feels inadequate due to having a wee willie.

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