Saturday, February 19, 2011

AV

The wife has done an amusing Q and A on the relevance of AV—she's not a fan. And why would anyone be when Australia, the only other country to use the system, has compulsory voting—and still can't get a decisive result.

Not being a psephologist, I have very little interest in the forthcoming referendum, personally. However, I've pretty much made up my mind to vote for keeping the current system.

Why?

Well, mainly because I received an email "from" Eddie Izzard, urging me to vote for AV: whilst I find Izzard quite amusing as a stand-up comedian, his political views have always been utterly fucking wrong. As such, voting to retain the status quo must be the right decision.

In any case, it is all bread and circuses, as one ex-MP quite clearly stated a few days ago: it was Guido who linked to the Daily Politics episode in which various ne'er-do-wells—such as John Hurst and disgraced ex-MP Jonathan Aitken—debated the question of votes for prisoners.

It was the latter who said this (and let's face it, an ex-MP would know)...
"One vote every four or five years is not tremendously important."

Quite right: it doesn't matter who you vote for or in which manner you do it—the soft socialist politicians with the guns in their hands always get in.

UPDATE: just in case anyone was in any doubt that this whole rigmarole is a really fucking bad idea, our Lords and Masters have decided that this should be the first referendum in British history to be binding.
Two things today convince me that our democracy is deeply flawed. First, Parliament's decision that the referendum on the Alternative Vote will be binding, and will be won by a simple majority.
...

Making a referendum binding for the first time in the UK's history is, let's face it, a constitutional change of some magnitude. As is changing the voting system itself. Whether you support AV or not (no parties actually proposed it in their manifestos), it seems reasonable that it should require a large measure of public support to happen. Few people know much about the subject, so in some areas the turnout could be miniscule: it could be a constitutional change chosen by a small minority – an interested, informed minority – that could have major consequences for the rest. Likewise, the decision to make the referendum binding is made not by the people but by a simple majority in Parliament, a body whose democratic credentials are rather tarnished right now. If this is allowed to stand, who knows what other binding referendums might be proposed in future?

Well, I shall tell you what referendums will not be binding—any referendum in which the answer might be something other than that desired by the politicians.

As an example, does anyone seriously think that a referendum on the UK's continued membership of the EU—a state supported by the majority of politicians and opposed by the majority of the people—would be binding on the government? If you are in any doubt as to the answer, just look at how binding our politicians' "cast-iron" promises of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty were...

So, why would our corrupt and venal MPs make binding a referendum on the very way in which they are elected? Simple—they don't expect it to change anything of any significance.

As I said, it's just bread and circuses...

23 comments:

Mark Wadsworth said...

And I'm thoroughly in favour of AV because it encourages protest votes. Whether they go to UKIP, BNP or Greens or even LPUK is another issue, but the more protest votes the better.

john in cheshire said...

I got the izzard letter too. But, unlike you, I detest his humour and can't stand his politics. So, his intervention has served to reinforce my decision to vote to retain the current fptp method. Do I think it is the best or even better? no. But I think the people who stand for election are the problem and not the method of voting. So, the mission should be to change the type of people who we elect to serve us. How? I have no idea. Maybe a cull of the incumbents would be a start.

Paul Lockett said...

And why would anyone be when Australia, the only other country to use the system, has compulsory voting—and still can't get a decisive result.

I suppose it depends what you mean by a decisive result,but given that Australia has had fewer hung parliaments in the last 70 years than the UK has, it doesn't seem that bad on the decisive result front.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Chris I have to disagree with MW and agree with jic. Firstly, whether FPTP or AV the ability to register a protest vote is possible - the problem is most people don't do that cause they don't have a belief in their convictions.

I agree with jic because a cull of the present incumbents would 'encourager les autres'.

On a serious point, as I have blogged, if the voting system should be changed and what method is used, then that decision should be up to the voting public and all alternative methods should be made available and explanations given for each.

What is being offered is a choice the Lib/Lab/Con have probably consulted and colluded on to ensure they retain the levers of power!

Paul Lockett said...

WfW: If the voting system should be changed and what method is used, then that decision should be up to the voting public and all alternative methods should be made available and explanations given for each.

How would the referendum be held? Would people put an X next to their favourite system, or would they rank them in order of preference?

Or, would we have a referendum to decide that first?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

PL: I would have thought it fairly logical the two questions could be put on the one referendum.

If the answer to question one - do you wish to change the method of election - is no, then the second question is left blank.

Before the referendum though it is essential that all methods are explained, impartially and in full.

OK? Tis 'simples' really........

Anonymous said...

Dear Devil

The whole debate is just a bit of theatre to distract the voters from real issues. Note how quickly they have they given us a referendum on a triviality, whilst spectacularly failing to give us one on EU membership.

Re john in cheshire - "So, the mission should be to change the type of people who we elect to serve us. How? I have no idea."

How about stand yourself? If you don't like the incumbents, then you ought to like yourself more than them. Go for it.

Pick a party you are comfortable with or stand as an independent. You can get onto a town or parish council relatively easily - often there are no other candidates, so you get 'elected' without an election. After that come the district/borough councils, county councils and the bastardised 'unitary authorities' which cover the scope of both layers, then parliament, until such time as the EU abolishes it.

DP

Paul Lockett said...

That's not quite what I was getting at.

You suggested a referendum where all the options are available (FPTP, AV, STV, AV+, open list, closed list,...).

The question I had was how the referendum would be carried out. Would it be done on an X vote basis, where we put an X next to our preferred system and the system with the most Xs gets used, or would we rank them in order of preference and choose the system using AV?

Angry Exile said...

Paul Lockett's made the point I was going to wrt the infrequency of hung parliaments here in Oz (unless you count every time the Coalition win as a hung parliament, which is a bit unfair when AFAIK they rarely put up candidates in each other's turf). I'd add that while the practical process of voting is the same there's an important difference between Aussie preference voting and AV, which is that if you only want to vote for one candidate then AV is identical to FPTP - your X just changes to a 1, that's all. My criticism of the Aussie system is that combined with compulsory voting it's almost impossible to avoid being forced to vote for a total dickhead because you have to number all candidates.

For example, in the last election I had to order candidates from Labor, Liberal, Green, Secular, Family First and Sex Parties. With no Liberal Democrat candidate (nothing like British LibDems and more like LPUK) the next best was the Sex Party, distantly followed in my preferences by the Secular mob. I really only wanted to vote for the Sex Party as with the exception of the Secularists I found lots of reasons to put all the others plum last. Yet because I had to list preferences for the lot my vote would eventually have gone to someone I didn't support at all, all in the name of making sure it wasn't wasted. Frankly I'd rather it was wasted than go to Labor or Liberals but as the largest parties it was bound to end up with one of them unless I spoiled my ballot (or paid the fine for not voting), and doing that meant being unable to vote for the one I did kind of support. And of course that problem of having to vote for someone you don't want at all applies to minor party candidates too - it's almost guaranteed that any non-Labor or Coalition candidate will end up with their vote going to an opponent.

AV, or anything that doesn't require all candidates to be numbered, would be better. I could cast my vote so that it could only be used for candidates I actually like. They do do this for state elections in Queensland and New South Wales and they call it Optional Preferences but it's yet to make it to federal or Victorian state elections. I'd be more than happy to vote that way in the UK though to be honest it wouldn't have changed how I voted last May - with even UKIP banging out illiberal policies and no LPUK candidate I asked my proxy to write some random abuse across the ballot and drop it in the box.

Dick Puddlecote said...

I saw the AV headline in trepidation. So happy to see that I wouldn't have to disagree with you for once.

It's a donkey cock referendum with a donkey cock alternative to the current system. The fact that the likes of Izzard agree with it is a side issue to the main one that it's not even a half-decent transferable vote system.

Even the yes campaign admit this. They just want anythung but FPTP and will sort out the details later, it would seem. Except that isn't what will happen, we'll just be left with a godawful system which does nothing except reward the votes which shouldn't be rewarded.

If we were talking STV or STV-plus it would be a different matter, but why change the system when there is no discernible improvement? It's a sop to the Lib Dems and laughable if it weren't for the enraging fact that they can sit through the night to make sure this referendum (which no-one asked for) happens, whilst refusing to give us the one they promised (which everyone does want) on the Lisbon Treaty.

We're being lied to again, people.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Edit: "that I wouldn't have to disagree with you for the first time". D'oh! ;)

john b said...

"given that Australia has had fewer hung parliaments in the last 70 years than the UK has, it doesn't seem that bad on the decisive result front"

Indeed. And the current result accurately reflected what the people wanted: Labor were very slightly more popular than the Lib-Nats, but minority parties got more votes than ever. Therefore, we have a coalition led by Labor with the minority parties having more say than ever.

Steve said...

Seeing that iDave is against AV is a similarly good argument to vote for it.

If only he were also correct in saying that AV would be "a massive backward step for accountability and trust in our politics" -- because if you've been going in the wrong direction for years, progress does mean going backwards.

Lee said...

I've used different reasoning in my decision to back AV.

If Labour and the Conservatives are against it, it must be a good thing.

Korenwolf said...

As a correction, Australia does not have compulsory voting.

There is a requirement to turn up to vote / register a postal / proxy etc etc but there is no requirement to actually vote.

You can simply turn up, register that you were thre and walk away tearing up your ballot.

Angry Exile said...

Korenwolf, is that the actual law or is it just that a practical consequence of having compulsory voting and a secret ballot is the electoral authorities not being able to tell if any individual has actually voted properly?

Edwin Hesselthwite said...

Hello Devil,

Thought you'd be getting to grips with this one, and as usual I couldn't disagree with you more... Just because its a little academic seeming change, doesn't mean it won't matter...

I've dropped a massive essay on the topic elsewhere, where I've hoped to get to grips with the history of the issue... Thought I'd punt it among your fans.

Here you go:

http://www.everything2.com/user/Auduster/writeups/The+UK+Alternative+Vote+Referendum%252C+2011

Cheers.

Joseph Takagi said...

wfw,

Chris I have to disagree with MW and agree with jic. Firstly, whether FPTP or AV the ability to register a protest vote is possible - the problem is most people don't do that cause they don't have a belief in their convictions.

No, the problem is that people see votes for the likes of UKIP, BNP, Green as wasted votes, that in a Labour seat they might like UKIP best, but they think that as no-one else will vote for them that the best realistic option they can get is Conservative.

And because they don't see that others would have also picked UKIP (and could have secured victory), they continue to take this option, with the seat simply flipping Labour to Conservative and back again.

Now, eventually, a 3rd party can grow and get power under FPTP, but it takes decades, or a party basically destroying itself.

This is why the main 2 parties are mostly against it. Because it's easier for a 3rd party to gain more power (as the No campaign have admitted over the One Nation Party in Australia), and if you look at countries in Europe with non-FPTP systems you see how new parties can gain representation more quickly (e.g. Front National, Forza Italia).

It's not so much that the "left" or "right" won't gain power again, it's that someone else will get it. It puts party funding and political careers at risk and allows us all to hold politicians to account better.

I tend to agree that Izzard's a bit of a berk, but sometimes some people get things right. I'm fully in agreement with the BNP over government involvement in art (but not much else).

WitteringsfromWitney said...

JT: Accept all you say bar para 5 onwards. When half of constituencies are held with over 51% of the vote, how does AV alter those constituencies?

As DP says if it was STV or STV+ it would make a difference - even AV+ is better than what is on offer.

Returning to earlier point, any change must and should be left to the people to decide.

Joseph Takagi said...

wfw,

Accept all you say bar para 5 onwards. When half of constituencies are held with over 51% of the vote, how does AV alter those constituencies?

We don't know if 51% of people like that candidate best, or are just opting for what they perceive as the best value they can get from their vote.

I'm certainly not saying that AV is the best system. I agree that AV+ or STV systems are better. The question is when you're next going to get an opportunity to have another chance to get rid of FPTP. And at least once you have AV, parties can stand on an electoral reform ticket and people can vote for them without worrying about "wasting their vote".

WitteringsfromWitney said...

JT:

"We don't know if 51% of people like that candidate best, or are just opting for what they perceive as the best value they can get from their vote."

Not knowing for certain is hardly a reason to change the method of voting, surely? And is not AV, or any other system, not opting for the best value as perceived?

And what pray is to stop parties standing under FPTP on an electoral reform ticket?

Please understand my aversion to AV, besides it being a daft system, is the principle that all methods shud be open to the public from which to choose, with a necessary required percentage level to be reached by any one method for it to be enacted.

Joseph Takagi said...

Wfw,

Not knowing for certain is hardly a reason to change the method of voting, surely?

It's exactly why we should change the voting system, because FPTP forces people to take compromises rather than expressing their will. At least with AV, they can pick the candidate they want first and then compromise.

And is not AV, or any other system, not opting for the best value as perceived?

The difference is that FPTP is about people picking best value within the confines of a rotten system that encourages tactical voting.

And what pray is to stop parties standing under FPTP on an electoral reform ticket?

Nothing. But I'd bet that once we've had AV for a few years that people won't want to go back to FPTP.

Please understand my aversion to AV, besides it being a daft system, is the principle that all methods shud be open to the public from which to choose, with a necessary required percentage level to be reached by any one method for it to be enacted.

I'm sorry I can't convince you of why voting is about the best chance we're going to get, and one that rarely comes along. Breaking FPTP means dismantling the 2 party state, pretty much for good. We can then build on that. Without breaking it, you'll be stuck with the rotten system we have now for decades.

Rational Anarchist said...

My concern is that if people vote to keep FPTP at this referendum, we'll never get another. The politicians will all just say "the public has spoken" and that will be that.

FPTP is a monumental pile of shite, and AV may not be any better, but at least it will show them that we want something different.