Yes or No to AV?

The Yes / No campaigns for the May 5th referendum on AV have stepped up a gear locally.

On Saturday, in Surrey Quays, we'd only just dodged Sally Gunnell on a scooter before we were set upon by the Yes campaign, whose argument was that "the trouble with First Past the Post is that they keep moving the goalposts." It was a bewildering double-whammy. At the same time, in nearby Lewisham, Conservative councillor Christine Allison and GLA candidate Alex Wilson doorstepped TK Maxx customers urging them to vote no.

There are lots of indefensible aspects of the British constitution: the monarchy, the unelected upper chamber, the fact that there isn't a British constitution. But BC can never really get exercised about any of them. Constitutional reform is what people get exercised about in lieu of actual ideas.

First Past the Post voting is the least of the sins of the British political system. BC prefers the smack of firm majority government to the slippery nature of coalitions. If you're going to rip it up and start again, why bother for the sake of a miserable half-measure like AV that, for example, will make absolutely no difference to the value of your vote in Lewisham?

According to a Guardian poll, the AV campaign is collapsing. The No vote has it by 16 points. But how will you be voting on May 5th?

UPDATED: Here's a sponsored video by the Electoral Commission to explain it all for you.

66 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ignore all those claims that AV is, or is not, fairer to the voter. What none of the polititians will admit is that, with a varying degree of confidence, they are all promoting the system they think will give them the better chance of winning.

patrick1971 said...

I will probably vote yes, on the basis that it is a slightly better system. The LibDems are mad if they think it'll help them out, though; the Australian experience is one of a firmly entrenched two party system.

I'd prefer Hare-Clark, as used in Tasmania and Northern Ireland: multi-member constituencies elected via PR. But we've no chance of getting that, unfortunately.

Brockley Bob said...

See this on the safe-o-meter from Crofton Park Jim, with my high tech analysis in the comment thread

biff bifferson said...

remember auf wiedersein pet when they voted to paint the hut? a warning from history - a minute in comes the result

http://bit.ly/eyVYpN

Anonymous said...

I'm voting yes to AV. I don't want another election where the party with less than half the votes gets into power. And besides, when will we have another chance to change the voting system?

Monkeyboy said...

I'm voting yes but I'm not sure why.

Agree about the upper chamber, indefensable. I'm sure most MPs are against in principle but would rather not stick their heads above the wall.

Anonymous said...

Be interesting to see what % of people bother to vote at all.

Anonymous said...

What about just letting the queen decide everything

TJ said...

Hasn't first past the post given us this coalition?

I'm siding towards a yes for AV - however has anyone seen the latest 'No' campaign flyer to come through our doors? The one where they have Nick Clegg on the back falling on his own sword? Classic stuff

Mb said...

Queen Liz is not the issue, gawd bless yer *doffs cap*. It's Prince Nice But Dim that worries me.

THNIck said...

The yes campaigners were at Telegraph Hill park on Saturday as well. There was a recent article in economist comparing the local campaigning (where both sides are willing to debate the technicalities and impacts of FPTP v AV) and national (where you get ridiculous posters with little girls on). AV is rubbish but a small, first step in right direction.

Anonymous said...

I'm mostly wondering why so many people are going around saying they can't get excited about votes on constitutional reform... if you're so unexcited, why are people going on a bout it.

As for my voting preference - it's Yes for me - the lesser of two evils methinks.

Ed CPZ said...

AV is not PR and has major flaws as does the present system. On balance it's no to AV and we're not likely to get a choice on PR anytime soon...

max said...

Careful what you wish for. Full PR may not be such a nice thing after all. I'm in two minds on that.
It means that the central offices of each party decide who ranks highest on the party list and those are elected whatever happens to their constituency vote.

I've thought about it and I've decided I'll vote... said...

..Yes to AV!

Down with the system where only about 100,000 swing voters in marginal constituencies actually matter. That's what convinces me. At least this way you can vote for your real preference knowing it's not a 'wasted' vote, because you can make your second preference clear too.

For those saying AV-is-not-proper-PR-so-no-point-having-it, look at it this way. If the AV vote is defeated, that's the end of the debate for another generation at least. If AV wins, then people realise that a change in the voting system doesn't mean the sky falls in, and so will probably be more open to some 'adjustment' of the exact PR system we use...

Personally I'm not keen on full PR anyway - I don't like the idea of party lists and it could mean the BNP getting a more significant role (see the MEP elections).

Tyrwhitt Cliff said...

AV is not the ideal system and I would prefer proper PR.

I will be voting yes however, in the hope that it starts the electoral reform ball rolling.

Anonymous said...

First past the post has brought many parties to power that actually had a smaller percentage of people voting for them than the party that came "second". For that reason alone AV is an improvement. It's why the Tories love first past the post so much - they would never have won the 1950 or 1992 elections otherwise. Vote 'Yes' for AV!

Brockley Nick said...

Would AV have changed any national election results over the last half century?

The problem with FPP is the same as the problem with AV - in areas with high concentrations of support for one party, a vote for an alternative is irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

In the words of Charles Kennedy - "you can't afford PR - this is what's on the table now".

I'm voting Yes. The 'No to AV' campaign leaves an extremely bitter taste in the mouth.

mintness said...

Although I'm sure the No vote will prevail, I'll be voting Yes primarily on principle, but also because the No campaign has been so thoroughly insulting to the intelligence of the average voter.

max said...

And of the avarege candidate, fancy being compared to a horse!

D said...

Definitely voting Yes, though I don't think it'll make a whole lot of difference to election results. Though I'd rather the parties stopped squabbling about things and genuinely tried to make the country a better place for the sake of the people rather than their own gains, then it wouldn't matter who got in.

qbf said...

You can't look back at previous elections and say that AV wouldn't have made a difference, because voters' tactics would be different under AV. Who knows how many MPs achieved simple majorities as a result of people voting red to keep the blues out, or vice versa, when they may have voted yellow or green under AV? Not to mention those who stayed at home because they felt the result was a foregone conclusion.

The Cat Man said...

I'm voting yes or yes !

Tamsin said...

To provocatively defend the indefensible - an unelected upper chamber, and even more so the remnant of the hereditary system. It is the one place where one has an approach to the HHGTTG ideal, people who aren't career politicians involved in the decision making. You've got Lords who are dentists, or even students. (Someone I knew was once rather surprised to find his flatmate reading up about red and grey squirrels - because happened to have a seat in the Lords and the Countryside Bill was being debated.) Add life peers into the mix and, except for the distressing number of political appointees, you've got a useful body of people with some real experience outside the back offices of their political party and the totally unreal atmosphere of the House of Commons.

And don't sneer at the law lords. There are few people more in touch with the wide range of nitty-gritty reality than Family Court and Criminal Court lawyers. They notoriously might not be clued up on "Hello!" style celebrities but they have heard first hand tales of grief and deprivation of the type normally only shared by frontline Social Workers or the medical professions.

max said...

Sorry Gov, can't bring you to Lewisham, I've got an important bill to debate at the House of Lords. Maybe another cabbie.

Mb said...

Tamsin, wrong. How on earth can some simpleton be allowed to influence legeslation that affects me without me, or the governemnt I elect, having any influence over his appointment?

It's embarasing.

Tamsin said...

Because the proportion who do commit to being part of the legislative process are not simpletons - and arguably more representative than many elected or even more so back-room political decision-makers.

But I know this is a rather maverick view.

mb said...

An herditary peer does not commit to being part of the process. He's in that position as a birth entitlement. I don't get that opertunity, nor do you. It's wrong, patronising and profoundly undemocratic.

Jill W said...

Tamsin - it's not a maverick view. It may be an unpopular one - but it, and versions of it, are key arguments that has been used over the years for the retention of the lords - by academics as well as politicians. The idea being that an elected body is simply another form of parliament and another group of MPs; whereas a group of selected memebers are less partisan and more able to perfomr the sorts of checks and balances that are needed in an upper house.

Not sying that I agree with it - but it is a credible and well established argument

It's a shame said...

The other argument also being that it works. (Although I think your posting could have used some checks and balances, Jill - a lot of typos!).

Danja said...

And don't sneer at the law lords

One can't any more.

mb said...

Can we at least agree that herditary peers should be allowed to shuffle off as the last one leaves in a box? Being there as a result of a drunken fumble at the hunt ball is no measure of expertise or integrity.

Anonymous said...

"But BC can never really get exercised about any of them. Constitutional reform is what people get exercised about in lieu of actual ideas."


Errrrr...the idea is called democracy actually.

Anonymous said...

Is BC a Tory site?

smack of firm government...

Anonymous said...

BC is a Tory/Mung coalition

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon 1520 - we have democracy. One that delivers at least as good a government as nearly any country in the world:

More dynamic that Japan's, more functional than the US, more credible than Italy, less corrupt than 99% of the world's governments.

There is often an underlying assumption that if only we could design just the right voting system, lots of great policies would bubble up and be adopted. Well that doesn't seem very likely to me.

I'd rather spend more time talking about actual policies for the economy, health, education, transport, etc. Debates about voting systems are navel gazing, for the most part - as others have said, the debate mainly comes down to which system would favour the particular party you support, IMO.

Lou Baker said...

AV is a distraction.

What we need is complete constitutional reform.

Dissolution of Church and state, abolition of the monarchy, remove hereditary peers from the Lords, half the number if MPs, retain the first past the post system for the Commons but appoint the Lords on party list PR system based on the percentage of the vote each party receives in the general election. Written bill of rights, elected Prime Minister.

We need all this stuff to bring our democracy up to date.

So AV is a woeful attempt at constitutional reform. Woeful. But it's better than no reform so I'll be voting yes.

mb said...

A grudging agreement with most of Lou's comments (not all, but most)

The fantasy that General Elections are not about who we want as PM needs addressing.

Lou is still woefully out of touch about the brilliant ELL I'm glad to say.

Ed CPZ said...

@Lou, you may be unpopular on here but you make some good points. I am not happy to accept an unsuitable compromise however, which is what AV is in my opinion, so still no for me.

Failure to recognise the value of the role the Lords play as 'a house of experts' in British democracy suggests an ignorance of British consitutional history.

Brockley Nick said...

@Ed - the trouble with the house of experts idea is that a) most of them aren't expert at very much and b) the logical extension of that approach is a technocracy. Maybe a benign dictatorship is the way forward, but it's not consistent with democratic principles.

mb said...

Don't think anyone is arguing afgainst a second chamber. It's how its appointed thats at issue. The hereditary principle makes as much sense as dueling....although....

D said...

"Dissolution of Church and state, abolition of the monarchy, remove hereditary peers from the Lords, half the number if MPs"
Isn't that all the stuff we fought a world war to protect?

Ed CPZ said...

@Nick, that has changed for the better but is far from perfect.
@Mb, agreed.

Any regular listener to Today In Parliament will attest to the expertise and wisdom of many, but not all, of the Lords. The lower house hardly has a reputation for either of those qualities.

Ed CPZ said...

@D. No. Did you fight?

Tamsin said...

The hereditary peerage did give something of a mix - the dentist and the student. And although you had the right to sit and engage in the process by virtue of your birth you did not automatically do so but had to opt in. But as Danja has pointed out - I am rather out of date.

@MB why should I have been hacked off by others having privileges (or undertaking fairly thankless work out of a sense of duty) that I don't - a fact of life.

life's rich tapestry said...

Part of me sees the logic of (further) reforming the second chamber, abolishing the monarchy etc. - and yet I feel that the country would be just a bit more drab and joyless if we had fully elected chambers and a party political head of state.

Mb said...

@tamsin, If your not fair enough. Personally I think I'm an intelligent adult, I resent that the legislation I abide by is influenced by a section of the population that regard themselves to be especially qualified by virtue of their blood line. It's patronising and arogant. I'm a citizen, not a subject. I believe that our leaders are should always remember that they are representing us and are only there with our indulgence. You see?

Mb said...

@D, interesting point. The monarch we almost ended up with would rather we didn't fight a war at all.

Another reason why running the country like the family firm is perhaps not the best idea.

Tamsin said...

But did they regard themselves as being "especially qualified by virtue of their bloodline"? One can find the system at fault and there are probably one or two unpleasant exceptions but I don't think the most of the individuals concerned were particularly patronising or arrogant - probably less so than elected politicians or oiks like the banker who taunted protesters with waving £10 notes.

And my understanding is that those who undertook the work took it very seriously indeed, with proper scrutiny of bills etc.

But regrettably increasingly past history now anyway.

gibby said...

I will be voting yes to AV to help keep the debate alive. In most instances 37% = fail. In British politics 37% = keys to Downing Street. This needs to change. I fear a no vote will consign the debate to history.

Anonymous said...

I was all set to vote yes but I'm now confused after hearing the no side point out that the 2nd choices of those who voted for the least popular candidate get counted first. That does seem a bit backwards. The party that usually comes last is one of the fringe parties (either extreme right or extreme left) so the second choices of their supporters are likely to be weird too...

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

As an aside, it seems that the House of Lords is full to overflowing;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13137835

Anonymous said...

Anon 21.48: Yes, but the end goal is still to be the first to 50%, so if your looney BNP voter chose a monster raving looney as their second choice then it wont make any difference to the overall standings as still nobody would have 50%, so they are ignored and it carries on until the sensible people get their say!

N Gineer said...

If it 'aint broke (enough to need fixing) don't fix it!

so I will vote NO

Anonymous said...

The problem is, it IS broke! Only in the last election we had party leaders telling people either to, or not to, vote tactically in order to get the best result for their party!

We currently have a crazy system that is at best as complex at AV. And when you lay AV out next to FPTP, AV is at least an improvement!

patrick1971 said...

I think an appointed House of Lords is a very good idea. Completely disagree with the hereditary element, but an appointed Lords means - at least in theory - that you get experts in their fields, people who've contributed to the cultural and intellectual life of the country, getting the chance to contribute to its law-making, free of the distraction and pressure of constant elections and the vagaries of tabloid-stoked "public opinion". The appointment probably shouldn't be for life, otherwise it'd become even more of a hotbed of cronyism than it already is, but I think the appointed principle is sound.

Danja said...

I'm a citizen, not a subject.

No, you're not. We need to get the guillotine out first.

Danja said...

Let's not forget that there is not going to be a referendum on the biggest gerrymandering exercise in history. So "keeping" FPTP is not a vote for the status quo, but one in which FTTP's bias to the Conservative party is reinforced.

mb said...

Danja, you're one step ahead of me. Keep it under your hat.

Lou Baker said...

@danja

Actually the current electoral system favours Labour.

And it is for the independent boundary commission - which Labour supports - to set constituency boundaries, not for political parties.

bumbags said...

Yes, Lou is right. Boundaries do currently favour Labour over the Tories by a significant amount.
If you divide the number of total votes for a party by no. of MPs you get 34979 votes per Tory MP, and 33370 for labour.
Mind you, if you do the same for the Lib Dems you get 120000! You can see why the Lib dems get a bit miffed...

Danja said...

The *currently* qualifier is rather important.

Danja said...

The Lib-Dem number is just a product of constituency representation. A thin support spread widely across the country (with some exceptions).

I wonder what the equivalent figure is for the BNP?

Mb said...

Divide by zero, so an infinite number of BNP MPs? Blimey, better send myself back where I came from.

Danja said...

Heh - give them a nominal one, then.

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