Sunday, May 01, 2011


YES! To AV – 1

Not made up your mind yet about Thursday’s referendum? I’m voting YES! to the Alternative Vote. It’s the best choice on the ballot paper for many reasons – but, as it’s all about letting voters have more power by picking candidates in order of preference, here’s my first choice in favour of AV. Not the only one, but, for me, the best.

Two thirds of all MPs today were “winners” last year with more people voting against them that voted for them.

Two thirds of all MPs today are opposed to reforming the system on Thursday.

What an amazing coincidence!

In the system we have now and in AV, if any candidate gets more than half of the vote, they’ve won. Simple as that. But the “No” campaign says that if you lose the vote of more than half the people, you should still “win”. “Yes” means something better: a system that means MPs need at least half of their voters in favour. So that’s the purpose of giving us all the chance to put potential MPs in order.

You know, when I make a speech, one of the oldest rhetorical flourish is the ‘rule of three’ – make three points, and you give the third more oomph. So it would have been satisfying to finish off my two “two thirds” with a third. I’d like to be able to give you the shocking figure that as many as two thirds of people have voted against an MP who still “won” – but that would have been an understatement. The current ‘biggest loser wins’ system means that some MPs have “won” with almost three quarters of their voters against them.

And this isn’t something that only ever benefits Labour and the Tories – though they do get the biggest bonus from the current system. In last year’s General Election, Liberal Democrat Simon Wright “won” Norwich South with just 29.4% of the vote, and 70.6% against. But he’s honest – even though that dodgy electoral system put him in Parliament, he’s committed to changing it, even at personal peril. And the first General Election I was involved in was 1992, when Liberal Democrat Russell Johnson “won” Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber with only 26% of the vote, and a gigantic 74% against! But he, too, was committed to changing the electoral system even when it did him good.

So that’s why I call the current system ‘biggest loser wins’ instead of the “No” campaign’s propaganda that it’s “First Past the Post”. Where is that post, exactly? The only one that matters is just past half the votes – any less, and you can still lose. Or still win. Entirely at random. And two thirds of those MPs who “won” last year by “First Past the Post” did so well short of the post. It’s hardly a winning post when you flop down barely halfway along the course and they have to carry the “winning post” back to you, is it?

Put simply:

“First Past the Post”? My arse
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Vote “YES!” on Thursday and you get a winning post that everyone can see – cross 50% of the votes, and you win. Pull up short, and you don’t deserve to!

M’aidez! M’aidez! Someone sent me the above graphic illustration of why even the term “first past the post” is a big fat lie, but I don’t know who created it. If anyone has a link, please let me know so I can give appropriate credit.

Whichever way you decide, this is the first UK-wide referendum since most of us were old enough to be able to vote. So don’t waste your vote – use it on Thursday.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Not completely convinced yet to vote #Yes2AV? Try one of my other YES! reasons. Or 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8…!

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