Newest Review: ... at least 50% of the total, then another level of voting is looked at. What they do now, is they eliminate the party with the lowest numb... more
One Person, One Vote... Doh!
PR vs 'first past the post'
Member Name: grahamt
PR vs 'first past the post'
Advantages: Outcome under AV represents the wishes of the majority rather than the minority as under FPTP
Disadvantages: AV is not full PR, where everyone's vote really does count equally
1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
2. A political or social unit that has such a government.
3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
4. Majority rule...
1. The greater number or part; a number more than half of the total...
(The Free Dictionary - www.thefreedictionary.com)
So, by these definitions, Britain is not a democracy! Can it become one? Well, that depends on you!
On 5th May the nation goes to the ballot boxes to cast its votes. They (well, most of them - London won't) will be voting for the candidates who they would like to represent them in the local (as opposed to national) political chambers we know as the Councils. These are the people to determine what sort of local services you will get over the subsequent years, four in the case of our constituency. They will decide how much money will be extracted from your pocket and how it will be spent. In this election I am standing for the first time for councillor of the ward in which I live. Wish me luck; I'm going to need it.
Voters will also be voting in a referendum to decide if the nation should continue to use the First Past The Post (FPTP) system of electing our Members of Parliament (MP) or whether the system should be changed to one called the Alternative Vote (AV). AV is a form of Proportional Representation (PR). It is not full PR, where winners are selected more by the total votes cast either nationally or regionally. Even I admit that that would probably have been a giant step too far.
I think we all understand FPTP. It's the system where currently an MP can be, and usually is, elected even though he (or she, but lets not be pedantic) may be rejected by more actual voters (as opposed to registered voters) than support him. AV is the system where an MP has to obtain more than 50% of the support (a majority) before he is elected.
The main difference is that whilst under FPTP you vote for one and only one candidate to receive your support, under AV you rank the candidates according to which you would like to receive your vote, in order of preference. You still only get one vote though. What is being proposed is not the form of AV used in Northern Ireland, where more than one candidate per constituency will be elected and so voters have more than one vote.
Sorry, did you not know that PR/AV is already in use in Britain? Apart from Northern Ireland, members of the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament are elected by a form of AV. The Mayor of London is elected by AV. Further abroad, Australia uses AV, which is important because it gives us an idea of how it works in practice and, in the light of the "No" campaign's claims over the financial costs of adopting an AV system of election, how much it actually costs to hold an election (about the same as it does now).
Remaining in politics, the Tories choose their party candidates by AV. The leader of the Tory Party is elected by AV.
"What? That Cameron guy? But, isn't he opposed to AV?"
Ironic, eh? Under FPTP, Cameron would have lost the election and would not today be PM! David Davies would be! Sounds a bit like, "AV is good when it's good for me, but not when it's good for you!"
Apart from Cameron, there are massive forces opposed to and in favour of change. The "No" campaign is being very secretive about where its funding is coming from whereas the "Yes" campaign openly reveals that 95% of its funding comes from The Electoral Reform Society and the Joseph Rowntree Trust. One wonders just what the "No" campaign has to hide. Could it be that a number of backers are either non-UK resident and maybe even non-UK tax payers? Why else would they be so secretive?
So, what has prompted this opinion you are reading?
It was the appearance through our letterbox of a leaflet from "NOtoAV" exhorting my daughter to vote No in the upcoming referendum. For some reason they didn't send one to either myself or my wife!
I'm sure my daughter won't mind me reading this leaflet. She will probably consider it, as I do, just about the biggest insult to the intelligence I have read in a long, long time. She does, after all, have more than one brain cell (She's currently taking her second degree course, this time in Mental Health Nursing :-) ). But, let's take a look at their arguments anyway.
The front makes it clear what the major platform is: it states "KEEP One Person, One Vote", as though AV gives the voter more than one vote.
Under AV your vote still only counts once. You just have a choice as to where that one vote is counted. If you don't want a choice and cannot stomach any of the alternatives then it is still your right to assign your one vote to just one candidate, just as at present. You just fill in a "1" instead of an "X" and leave it at that. It's your choice. No one's forcing you to vote for anyone you really cannot support. As now, that choice may or may not be the winner.
Turn the page and we come to the next lie: "THE COST OF AV IS £250million" the leaflet bellows.
Note, it says: "...IS...". Not "...may be...". Not "...could be as much as...". "...IS...".
One of the principal costs it claims is "£130 million on electronic vote counting machines". Now, Australia has had AV for years and has never found the need for "vote counting machines". They count their votes the same way we do. And don't forget, in Australia, voting is a legal requirement so the turnout in elections there is, unlike here, as near 100% of voters as damn it. In the 2010 UK General Election, one in every three of the electorate didn't bother to vote at all, despite all the LibDem furore.
The next claimed cost is "£26 million on explaining the new system to voters". Really? How much of that is being spent by the "No" campaign? Most of it? Sorry but this is all hogwash.
What next? "THE SECOND OR THIRD BEST CAN WIN UNDER AV".
Excuse me! Who are you to say who is best and who isn't? Who are you to say that the winner is merely the Least Worst candidate? The electorate will decide who is best, in their opinion. They don't need the "No" campaign telling them who is or isn't best. At the Oscars, the Best Film is now chosen by AV. It's still called the Best Film, not the Least Worst Film.
The argument is that as second or third preferences are counted it could mean that the level of support for each individual candidate could result in them moving up or down the list. Well spotted! That's the whole point. What we end up with is the candidate who has majority support. That's democracy. Once elected, only time will tell if he turns out to be the best candidate, just like now. One thing is for certain: the winner will have to convince the voters he's done a good job of representing them and next time won't get an automatic shoo-in regardless, like most currently do.
So, what other bizarre claims appear in this highly questionable document? That only Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji currently use the AV system and that "...Fiji has plans to ditch it...". No mention of the impact of the military coup in Fiji! Anyone know of any military dictatorships that use AV?
Anyway, Fiji doesn't use AV. In Fiji, voters still only cast a vote for their preferential candidate, not candidates ranked by preference. The "No" campaign calls it AV but overlooks the fact that it is the LOSING CANDIDATE who reassigns his votes to another candidate; a recipe for political corruption if ever I heard one! The sooner they get rid of that the better in my opinion.
So, what is missing from the leaflet?
The biggest claim that has quietly been swept under the carpet by the "No" campaign is that AV will inevitably result in the "lunatic fringe" having a far better chance of getting elected than under FPTP. Red faces all around at "No" HQ when the BNP came out against AV! The BNP know that they have a far better chance of getting candidate elected under FPTP than under AV, simply by energising the lunatic fringe supporters and relying upon general electorate apathy. That's how Hitler came to power, and he didn't have AV!
Another argument that the "No" campaign once trumpeted that I am surprised to now find missing from this document is the Tradition argument. Those for whom change is anathema always trot out the "That's how it's always been; why change?" angle. Well, if we had stuck with tradition, women would not have the vote today. Women only won the hard-fought battle for the right to vote in the UK in 1918 and then only for certain women over the age of 30! The UK was only some 25 years behind New Zealand!
Perhaps we should go back to the tradition where only property-owning men are allowed to vote? Living in rented accommodation? Sorry, no vote for you then.
The other missing argument that the "No" campaign seems to have quietly forgotten is the one about AV inevitably resulting in the greater likelihood of hung parliaments. Maybe it's that Australia has just had it's first hung parliament in 38 elections. Australia has used AV since 1918. Canada uses FPTP and seems to have nothing but hung parliaments. They are not alone.
The most disgraceful part of this document is the final section which makes AV a personal issue about Nick Clegg. Now, whatever your opinions about Clegg, and I admit he's been a bit naïve, this is not a referendum on Nick Clegg, no matter how much the "No" campaign would like so to make it. This is not about university fees.
It's about making your vote count for more than it does today. It's about giving everyone a reason to vote when in many constituencies far too many voters say they don't bother to vote because nothing is going to change. AV can't guarantee the outcome will be different: there will always be those constituencies (my own is one) which is either True Blue or Blood Red and is never going to change. However, there are far more constituencies that under AV will, for the first time, give every voter a chance to make a difference.
On 5th May I will be voting "Yes". In my case I don't expect it to make any substantial differences to the outcome of elections in my constituency. Hopefully for you it will be different. Most of all I am looking forward to seeing the look on Nick Griffin's face when the UK adopts AV. There's a Facebook page, "IF 500,000 PEOPLE JOIN I WIL (sic) RUN UP AND KICK NICK GRIFFIN (BNP) IN THE NUTS".
Vote "Yes" on 5th May and we can ALL kick Nick Griffin in the nuts. Can you think of a better reason?
Summary: Some reasons to consider a Yes vote for AV on 5th May