Tuesday, May 03, 2011


YES! To AV – 3

Time for my third-best reason to vote YES! to the Alternative Vote on Thursday: 1st to get MPs supported instead of opposed by the majority; 2nd to boost your power to throw out crooks; and 3rd, to give everyone more choice with a small but powerful change. So if you want a big change eventually, this is a significant step in that direction; if you’re not entirely sure about change, it’s evolutionary, not revolutionary. AV’s the system used by countless organisations across the UK, including Labour and the Conservative Party (David Cameron wouldn’t be Leader under “first past the post”).

Vote For Change – Powerful Enough To Be Worth Having, Cautious Enough Not To Be Scary

The Alternative Vote isn’t a perfect voting system. There isn’t one! But it’s an awful lot better than “first past the post”, and it’s the best for electing just one person at a time (which is why the Liberal Democrats use it for internal elections for just one person, like party Leader). I’ve always been quite open that the system that gets the balance best is the Single Transferable Vote. That’s the system the Lib Dems think is best (and use in for internal elections for more than one person). Unfortunately, the Lib Dems couldn’t get either the Tories or Labour to support giving the people a choice on STV, but at least we persuaded the Tories to offer you a choice on the Alternative Vote, which is a close relative of STV and gets halfway there. You see, STV has two big points in its favour: it gives voters far more power, by letting them choose candidates in order instead of just having to pick one and cross their fingers; and it’s fairer between parties, because it’s more proportional.

The Alternative Vote’s big value as a change is that it’s a preferential system – it does indeed give voters far more power by letting them choose candidates in order instead of just having to pick one and cross their fingers. It’s not as powerful as STV, because you can only rank candidates of different parties in order of preference, not choose your favourites inside parties as well. And it’s not any more proportional than “first past the post” (no system that only elects one person at a time can be) – but then, some proportional systems give all the power to party machines to choose who’s elected, when I (and the Lib Dems) reckon voters should get the power to put candidates in order. And that’s the advantage of AV – it gives half of the improvement over “first past the post” I’d like, and that’s worth having.

So I want a bigger change, but I’d be happy with a small one to get along with. What if you’re unhappy with the current system, but a bit worried that changing things might make it worse? Then AV is for you. It’s not much more complicated. It doesn’t cost any more money. It doesn’t need to change when or where votes take place, or who counts them. It keeps one MP per seat, and one ballot paper, and – whatever “No” may claim – one person, one vote. It’s just that your vote becomes more powerful, because it contains more choice. And it’s not some new, alien system – thousands of different British organisations use it to choose their officers and committees. Including, despite what some of them are saying in this referendum, the Lib Dems, Labour, and even the Tories.

The Lib Dems Want More Than AV; Labour Promised AV; the Tories Think AV’s So Good They Use It Themselves

One of the No campaign’s biggest lies is that “No-one wants AV”. The Labour Party like it so much that they put it in their General Election manifesto last year (though, colour me stunned, many individual MPs who were elected under the current system have ignored their manifesto to support the old system that gives them their salaries, perks and power). In fact, all three of the main parties (and most of the little ones) think AV’s such a fair system that they use versions of it in their own internal elections. It’s just that some politicians say ‘If it’s good enough for us, it’s good enough for you’, while others say ‘We use it, but you plebs are too stupid to (Help! Help! It would give you plebs too much power!)’.

Prime Minister David Cameron pretends he doesn’t understand it, and tells you it isn’t fair… But if the Tories used the “first past the post” he pretends is so good, he wouldn’t be Prime Minister. He wouldn’t be their Leader. David Cameron was elected because the candidate with the largest number of votes, David Davis, didn’t get majority support – so the voters for the also-ran candidates transferred their votes to Mr Cameron, who they were happier with, and together that put him in the lead. In Labour, too, Ed Miliband won an AV election where his brother would be Leader under “first past the post”. Unlike Mr Cameron’s hypocrisy, both Miliband brothers are honest enough to say they support AV because it’s right, whether it’s good or bad for them personally. In fact, the only party Leader who’d have won with both AV and “first past the post” is Nick Clegg.

AV is such a well-used, traditional British system that you can find people in favour of it from all political views (except the BNP, who are scared to death of it). You can watch TV historian Dan Snow explain our voting history and how AV would affect it. And what about historical figures? Winston Churchill wanted a more proportional system; the “No” lot like to tell you he didn’t think much of AV – but, as they don’t have any positive argument for “first past the post,” it’s no surprise that they never tell you Churchill hated that, too:
“The present system has clearly broken down. The results produced are not fair to any party, nor to any section of the community. In many cases they do not secure majority representation, nor do they secure an intelligent representation of minorities. All they secure is fluke representation, freak representation, capricious representation.”
I’ve explained why, though AV isn’t perfect, it’s a step forward from that – and it improves on Churchill’s complaint, because it does “secure majority representation” in each seat. Quite a few Conservatives are honest enough to back the system they use for their own elections, too, such as this post from the leading Tory on Swansea Council. Or, if you like, you can read the reasons for change from an excellent Liberal Democrat councillor I know. And I’ve already given the fact that AV has always been the most popular choice for Labour reformers, was backed by the whole Labour Party in their election manifesto just last year and, as I’ve already said, the Labour Leader is campaigning for it (just like his brother).

This is our one chance to vote for change – in the first UK-wide referendum since 1975. Don’t waste it because the change on offer ‘isn’t perfect’.

The important thing about AV is that it gives you more power over all the parties, because it gives you more choice about all their candidates. All the parties know that. That’s why some of them are in favour of it – and some are afraid of it. But remember, all the parties support AV. Some of them in secret, and some of them honestly for the rest of us, too! It’s simple. It’s an easy change to make. And it makes sense – you just put the candidates the parties offer you in order of who you think can best do the job. Who can disagree with that? And why do so many of the people who pretend to disagree with that use it themselves, when nobody’s looking?

No To Lies and More Lies (Part II) – What the People Who’ve Used AV For A Century Say To the Liars

You’ll probably have spotted by now that the No Campaign have been telling lies, more lies and a lot more lies on top of that, because they can’t come up with a case in favour of the current “first past the post” system (where usually the biggest loser “wins” when they’re nowhere near the “post”). Because there are too many lies to deal with all in one post, here’s a second batch…

Although the Alternative Vote is used by thousands of organisations in the UK already (including, of course, the Conservative Party), the biggest set of AV elections on Earth at the moment are to the Australian Parliament, where they’ve used it for a century and have had one person, one vote – by AV – for longer than we have in Britain. So Australian commentators are in quite a good position to point out some of the most ludicrous inventions from the No campaign: why everyone’s votes count the same under AV, when No pretends some people’s count extra; that no-one in Australia is calling for “first past the post,” despite the No campaign pretending people are; and a bumper post dealing with a load of the No campaign’s bizarre delusions at once!

Not completely convinced yet to vote #Yes2AV? Try 1 of my other YES! reasons. Or 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8…!

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