Thursday, 5 May 2011

05. Alternative is different. Not better. (NO to AV)

Warning: There be politics ahead.

  It may seem like I'm late to this party, but I have left it this late for a reason; I want people to make their own minds up about how to vote in the referendum. I'm not some evangelist. I don't want to push my views on to others; I just want to explain where I stand, and question others assumptions.

If you have no knowledge of the FPTP or AV systems please do read about them before reading this post, as it will make no sense otherwise.

On with the show:

  The YES supporters claim that AV is a fairer, more proportional system, which will bring politics into the modern day and make politicians more moderate; appealing to the general public at large. By supporting AV they feel that the stage is open for further political reform, and a vote of NO will shut out any future changes. Also there are those that believe a vote of YES is a vote against the Tories and their savage cuts.

I disagree in every conceivable way.

  We shall start with the idea of proportionality. Simply put, AV is not proportional. At all.
The fact is that AV retains single member constituencies, and as such only one parliamentary candidate can be elected. This will result in wasted votes.

 This brings me to the idea that AV is fairer. I concede that the winning candidate will have a more general support base; 50% +1 and as such would make them 'more acceptable' to the general public.
The problem with this is the preference system. 

Example (100 voters);

1st round;
A 43%, B 26%, C 15%, D 15%, E 1%
no winner.

2nd round;
A 43%, B 26%, C16%, D 15%
no winner.

3rd round;
A 49%, B 35%, C 16%,
no winner.

4th round;
A 49%, B51%
B wins the seat.

  My example is a little bit farfetched and rather simplistic, but results akin to this are possible, and more importantly it conveys my main grievance with this system. It seems inconceivable that a candidate can win a simple majority (more than any single candidate) of peoples preference votes multiple times, and still not win the seat! The problem with this preference system is that, while it does not 'waste votes' in the traditional FPTP sense, these people who have voted in favour a this candidate for their 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. are ignored and thus wasted, whilst those people whos candidate gets knocked out, essentailly get another vote! How, can anyone call a system where some poeple get more votes than others 'fair' or more 'proportional?' Only a complete fucking idiot can to be honest.

   As I have just mentioned AV still has the potential to waste votes
. Wasted votes are always going to be a factor in voting, especially in single member constituencies; someone has to win and someone has to lose. As the example shows, B) wins with a 51% majority; which under AV is enough to secure victory. A) On the other hand loses, and those 49% of votes are wasted.
  I agree that this is unfair to those voters whose candidate loses and thus their votes are wasted. However, it would require a change in electoral system and not a change in voting system to change that fact; this is something that AV does NOT provide.

  Onto making politicians more moderate. The larger parties are already moderate. Under the current system the only parties that gain a significant portion of the vote are the more moderate parties; those that are near the centre of the political spectrum. AV therefore will not change that. What it 'may' do however is create a system where coalition governments play a larger role, and as such, may tone done the policies of the party with the 'majority'.
   How, can AV supporters talk about fairness or proportionality, and support coalitions?
I concede Coalition governments tend to be more toned down, ie; more moderate with their policies.
So what?
Using the current coalition government as a reference; one party 'won' the general election; the conservatives. They may not have won enough seats to form a majority government, but they won enough votes to secure a simple plurality, and thus had the mandate to govern. Fine. The government may not have been efficient, but it would have been legitimate.
What having a coalition government does however is allow a party that has no mandate to govern into power. The Liberal Democrats have no right o be in government. At all. They did not win enough of the popular vote, nor did they win enough seats. How is it fair and proportional to allow this party into power? It isn't.
  AV does increase the likelihood of this happening, which in my eyes completely delegitimizes any arguments about fairness, wasted votes, or proportionality that the AV supporters can muster.
In summary of the objections to AV;
AV is NOT fairer, AV is NOT more proportional and Av has the ability to waste more votes. In addition to this the increase of collation governments that could follow such a change breaks down any arguments in favour of AV.
   Simply put if you want fairness, proportionality and your votes to count you want a form of PR (Proportional Representation) which AV is NOT!.

Which brings me to the idea that voting NO will lead to no future electoral reform. 

   Where did this assumption come from? Granted the conservatives will not allow for such a possibility while they are in power. The conservatives have never been in favour of electoral reform. Shock.

  The fact of the matter is Labour are. It was Labour who set up the electoral reform commission and select committee under Tony Blair. It was these bodies that suggested AV as the only alternative voting system that would fit into our current legislative and Electoral system. Ed Milliband is in favour of electoral reform, and as head of the party, there is a significant possibility that under a Labour government there could be future reforms.
   So is a vote of YES a vote against the conservatives? Yes in one sense; they don't want the change, but at the same time it is not.
  In my eyes a vote of YES, is a vote for the Liberal Democrats and as we have seen in the last general election; a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for the Conservatives. 

 This vote should not be thought about along party lines.
  For example, not all of the Labour party want the voting system to change, and they are the conservatives arch rivals. 
This is a vote for which voting system works best for the UK. Granted FPTP is not perfect in many, many ways. But AV does not offer any desirable alternative. It is not worth wasting time, money and risking the efficiency of government on a 'possibility'.

   Many of you will disagree with what I have written, which is fine, that is after all your right.
However, I think those that do will find it hard to argue against the logic that I have written here, when all they are armed with are assumptions.

Thanks for reading -DH-


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