Why I'm Voting "Yes" to AV
This is an pretty old post from my blog, which has been preserved in case its content is of any interest. You might want to go back to the homepage to see some more recent stuff.
A while ago, I blogged my indifference to the Alternative Vote system, and politics in general at that point, in a post entitled “Meh” to AV. My main objection was that AV would increase the likelihood of the country being governed by bland centrist coalitions. However, now hopefully somewhat more educated about the subject, I am now given to understand that AV would in fact reduce the likelihood of coalition governments – and given how well our current coalition is working out for all concerned, I suspect that a greater chance of outright majority governments may be a good thing for Britain.
Over and above this, the biggest advantage of AV in my opinion is that it removes the desire to vote tactically. Thus far in my adult life I have resolutely voted Lib Dem in my constituency, where they trail the Conservatives with about 30% of the vote compared to 40% – not exactly close, but not far off. As I find my inclinations swinging toward Labour (15%), the existing First Past the Post system means I now have a choice: support Labour by voting for them, or oppose the Tories by voting Lib Dem. (Not that that’s working too well at the moment.) The AV system gives me the ability to properly express my opinions: I’d like Labour first, the Lib Dems second, and the others not at all.
But in case none of that was convincing, I suggest you attempt the following procedure, which has thus far done me no harm in life:
Figure out what a bunch of stuffy old-Etonian toffs and/or bigoted racist dicks want you to do
Figure out what the opposite is
Whether it’s for fairer representation, for better allowing you to express your opinion, to Stick it to the Forehead Man, or just for the lulz – please join me in voting “Yes” to the Alternative Vote system on May 5th.
Yup, will do.
Wow, it's all informed, educated debate in here tonight. If you're anti-AV (as opposed to just pro-personal attacks), would you care to offer your reasons why?
I'm pro-AV* and pro-personal attacks**!
What's kind of sad about the whole thing is that the Yes campaign hasn't really been run any better than the No campaign, mostly consisting of a bunch of people rambling about how awful No are and Eddie Izzard.
But also, the likeliest response to the referendum, even in the unlikely situation of a Yes majority, is a Cameron blithering on TV about insufficient turnout, No Mandate, and a "Voting Reform" bill that redraws boundaries to give the Tories an easier time under FPTP and 30 years of "Well we had a referendum on that back in 2011." whenever anyone mentions voting reform again.
** You biscuit eater! Why, you probably fornicate in duck ponds.
Very much agreed. I was scouring the 'net for pro- and anti-AV arguments while writing this, and a good 90% of them consist of the No campaign saying "AV is expensive and undemocractic!" while the Yes campaign say "No it's not!".
Unfortunately I'm in agreement with the pessimism too -- there's nothing to say that if Yes wins, AV actually happens right then and there. And looking at the polls, I'm not convinced Yes will win at all.
I'm less convinced about PR than I used to be, though -- as I understand them, most PR systems would lead to more coalition governments, and our limited experience of those so far has not exactly been a good one.
However, if one accepts that the purpose of voting is to turn people's preferences into reality (and it really should be), then there's no fairer way of doing that than PR. So on those grounds, I guess I am in principle in favour of PR over both FPTP and AV.
Andrew Rilstone has been talking about this stuff a bit recently (http://www.andrewrilstone.com/ - the "What if they gave an election and no one came" section). It's all been rather thought provoking.
It's not entirely obvious that the purpose of voting should be to turn people's preferences into reality. Or at least not the preferences they express when asked, which may be over or under exaggerated, naive or just derived from something other than their actual utility function (tradition, cantankerousness, greed etc).
Am intrigued about the coalition comment, is it really fair to generalise to all coalition governments from this one? I was under the impression it seemed to work quite well in the 160 odd countries that currently employ some kind of PR and a vague recollection suggests we fought WWII under a coalition. As with committees, and indeed governments everywhere, it may be the people that are the problem. :)
I also rather like the irony that Cameron owes his position as PM to AV, in that if Tory leadership elections were FPTP we'd have someone else screwing the country up. :)
I agree completely with this blog post. I was originally NO on AV, but after reading up more on the subject I'm definitely backing a YES vote.
There are so many myths being put about by anti-AV voters, the main thing that initially had me saying NO, was that I was informed it would allow the BNP and UKIP as well as other extremist parties to get seats.
But having put some thought into it and learning more about AV, I can see that AV would actually do the opposite. In fact, the current FPTP system has already allowed the BNP to get seats.
Also if the idea that AV would allow the BNP to get seats were true then why are the BNP urging their supporters to vote NO on AV?
I think this page is quite interesting: http://www.yestofairervotes.org/pages/av-myths
I will definitely be voting YES on May 5th.
"People are the problem" is a really slippery slope that ends in "I should be in charge, because I don't like the crazy racists and only a dictatorship can guarantee stopping them". (Not that I'd turn down the opportunity if it presented itself.)
There's a balance to strike somewhere, between absolute PR where everyone is represented fairly no matter how much of a nutter they are, and our current system where you're only in luck if you support a mediocre Middle England-chasing party of the centre. I'm not sure exactly where I'd strike that balance, but AV is at least a step in the right direction.
If coalitions were the status quo (as in other countries) or we had bigger fish to fry (WW2) then perhaps they'd be more bearable and their members more co-operative. As it is, politicians squabble and throw their toys out of the pram on a daily basis, rather than spending their time working for the good of the country. Maybe it's not people that are the problem, so much as politicians and especially political parties?
FYI, Labour elect their leaders by AV too. Not sure if I had a point there, but figured I'd say it anyway :)
In fairness, FPTP has only allowed the BNP to gain seats in council and European elections, not yet in elections to the Commons.
But yes, given that any other government is infinitely preferable to one including the BNP, I see no wrong with "the BNP say No" being a compelling reason to vote Yes! :)
"In fairness, FPTP has only allowed the BNP to gain seats in council and European elections, not yet in elections to the Commons."
Haha yes true, but as you said 'not yet'
I just have a nasty feeling that eventually they will scrape a seat in the Commons, if the FPTP system has already allowed them seats in the council and European elections.
Regardless, I agree that if the BNP are saying NO, then saying YES must be the right thing to do ;)
> "People are the problem" is a really slippery slope
Yup. I'm just saying that there has to be some thought somewhere about how the system deals with people not being perfectly rational, valuing short-term gain over long-term sustainability etc. There's probably a deeper reason that elections turn voter preferences into representative-people, rather than into direct actions than just "It wasn't historically feasible."
> Maybe it's not people that are the problem, so much as politicians and especially political parties?
I'm pretty sure politicians in other countries squabble. ;) Looking at Wikipedia, I think it might have been WW1. What reason is there to think our politicians now are a different breed?
> FYI, Labour elect their leaders by AV too. Not sure if I had a point there, but figured I'd say it anyway :)
That's interesting. Ed really has been something of a disappointment as leader of the opposition. It seems like there's a whole bunch of very awkward questions he's completely failing to ask. :(
Oh poo, forgot:
> I see no wrong with "the BNP say No" being a compelling reason to vote Yes! :)
Reversed stupidity is not intelligence. Fools sometimes get things right (or I'd be out of a job ;) ). An action that is not one obvious kind of wrong is not necessarily right.
Though it would be awesome if our entire political system could be stripped down into the following:
1) Vote the nastiest, most clueless racist bastards you can into power.
2) Do the opposite of whatever decisions come out of Whitehall.
I'm not sure there's necessarily a deeper reason. As Rilstone says in the page you linked, no-one ever designed our electoral system, it just came to be over time, presumably having its beginnings in the parliaments of Cromwell et al. If there is a deliberate reason, it's either pretty old itself, or it's been retconned! :)
I wasn't saying today's British politicians are a different breed, just that they're as new to coalitions as we are, and unlike in wartime they don't have a common threat to fight. The most pressing problem for our country today is the economy, and our coalition is at odds over how to tackle it. "Let's not let Kaiser Wilhelm / Adolf Hitler rule Europe" was a common goal an order of magnitude more important than our concerns today (IMHO).
I'm disappointed with Ed Miliband's lack of awkward-question-asking, too. Oh! There was the point I wanted to make. Draw from this what you will about AV, but <a 0="" href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11412031" rel="nofollow noopener">http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11412031</a>" rel="nofollow">David Miliband was ahead in the first three rounds of the AV contest</a> -- only in the fourth and final round did he creep ahead.
> Reversed stupidity is not intelligence
It's not about the BNP being stupid and the opposite therefore being intelligent or right. It's about them declaring what's in their best interests, and voters deliberately choosing to do the opposite because they know it is not in the BNP's best interests.
For me, the AV vote is about a lot more than just keeping the BNP further from power. But for many people completely disillusioned with the main parties, it could be just enough of a reason to sway their vote.
> As Rilstone says in the page you linked, no-one ever designed our electoral system
All electoral systems that I'm aware of, not just ours. Though thinking about it further, I wonder if any of them were actually designed.
> or it's been retconned! :)
Which doesn't stop it being important/true/whatever ;)
> I wasn't saying today's British politicians are a different breed, just that they're as new to coalitions as we are, and unlike in wartime they don't have a common threat to fight.
So why are coalitions something to be necessarily avoided? Even in the short term? Considered actions arrived at over much debate that have been looked at from at least 2 sides are better than Politicians Logic style immediate knee-jerk reactions. The former seems much likelier from a coalition.
I'm really hoping Mr Clegg has been compromising so agreeably to make sure the AV referendum happens, and that he will soon feel he's in a position to regrow his testicles.
> only in the fourth and final round did he creep ahead.
That's really interesting, who had the most votes in the first round? That makes two people saying NO to AV who would have lost out considerably under FPTP. I'm sure they're both at work even now reforming their own party system. How humble our politicians are.
> It's about them declaring what's in their best interests
I knew they'd said "NO to AV...", I'd missed where they'd said "... because we won't do well under it."
Unless the BNP are influential enough that it's worth risking ... insert potential disaster here... years of political stalemate, say, just to stop their inexorable march to power, their condemnation is not justification for voting YES to AV.
> For me, the AV vote is about a lot more than just keeping the BNP further from power.
I didn't mean to imply otherwise. :)
> So why are coalitions something to be necessarily avoided? Even in the short term? Considered actions arrived at over much debate that have been looked at from at least 2 sides are better than Politicians Logic style immediate knee-jerk reactions.
That would be nice, but that's not how it's working out at the moment -- every decision infuriates half the coalition, and is portrayed as "a win for X" or "Y going back on their promises". I'd like to say I can see that changing soon, but I really can't.
> That's really interesting, who had the most votes in the first round? That makes two people saying NO to AV who would have lost out considerably under FPTP.
David Miliband. Read my comment again :) Incidentally, <a 0="" href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/18/ed-miliband-vince-cable-unite-support-av" rel="nofollow noopener">http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/18/ed-miliband-vince-cable-unite-support-av</a>" rel="nofollow">Ed Miliband is pro-AV</a>.
> Unless the BNP are influential enough that it's worth risking * insert potential disaster here* years of political stalemate, say, just to stop their inexorable march to power, their condemnation is not justification for voting YES to AV.
I'd say that them even getting one seat in the Commons would legitimise them far too much for my taste. It's hardly a disaster, as I assume no other party would form a coalition with them. However, previous BNP sympathisers but UKIP/Tory voters could then be more inclined to vote BNP in future.