14 February 2011

AV:a good idea but it harbours a shocking possibility

I haven't said that much on the forthcoming Alternative Vote referendum yet. Maybe nothing at all, in fact: I can't find an previous posts tagged "AV" or "voting reform" (although I know the tagging structure ain't always logical round here, but that's just me). I think I've probably mentioned it a couple of times in passing.

So, how is Hal gonna vote on this one? Quite simple really: it's gotta be Yes. Although it does feel a bit odd to be in the same camp as John Rentoul, in this particular contest I guess one finds allies wherever one can. First Past the Post is just so absolutely f***ing awful that any other system - short of the candidates sticking Rizla papers with the names of randomly chosen famous people on their heads and the first one to guess correctly gets the seat - would be preferable.

Unlike Rentoul, I can't say AV is my preferred system. It's still single-member based on single-member constituencies and isn't guaranteed to be any more proportional than FTTP. However, it does get the public used to the idea of a more sophisticated voting system than FTTP, and so may soften people up for the introduction of a form of proportional representation some way down the line. Also the Tories and a load of Labour dinosaurs don't like it, so it must be a bad thing in that case.

(Incidentally, if the No2AV campaign's frontline argument against AV is that Nick Clegg doesn't like it, you can bet it's pretty sure to get voted through. Have any of the No2AV campaign looked at Clegg's popularity recently? Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.)

But there is a sting in the tail of AV for anyone who doesn't like the ConDem govt (which on the basis of current polling, is more and more people by the week). If Labour support were to hit around 40% come the next election, with the Tories just below that - say 38% - and the Lib Dems on 10% (let's be generous here), Labour would probably win under FTTP. But under AV, it would be relatively easy for the Tories to come through on second preferences from the Lib Dems (if the Lib Dem voters do as they will undoubtedly be told come the election and specify Tories as 2nd preference, and if you are still planning to vote Lib Dem after all you've seen from Cleggie and co by then, it's unlikely you'd draw any distinction between the Tories and Lib Dems, so I think we can pretty much take 2nd prefs as read).

I'll still support AV even though this is a real possibility, because at the end of the day, once you start arguing for a particular voting system because it benefits one particular party, you've ceased to believe in democracy. But this may help explain the strength of No2AV among certain kinds of Labour supporter (and many Labour MPs). On the other hand, it could just be that Labour are in fact, more crap than we would like them to be. Oh well.


Anonymous said...

I disagree with the AV and don't buy this latest bit of guff about it or Proportional Representation being good because they're supposedly "sophisticated". Most of the arguments being put forward by both sides in this debate are the usual lot of empty sloganeering, baseless claims and counter-claims and smug, oh-so-superior political types' smoke and mirrors. Logically it's not First Past the Post that's necessarily skewed up the voting system, it's the mainpulation of the boundaries for political gain by successive governments (none of them Lib Dem so they've lost out). At least under First Past the Post each MP is directly elected or not elected by their own constituents. You can bet your bottom dollar that under PR it'll be all about the post-election backroom deal-making and Party Lists of politicians who have got themselves to the top of their own party's greasy pole, getting foisted on people whether anyone actually voted for them or not.
If the Lib Dems had got into power they'd have pushed for the constituency boundaries to be changed to suit their chances just like the others, whatever they might tell you. They've already proved that they'll do just about anything to get into power, and anything to stay there with the Fixed Term Parliament idea which everyone seemed to unthinkingly buy into (why is it needed except so that if there's a motion of no confidence in an incumbent government three years down the road we've got to wait another two years before we can get rid of them).

giroscoper said...

Only just saw this comment (about 2 months late!) but I should just point out that AV, like FPTP, is a single-member constituency system. Both systems have the constituency link - which most media commentators seem to think is an essential part of a good electoral system, whereas I don't like it, as I'd rather have a multi-member system like the Euro elections. In fact the Euro elections list system is my favourite system - we should just have that for Westminster.