On the impertinence of the NDP: a (vote-)splitting headache

(UPDATE: I’ve changed the title of this post. The author of the Globe article I link to, Éric Grenier, sent me a note telling me he didn’t like my calling his a “Liberal analysis.” I don’t like to pin partisan tags on people who don’t want them, so I take that part back. And while I’m at it, I’ll repeat that I have less problem with his article than with the headline. – pw)

Here’s an article in a Toronto newspaper: How vote-splitting gave the Tories Ontario — and a majority. Apparently the Globe is using its Random Headline Generator again, because the story is about how vote-splitting didn’t give the Tories Ontario or a majority.

The Conservatives won 12 seats in the province in large part due to vote-splitting on the centre-left. Had the NDP surge fizzled on ballot day – and the votes cleaved to the Liberal camp – Stephen Harper’s majority would have been a bare-minimum 155.

Fun fact: 155 is a majority. The Conservatives picked up 22 seats in Ontario on Monday, so blaming the NDP for running still leaves the Conservatives with 10 more seats than they had walking in. Give the dozen “split” seats to the Liberals and they would still have only 23 seats in Ontario.

Had vote splits in other parts of the country also been avoided, the Conservatives would have won 151 seats – four short of a majority.

…and the Liberals would have had 60 seats. Whee. What good would that have done? None, unless the Liberals had teamed with… the much larger NDP caucus… to form a cooperation agreement to replace a Conservative government. So the basis of the whole analysis is a kind of exquisitely balanced wish: “If only the NDP had stayed out of our way, while continuing to beat BQ and Conservative MPs by the dozen from coast to coast.” Liberals who are whining about vote splits don’t even wish the NDP would go away: they just wish it would go away from a dozen and a half targeted ridings while going gangbusters elsewhere.

To his credit, the author of the analysis finally stops resisting the conclusion of his own numbers. “Vote-splitting is only part of the story,” he writes, and then: “The achievements of Stephen Harper and the failings of Michael Ignatieff contributed most to the Conservative Party’s third consecutive electoral victory.”

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