Friday, 4 March 2011

Even Educated Fleas Have Got It...

I came home from work today and there waiting on the doormat, along with my weekly copy of Powerplay (a British ice hockey magazine) and the new Elbow album, was a leaflet:

It turns out that it is the AV voting system (apologies for the poor quality pics, I couldn't find my camera and had to take them on my phone).

Yes, this was a leaflet telling me to say No to AV when the referendum takes place…erm, when is it…let me have a look, surely this leaflet will tell me…ah, here we are, it says “next May”. This is early then, they can’t mean May 2011, or the leaflet would say “this May”, wouldn’t it? Hang on, let me have a look on google or something. Oh, it’s May 5th this year is it? Well then the leaflet’s wrong and misleading there then.

This wrong and misleading tone is kept throughout the whole leaflet. Here’s some more examples of the twaddle it contains, and my thoughts on that twaddle (which are in italics).

Why Our Current System Works

It creates strong governments – The system creates strong accountable governments and means that coalitions are less common, with no horse-trading behind the scenes.

Granted, but look at some of the decisions our last strong government made, from civil liberties to the war in Iraq. Look at some of the decisions made by this coalition government - imagine what wholesale changes the Conservatives could be doing if they actually had a mandate to govern. Strong government does not mean correct government, hopefully now the Lib Dems have seen how the public thinks of them in the Barnsley Central by-election, they may start instigating the checks and balances on the Tories that most of us that voted for them hoped they would be.

2) It's simple to understand - Each person votes for the candidate that they support and the candidate that they support and the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner.

AV isn't exactly
A Brief History of Time you know. Who do you support? Mark them with a 1 then. Who would you support if your first choice is eliminated? Put a 2 next to their name then. And so on.

3) It excludes extremist parties - Parties such as the BNP have never been able to get enough support in a single constituency to have one of their candidates elected as an MP.

Well it's probably likely that these minority parties will continue not having enough support to get an MP. AV is not PR. I don't support the BNP by any stretch of the imagination, but the solution to diluting their influence is to challenge what they stand for, not to maintain an electoral system that gives them next to no chance.

4) It's cheap - Staying with our current system means we will not need to spend money on expensive vote counting machines.

Anything looks cheap when you're comparing it to figures you've pulled out of your arse.

5) It's fair - One person, one vote - unlike AV, where supporters of minority parties end up getting multiple votes.

So do supporters of major parties. If necessary,
AV takes up a series of rounds. Everyone gets one vote per round. If your chosen candidate is eliminated, your vote is transferred to your next preference candidate. If your candidate isn't eliminated, your vote is for that candidate in the next round. Everyone gets the same amount of votes, unless you choose to only vote for one candidate - then your vote is discarded if that candidate is eliminated.

6) It's the most widely used system in the world - People all over the world have copied our tried and tested system. It's used in Canada, India and the USA among many others.

So what? So those countries haven't had electoral reform either. Although if you want to get picky, India also uses
STV for election to it's Upper House. Even in the UK, the majority of elections don't use First Past the Post anyway.

7) It's quick and easy to count - Because of its relative simplicity, our current system is easier and quicker to count than the AV system, which can take some time.

And in that rush to get a quick result, mistakes can be made. The country survived for 5 days without a government last May, so I don't see the harm in waiting for results to come through.

The winner should be the winner There's a very simple principle in politics and governments - whoever gets the most votes wins. It's wrong that the person who came second or third can overtake the person with the most votes and be allowed to win because the second and third choices of the little parties are counted again. Imagine applying the same principle at the Olympic games and giving the gold medal to the person who came in third!

This is a shit analogy. As I've said, the AV system is, if necessary, made up of rounds of counts, so if you're going to have an olympics analogy (because next year is of course olympic year and so everything must be tied in to the olympics, the same as every advert has a football theme whenever there's a world cup), the modern pentathlon is probably the best event to compare it to, where the person with the best score after five rounds is the gold medal winner.

AV would have no effect on safe seats - In the 2010 UK General Election, over a third of MPs were elected with more than half of all votes cast. If the AV system were to be adopted, second and third choice votes in these seats would never be counted. This supposedly 'nationwide' reform will have absolutely no effect for the 15 million people living in these constituencies.

So that's two-thirds of constituencies where AV would come into play then? With an effect on around 45 million people? The above is a perfectly valid argument for PR, but not for First Past the Post.

The leaflet also mentions only 3 countries currently use AV, one of which it says is Fiji, which has "had enough of AV and (is) about to ditch it. Seeing as Fiji had a military coup in 2006, and hasn't had an election since, they may have more pressing things on their minds.

The rest of the leaflet pretty much repeats the arguments above in a slightly re-worded form, so I'm not going to repeat my arguments again. If you've received the same leaflet and you're thinking "ah, but what about this?", please leave me a comment. There probably is a decent debate worth having on voting reform, but while half-truths like this, and false dichotomies like the ones Steven Baxter has covered, are presented, the No to AV group don't seem interested in having it.