Posted by: Paul | April 22, 2011

In Support of AV.

I’m getting a little bit fed up with all the disinformation in the media about the referendum on the Alternative Vote, so I thought I’d write a little piece and nail my colours to the mast.

Firstly, since this is only the second national referendum that Britain has ever – yes, EVER – held on ANY subject, whatever your opinion on this you owe it to yourself to get out and vote. No vote, no voice, as a wiser person than I once said.

Secondly, in light of the above, this is a once in a lifetime chance to make a change to what is an unfair, unrepresentative, and sometimes downright corrupt system which has led to the farcical, vested-interests two-horse-race that UK elections have become. Whatever your political sympathies, under the current system you have simply one choice – red or blue. Nothing else matters.

OK, so AV is not perfect, and it’s not proper proportional representation. But it’s a start. My biggest bugbear with the current system is that by simply garnering ‘the most votes’, a lot of the time you end up with a winner who has not been voted for by the majority of the electorate who bothered to turn out. A Tory who wins with 35% of the vote, versus Labour’s 34, versus a Lib Dem with 20, versus others with 11%. That’s 35% for, 65% against. I’m sorry, but I don’t see how that is either fair, or representative of the majority – especially when the turnout is low. Is it any wonder there’s widespread apathy about politics?

With AV, you’re under no obligation to mark more than one preference if you don’t want to. You will not ‘miss out’ as further rounds of counting take place, as your vote is still counted until the party you voted for is eliminated from the election. And it’s not over until someone has gained 50% of the vote. In all honesty, it won’t alter the result in the majority of UK constituencies anyway – despite what the ‘No’ campaign would have you believe – but it does mean two things. Firstly, that candidates should have to actually work to get your votes – whether it’s position 1, 2, 3 or lower. And secondly, that people will be elected on more of a mandate, with a greater degree of notional support.

I haven’t had a leaflet from the ‘Yes’ campaign delivered yet, but the ‘No’ one dropped through the door yesterday. It made me laugh instantly in its heinously misleading nature. On the inside cover is a picture of four athletes finishing a race. There is an arrow pointing to the man in last place, saying ‘The winner under AV’. Not only is this offensively misleading and untrue – since the person in last would be eliminated straight away – it deliberately attempts to confuse the people who might not understand AV into voting with the status quo, scared of finding out what AV is actually about.

I believe the proposed system is straightforward and easy to understand. If you have a second, third preference etc, put it down. If you don’t, don’t. Votes are counted. If a 50% majority is reached straight away, we have a winner. If it’s not, the second preferences and beyond for the person who came last are redistributed, and so on until a 50% score is reached. Granted, it’s a tiny bit more complicated than putting an X in the box but bloody hell, if the British public at large can’t cope with this then what hope is there for any of us? I was cheered slightly this morning by a straw poll of the Today Programme’s live audience – when asked for a show of hands on how many understood AV, 90% responded in the positive. Even if they don’t all agree with it, it makes the ‘No’ campaign’s claims that ‘No-one understands AV, it’s too complicated’ look rather foolish.

Anyhow. That’s my two pence on the subject. I rather fear it is academic, and that the sneering Tory (and some Labour) snobs are doing a marvellous job of brainwashing people into thinking that they don’t need to rock the boat, that things are just fine as they are, thank you very much. Well they would, wouldn’t they? It keeps the elite at the top and means that we plebs have absolutely zero chance of changing anything which might threaten their cushy existence.

Come on, people. Give THEM a scare for a change. You know it makes sense. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

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