We don’t have the facts but we’re voting yes!

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We don’t have the facts but we’re voting yes!

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“So let me get this straight,” I interrupted. “AV makes for better MPs, because they can make fewer people pissed off?”

“Sort of,” explained the weary local activist. “There are so many safe seats under the current system that MPs can stroll through a career without really having to care about constituents’ concerns. If you need to get 50% of the vote, you have to listen more.” His patience was clearly wearing thin. When you have to spell out the cause to fellow canvassers as well as constituents, you know you’ve got a hard sell on your hands.

Dragged along by a friend of superior civic virtue, I joined up with the ‘Yes! To Fairer Votes’ campaign at Essex Road station on a glorious early-summer evening. We were greeted by a small company of enthusiastic political junkies loaded up with purple bumf, who immediately tested our best lines on AV

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  1. April 23, 2011

    Dean Rodrigues

    “Really though, who cares?”

    Case in point: Sky News this morning apparently rank the following as more important issues (the list is actually infinite given that AV has yet to be mentioned in the last 3 hours):

    * where the Beckhams will be sitting in Westminster Abbey
    * how Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson must be feeling right now
    * Lindsay Lohan’s latest UTI-related incident
    * Whether or not David Cameron is a toff following today’s Telegraph interview
    * warm weather (amazingly, apparently) resulting in a crowded beach in Blackpool

    Definitely the issue on tip of everyone’s tongue

  2. April 27, 2011

    John Szemerey

    Your article \we don’t have the facts but we are voting yes\ in the April issue shows how effective has been the propaganda of proponents of the Alternative Vote. They have sown the seeds that Direct Representation, known colloquially as \First Past the Post\ is not fair, and that AV is fair or at least fairer.

    What complete nonsense! The assertion is not supported by facts – which is why the pro-AV people are fighting the referendum campaign with emotional arguments instead of facts.

    Facts show that all votes play an essential part in elections. If votes for all losing candidates were wasted, as AV supporters claim, then by the same logic the losers in any kind of contest and their supporters have been wasting their time.

    If there were no votes for losing candidates, no \wasted votes\, then there could only be one candidate and all votes would be for him or her. And if there is only one candidate, there would be no election or a farcical election as in the former Soviet Union, where winning candidates often claimed to get 99.9% of the vote. Is this what the Liberal Democrats want?

    What your readers must understand is that all electoral systems have political objectives quite apart from organising the representation of a country’s population in its parliament.

    The Liberal Democrats are opposed to Direct Representation because they win fewer seats than they think they should. They prefer the Alternative Vote because that will let them gain a few more seats than would be the case under DR in an identical election.

    The political objective of AV is to make possible electoral alliances where there are three national political parties, and to ensure that the smallest of the parties wins more seats and the bigger ones win fewer.

    AV has been popular for the lower house of Australia’s parliament, as there are three national parties: Labour, Liberal and the National (formerly Country) Party. Normally the Liberal and National/Country Parties are in alliance and tell their supporters to give their second preference votes to allied party. This way more Liberal and National/Country Party candidates are elected than if voting were by DR or winner takes all.

    In Britain both the Conservative and Labour parties are afraid that if the UK voted for its House of Commons by AV the LibDems would sell their support to the highest bidder. In many cases this would mean a coalition that would deprive the real winner of the election – the party with most MPs – of their right to form the government.

    This is why the LibDems have quietly told both major parties that introducing AV in place of DR will only be a first step. The country would soon realise the many weaknesses of AV and wish to change again. LibDems hope the second change will be to the Single Transferable Vote (STV), another preferential electoral system, but with larger constituencies … which will let the Liberal Democrats win still more seats, and other small parties like the Greens and possibly the BNP win some seats.

    So if the country is silly enough to vote Yes for AV without knowing the facts, the UK will in all likelihood change its electoral system again in 15 or 20 years’ time.

    After these changes coalitions will become the norm, as it is rare for a single party to win a majority of seats in parliament. When there are coalitions the policies of the coalition government will be negotiated between the parties after the election – as happens now in Belgium, Holland, Germany and other countries. And they will not be the policies for which the electorate voted.

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Ollie Cussen
Ollie Cussen is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Chicago. @olliecussen 




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