Friday, 5 November 2010

Yes to AV, yes to fairer votes.

On 5th May 2011, there will be a referendum on changing the voting system in the UK, from the current First Past the Post, to the Alternative Vote. Here's why I think it's time for a change.

It seems bizarre to me that there is even a serious movement that would be opposed to the change in this referendum, but it seems as though there may be a serious fight on the cards to win a change in the voting system. So here's why I think the 'Yes' vote really has to win.

The first idea to quash is that we shouldn't have this referendum because people don't care, and there are other more important issues to deal with than the way we vote people into parliament. Quite how the No2AV campaign can use this as one of their main objections baffles me, we're having the referendum anyway, why would you vote 'No' just because you don't think it should be held? Surely your vote should reflect what you feel on the subject, the question on the paper won't be 'Do you like that we're having this referendum?' Just because there are other more important issues doesn't mean we shouldn't address it, I'm sure that the world won't implode into anarchy because for one day the people of Britain have to go out and put a cross on a piece of paper.

The system we have right now is broken, unfit for the size of the country and for multi-party politics. Whichever way you look at it First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) is unfair. Millions of people up and down the country didn't get a vote at this last election. They may have dutifully gone down to the polling station and filled in their slip, but it was a wasted effort. FPTP means wasted votes, any vote for a losing candidate counts for nothing.

Too many people couldn't even vote for the party that they wanted, because they knew there was no chance of that candidate winning in their seat, they might have been Labour in a Lib Dem-Tory seat or Tory in a Labour-Lib Dem seat, either way they were effectively kicked out of the whole process. They had to vote 'tactically' to try and block the other major party from winning, meaning their own candidate suffered even more. Never again should someone be told that to vote how they want to would be a wasted vote.

With AV you are guaranteed that the winning candidate has a majority of at least 50% of their constituents, something far too many failed to achieve in 2010. There is no need to break the constituency link and it eliminates tactical voting.

Because in AV you rank your candidates, it will often be second preference votes which allow a person to be elected. This will mean they have to appeal to a broad range of people outside their traditional base and rely on picking up second choice votes from them. We will be rid of some the disgusting negative tactics epitomised by Phil Woolas (though he isn't alone, all parties engage in it) because insulting another party will instantly mean losing all their second choice votes. Finally, votes will be cast for policy, not out of fear of the alternative.

So, what could people possibly object to? These are a few choice ones from the No2AV campaign, and are frankly laughable.
  • It will let extremist party supporters (i.e. BNP) have more than one vote - It will give everyone a choice to vote in ranking, yes, but will actually make it harder for extremist parties to get support because it's unlikely that they'll be many people's second choice. Their appeal is very narrow. Score one for an own goal to the 'No' campaign there then.
  • It will 'muddy the debate' in marginal seats - No, what it will mean is that in marginal seats you won't be able to bash the other candidate in a desperate grab for power, you'll have to set out policies which appeal to a broad spectrum of the constituents. 
  • AV is a compromise no-one wants - I know that there are plenty of people (myself included) who think that AV is not enough, we should reform the voting to be much more proportional. But AV is a step in the right direction, and crucially, whilst its not as far as some want, it's infinitely better than what we have right now. A 'No' vote won't be interpreted as a vote for 'AV doesn't go far enough'. It will be seen as a vote for 'we like things how they are'.
But, for the pièce de résistance, this is by far the most condescending, ridiculous and insulting objection of all:

The AV system (i.e. putting numbers from 1 to 5 in a box rather than a cross) is too confusing for people.

Now I'm not sure who exactly many of my readers are, but I'd like to hedge a bet here. I'm willing to put a significant amount of money on the fact that pretty much everyone reading this is capable of not only counting to 5 (in order as well!), but of writing those numbers down in a box.

Vote 'Yes' for AV, yes for fairer votes.
Maybe I give people too much credit, but it doesn't seem like much of a jump from a cross, to numbers.

The No2AV campaign has nothing positive to say because there is nothing positive about the FPTP system they try to defend. So instead, they resort to this condescending negative attack which doesn't even look at the real issue of which is the better voting system, and they end up suggesting that most people would find counting to 5 far too difficult. Utter buffoons.

There are many more reasons to vote for AV than I could mention in one blog, some of which can be found here and here. And there are many more reasons why FPTP is dead, which you can find here. In six months time everyone gets a vote, and for the sake of a fair democracy I pray to whichever God/s you might or might not believe in that you vote Yes.


radical royalist said...

I agree with you: First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) is unfair. However, the Alternative Vote is not ideal either. Australians adopted the AV system in 1910 and it lead to a lot of backroom dealings (to agree on who should get the preferences). Small parties are equally disadvantaged under the AV as under FPTP. The Greens, who got more than 12 p.c. in this year's federal election, managed to gain one seat - their first, although they had been around for thirty years. The British Greens gained their first seat this year as well - within the FPTP system.

I could understand people opposing the AV in the referendum in order to get a fairer voting system as they exist in other European countries (i.e. The Kingdom of the Netherlands or the Kingdom of Sweden).

Chris said...

I understand that there are problems, but not on the same scale as with FPTP. The problem being that there isn't an option on the voting paper for 'No - I don't want AV or FPTP'.

If nothing else AV is a step in the right direction, and a win for the 'No' vote will be seen as a win for the status quo.