Friday, 6 May 2011

Why I voted 'Yes' to AV

Yesterday, I took part in the referendum on whether to change the current first-past-the-post electoral system to the Alternative Vote system.  I was obviously one of a very select number who did, as there are mentions in the press of only a 10% voter turnout on the issue and the predicted result is a resounding ‘No’ to the change.

I, however, voted ‘Yes’, not out of any love of the Liberal Democrats or of the Labour supporters of the change nor out of any animosity towards the Conservatives, but I viewed the options and believed that a ‘Yes’ to any form of electoral reform.  The AV system was described by Nick Clegg as a miserable compromise and, in that respect, I totally agree with him but I disagree with the idea that we should have voted ‘Yes’ because any change to the electoral system is better than nothing.  The electoral system is in dire need of change, I just don’t think that the Liberal Democrats asked for a big enough change.

Major stumbling blocks for the ‘Yes2AV’ campaign were that the whole debate became too politically partisan, which deflected attention away from the facts of the subject, and the fact that the Liberal Democrats have made themselves so unpopular in their support of their Conservative Coalition partners that the very fact that they want AV, even if it is just a compromise from what they really wanted, made the whole campaign too toxic to support.

So, why did I vote for AV?  Well, I weighed up the arguments for and against, some of which I will cover below, and I will summarise my thought processes now.

  • AV means that some people’s vote will be counted twice.  Actually, that isn’t true because a person’s first choice vote is discounted if their chosen candidate gains the least amount of votes.  Their second choice candidate then becomes their vote, their single vote.
  • AV will lead to more coalition Governments.  This may be true but just because this coalition isn’t doing that well and is relatively unpopular, that doesn’t mean that coalition Governments can’t work.
  • AV will give more power to far right extremist voters.  Sorry, that doesn’t fly either.  Most political parties would be unattractive to people with extreme far right views and, unless a new British Nazi Party or UK Fascist Party comes into being, there are no other logical choices for people with those views.
  • The first-past-the-post electoral system has served this country well in the past.  Wrong.  The current electoral system has meant that a candidate could be voted into office by as little as a third of the votes cast in the election.
  • AV will result in an added expense.  This was the only point I had no real information on.  It could be right.  It could be wrong.  But isn’t it worth the one-off added expense to make our elected representatives more representative of the electorate’s wishes?
  • AV will make politics more homogeneous as candidates will be chasing the second choice vote in case they don’t have enough support to win outright.  I prefer to look at it this way – if the candidates aren’t popular enough to win outright then there’s a reason for that and it would be better for the electorate if they had to work to be more representative of the people they wish to represent.

  • The first-past-the-post system is not truly representative.  If a candidate can be voted into office with less than a third of the votes cast in an election then it really isn’t, is it?
  • AV will make candidates work harder for your vote.  This is true, in that, candidates must make themselves appeal to a wider audience than the one they currently do now (or preaching to the perverted, as I like to say).
  • AV will give less power to far right extremist voters.  Without any real logical options open to them and the fact that the major parties would not countenance views of that nature, voters on the extreme right will find themselves devoid of influence.  It may even put the final nail in the coffin for those parties that espouse those views.
  • AV means less wasted votes.  Currently, people have the choice of not voting, voting for a candidate that has no hope of winning the seat as a means of protesting or spoiling their ballot paper.  Protest votes usually end up going to waste or, even worse, go toward electing candidates with extremist views – not a good use of the vote.  AV, on the other hand, ensures that voters can weigh up the relative merits of the candidates on offer, rank them in order of preference and feel that their vote is still worth something without having to protest in the ways I have previously described.

I know I have left out some arguments, both for and against, and that there appear to be more arguments against AV but I feel that I have countered the arguments against AV quite well.  In the end, however, voting ‘Yes’ to changing to the Alternative Vote system felt right to me, deep in my gut (although it could have been indigestion).

You may have a different view; it would certainly be a crappy, dull world if we all thought alike.  I voted on the issues rather than the mud slinging, backbiting, name-calling partisan politicking that obscured the heart and soul of the matter, tried to look beyond all of that to what I felt would be best for the country and how many others can say that?

1 comment:

  1. Sadly I didnt vote. as you know they failed to explain the pros and cons and this is one vote less to make the result look credable. Maybe they will fine voters next. Maybe we could fine MP's for not voting in debates.