Saturday 23 April 2011

Vote Yes to AV on May 5th

At first glance voting for "First Past The Post" (FPTP) as it's curiously called is a no-brainer: it's simple, it's what we do, what we've always done and the Alternative Vote (AV) method is just too hard to understand and it'll let the BNP (or, worse, the LibDems) in. The referendum on May 5th will produce an overwhelming "no" (a vote for FPTP) because almost no-one will think about it rationally, or at all.

For a while I didn't think about it either but then I started to be annoyed by the patronising stupid nonsense put out under the heading "no2av" and sought out arguments marked "yes2av" - not so patronising but still stupid nonsense with an added dose of incoherence. Oh dear me!

In this constituency (East Hampshire) the result will be academic, everyone round here votes Conservative (1997: 50.9%; 2001: 53.2%; 2005: 53.7%; 2010: 60.6%) but let's think about this just a little bit anyway. (AV only affects the result within constituencies, it is not the dreaded PR where the LibDems would get 20-30% of the seats in parliament. Who forms the government would still be decided using FPTP counting seats in the Commons!)

Let's start by asking why on earth we call the current system first past the post: what post? All that's required under FPTP is that a candidate gets more votes than any other single candidate, so that's a moveable post then. Consider the following table showing results in some less tribal constituencies. The  green cells  show the winner getting at least 50% of the vote,  red cells  indicate that more than half the voters wanted someone else. How democratic, fair or "right" is that?

Coventry South50.950.245.841.8
Edinburgh West43.242.449.535.9

In those constituencies and many others AV could actually contribute to improving the overall satisfaction with the outcome. (and it is still one man one vote!)

One of the better arguments against the use of AV is that it requires voters to consider more than one of the candidates, effort! But fortunately the system doesn't actually require that, you can just carry on voting for the local Tory as before BUT you'll have to remember to write "1" in the box rather than the "X" currently required.

There are really only two reasons to vote 'no' in the referendum: it'll embarrass Nick Clegg and save some money. The money "saving" is fictitious although, according to the 'no' campaigners it'll be £250 millon! Of course that's complete rubbish; the figure's made up of the £90 million cost of referendum (spent anyway), £130 million for voting machines (entirely unnecessary) and £26 million for "voter education".

Here's £26 million worth of education for free: number the candidates in order of preference until you don't care any more.

If you'd like a more considered examination of the issues please read Gowers otherwise get over the petty politics and personalities, switch your brain on and vote 'yes' to AV.

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