The best arguments for and against AV

The public ‘debate’ on the referendum for the alternative vote has been shameful. Red herring and dishonest arguments have been pushed by both sides. I’d have rather they kept the debate on the following terms:

The best case for the YES Campaign

  • Today it is common for an individual MP to be elected with a minority of the vote in their constituency. This ‘sounds’ undemocratic. AV keeps the model of an MP representing an individual constituency (which is a good feature of our system) but means that they will have had a positive vote from over 50% of valid votes counted*. It allows those of us who have tactically voted for years under the existing system to now vote with our hearts and know our votes will be counted. That ‘sounds’ more democratic.
*yes, because you don’t have to rank everyone on the paper the number of votes that constitute 50% of the valid vote will get smaller each round as some people decide they couldn’t vote for anyone else on the paper beyond those they have – so 50% of valid votes in a round may be less than 50% of the total vote. yawn. It is still a clearer mandate than winning with a fringe agenda with 20.1% over four other moderate candidates who people struggled to choose between each polling 19.8%.

The best case for the NO Campaign.
  • Just because something ‘sounds’ more democratic in theory, does not mean it will ‘be’ more democratic in action. It is reasonable to assume that AV would result in Coalitions being more common. True, not to the extent that full PR would, but the case can still be made: If you like parties to be judged against their manifesto pledges then post-general election Coalition negotiations can be a nasty surprise. Ask a Lib Dem who is horrified by the new level of tuition fees or a Tory who is horrified by this very referendum. In reality, we already operate broad coalitions WITHIN our main parties. Labour had diverse views such as George Galloway and Tony Blair together for decades, the Tories had Tebbit and Chris Patten together for an age. The parties had their debates before the election and had a transparent process to put together their policies before presenting them to the nation ahead of the vote., You are clear what you are going to get if x,y or z wins. As a party member you would even have been able to have some influence and input to the process of policy formation. Coalitions BETWEEN parties instead lead to Government programs being put together in a smoke-filled room contrary to anything the electorate thought they were going to get. The deal brokers may not be the cuddly types at the center but may just as likley be the parties at the margins – the nutters. Anything that increases the likelihood of that kind of policy formation is less democratic than what what FPTP has delivered for most of our history.

Everything else – the gumpf about cost, simplicity, one person’s vote being counted more times than anothers etc. etc. is just bullshit frankly. As it happens I’m persuaded by the NO argument above as a case against full PR, but not quite as a case against AV. I think AV would be a small, incremental improvement to our voting system, and I don’t think we’g get a glut of coalitions at all. I voted YES already by post. However, I fully expect the NO vote to win – the YES campaign have had their chance to make their case in the face of a terrible NO campaign. They didn’t up their game, if/when they lose they need only look at themselves, I’ll not lose sleep.

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3 Comments

Filed under Election, Politics, UK, UK Politics

3 responses to “The best arguments for and against AV

  1. In the first instance UK party politics is polarised and has three main parties that supporters dont regard as; best, 2nd-best, 3rd-best.

    # FPTP elects significant numbers of MP’s in the highly equitable 40%-50+% range for a multi-polarised political environment – why is this made an issue when AV doesnt guarantee solving this?

    # AV makes it likely that main party supporters are inclined to vote for those regarded lesser in broad appeal – asking the electorate to believe this is more democratic is disingenuous

    # FPTP recognises popularity from the top downwards in parallel with much in life

    # FPTP rightly recognises the support gained for a candidate single-handedly

    # when regarding AV as useful for tactical votes, someone is being less than honest about engineering strength for minorities.

    # referring to voting with the heart explains a great deal about the emotion expressed during the referendum, rather than the facts, the data and the lack of transparency over flaws in AV. Such as not even counting the least-preferential votes for candidates dropped in 2nd / 3rd / 4th rounds.

    # AV uses rare examples of minority vote results to rubbish a system that essentially delivers equitable results – FPTP is internationally renown for delivering democracy

    # AV doesnt always ensure 50% is attained – so, the ‘majority vote’ demand is not even met by dropping FPTP.

    # where AV doesnt provide a 50% majority in the first round, the count requires extra resources – this cannot be denied. So, if some estimations 25% of counts require 20% more resources then there is an extra cost, however small that is. BUT! This extra resource is likely to be required in the early hours. So either; predict where these resources will be required in the early hours of the morning or submit to the teller’s advance demands throughout the nation for counting machines at a what(?) cost.

    Naivety over resource overheads may well embarrass AV supporters if they win and this expense is borne out. Or, AV supporters can ignore some significant truths and simply secure their ‘ideals’ by deceipt.

  2. I broadly agree, although I’m tempted to put my partisan hat on and say I think you overcompensated slightly with the “no” section! But it’s nice to see someone made a good attempt to broadcast thoughtful arguments before the referendum.

    For what it’s worth, my opinion is that in the long-term, AV probably doesn’t make coalitions any more likely than FPTP. In the short-term, of course, it might have made them marginally more likely. I guess we’ll never know now, anyway, which is sad.

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