If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

AV or not?

I can see some genuine advantages to AV. For one thing, after 'Cast Iron' Dave's refusal to hold the referendum that people really want - on our continued membership of the corrupt EU - there is an overwhelming need to elect a government that will reflect what people want to happen, not what the elite think ought to happen. And yet the FPTP system makes that almost impossible. In my constituency at the last election, there were candidates for Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, UKIP and a few others. I voted Conservative, not from any real enthusiasm for their policies, but because to vote for any of the others would have risked letting the Labour candidate win, and that was an outcome I could not tolerate under any circumstances. If we had had AV, I could have voted for UKIP (the party closest to my own views), and put the Conservatives as second choice. If the UKIP candidate had bombed, my vote would not have been wasted. I would imagine that, in that event, almost all those votes would have lined up behind the Tory, and a Labour disaster would have been averted. But of course if people had felt free to vote with their real inclination in the first place, UKIP may well have won outright. Without AV, I will always have to vote tactically - against the party I detest (whoever they may be), and for whoever has the best chance of defeating them, no matter how much I have to hold my nose. Under FPTP, it will need a revolution to break the present 2.5 party system, and the British are not good at revolutions. AV perhaps represents a chance for a break.

On the other hand, I like the clarity and simplicity of FPTP, and it has served us reasonably well for many years - in the classic phrase, if it ain't broke, why fix it?

I am genuinely undecided on the issue of AV vs FPTP. And yet the whole issue is utterly irrelevant. No-one has been clamouring for a change to the way we elect our representatives. I have never heard a debate in the pub about PR or preferential voting. No-one, except a few Liberals, is in the slightest bit interested. On the other hand, I have heard many people complain about the EU and the massive waste of money and loss of sovreignty that it has meant for us. And so, for only the second time in 36 years, the nation is being consulted in a nationwide and binding survey of opinion:

On whether we put a cross or a number on the voting slip.

It's an insult. We were promised a vote on our continued membership of the EU, by Labour, and the Lib Dems. David Cameron promised that, if Lisbon were ratified before he came to power, "the matter would not rest there". And what do we get? An utterly irrelevant vote on AV. It's like begging Santa for a racing bike, and getting a bag of fucking chocolate money.

The brakes are shot, the body is rusted away, the engine leaks oil and the battery is dead. And we are being asked whether we prefer the green or the yellow seat covers.

An insult always mandates a response, and mine will be unconventional. My 'vote' won't count, but since they are spending all this money on consulting me, they will get an answer, of sorts.


  1. I plan to vote "no", myself, after weighing up the scintillating arguments put forward by both sides. Neither actually made much of a case, but I think the onus was far more on the pro-change side to prove it would be worthwhile. They failed to do so.

    Nobody really seems to want AV, not even the pro-PR camp. It's viewed, at best, as a possible step towards "proper" PR, although that particular claim seems to have no substantiating evidence. The Jenkins report found it to be unsuitable and where it has been used there appear to be as many drawbacks as there are advantages in terms of fairness.

    In any case, as you so eloquently point out, it's something of a non-issue. I'm not excited by the prospect of a slightly new way to elect the same old almost-identical bunch of professional career politicians. I'd rather have some different politicians* available for election, by whatever method.

    * And no, not the current selection of minority loons (or, worse, enviro-loons) that currently grace the "lost deposit" end of the political spectrum, either.

  2. The danger for the PR camp is that, having won a referendum on AV, the PTB would say 'enough - you've got your new voting system, now go away', and the topic would be shelved for a generation. Paradoxically, for supporters of true PR, a No vote today would be their best hope of a victory some way down the line. Not that I am a big fan of PR: any system that builds in political parties as essential to its structure is wrong. I'll be voting for an individual today, for the Welsh Assembly - my additional vote for Labour or Plaid or the Tories or whatever will be a reluctant one. I mean, who are they? Nothing to do with me or my locality at all.

  3. Richard - that is a decent summary of why I voted "no" this morning.

    There are a whole raft of things that need to be changed, issues where the politicians do what they want, not what we want. So, in the name of allegedly giving more power to us, they give us a referendum on the change they want in order to ensure that they are permanent coalition members so they always have power and always have an excuse for not doing what they promised.

    Meanwhile, the referenda we wanted are pushed off into the sidelines.

  4. As a now committed lawful rebellionite it was not condign for me to vote either way in this debacle, as all their posturing and so called 'laws' are if you follow the LR reasoning 'null and void.
    However if I were to express a preference then it would be for a significant debate with more than two options on the table, the knee jerk of this whole sham is a shameless publicity stunt and nothing less on behalf of the lib doms (look we did what we promised to do) constitutional change can only be considered IMHO once the constitution is actually recognised and working as it should to protect the people.

  5. A constitution? What's one of them, then? As far as I can see, it can be used ("it's a constitutional matter,old boy") to make people do what you want, but when you ask to see what they are talking about, it's unwritten, or written in several different places, and therefore says whatever the speaker wants it to say.

    I'd love a written, unambigious constitution - but if it was drawn up by any of the current crew I doubt if it would be remotely agreeable. Perhaps we're better off with something nebulous.


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