Mr Bigg's Blog A blog about politics, theology, education and the rest…

3May/111

The shame and misinformation of the No to AV campaign

I was dismayed to come home today and find that the No to AV campaign have written to my house again. They've written to everyone in the house except me (what do they know about me and how?!)

Their flier was full of outrageous misinformation and poor argument so I thought I'd rebut some of it (again).

"Vote NO to the Altervative Vote on Thursday because..."

...it will produce more coalitions. Under the AV system, we would have coalitions most of the time, with Nick Clegg deciding who would be Prime Minister by cutting a deal behind closed doors after the election

Where to start with this? Firstly, there is little evidence that AV will produce more coalitions. We simply don't know how people would have allocated their second/third/fourth preferences had AV been in force in previous years so it's difficult to project backwards. My guess would be that Tony Blair's landslide in 1997 would still have happened under AV but we simply don't know. Anyway, are coalition governments by definition a bad thing? I don't think so.

The other major problem is the ad hominem argument against Nick Clegg. The campaign to change the voting system is NOT about the results of the next election, or the one after that. We are talking about a change that could last hundreds of years. It is simply not acceptable to argue against AV because we don't like Nick Clegg (just as the Yes to AV argument isn't made any stronger by saying "The BNP are voting against AV so we should vote for it"). The question is about how we can deliver an electoral system that most fairly and democratically represents the will of the people. The issue of which system will be most beneficial to the party one happens to like is neither here nor there.

...it is only used by three other countries in the world - Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea - and Australia want to get rid of it.

Oh, good Lord! Firstly, I am not aware of ANY other country in the world that uses our bizarre form of FPTP. The argument that hardly anyone uses the system is not a good one in favour of FPTP. Besides, what's wrong with doing things differently? We were one of the first countries to legislate against the slave trade. I'm sure plenty of people said, "No-one else is doing it so we shouldn't either". Does that make the slave trade a good thing? No.

Secondly, the No to AV campaign have greatly exaggerated the claim that the Australians want to get rid of AV. Antony Green, an Australian, despairs at this misinformation.

...it allows the second or third placed candidates to win. We could end up with third-best candidates becoming MPs.

Well, this really depends on your definition of "winning". If winning is a matter of rallying your core support in order to get to Westminster on 30-40% of your constituent's votes then FPTP is for you. If, on the other hand, you consider winning to mean reaching out to at least 50% of the voters in order to be an MP then AV your system. I'm not the only one who thinks the second definition of winning is preferable!

In reality, the only times in which the "third best" candidate could win is if there was a close three-way split between three candidates and the third candidate happened to garner significant support from those who put the fourth/fifth/sixth placed candidates first. If the top three candidates got 30%/29%/28% respectively and the third candidate then had significant numbers of votes from the remaining 13% of the electorate after redistribution then I'm not sure (s)he'd be considered "third best".

...it will cost the country £250 million, at a time when money is tight

How much longer will this lie go on? No-one is planning to buy voting machines. The only extra expense will be the extra pencil lead it takes to write "1, 2, 3" rather than a cross. The only technology required is a pencil and paper.

Sure, it'll take a little longer to count, but it will be worthwhile.

...it means that someone else's 5th preference is worth the same as your 1st

Nonsense! I've written about this here.

...it will mean that supporters of the BNP and other fringe parties would decide who wins... that will encourage candidates to pander to the likes of the BNP

Yes, it is true that (God willing) BNP candidates will be knocked out at an early stage and their votes will be redistributed. However, to suggest that this means that candidates are likely to pander to the BNP for votes in ludicrous. Do they seriously think that candidates will start saying: "I'm planning to kick out all the foreigners and withdraw from the EU" in order to attract far-right votes? As everyone knows this would lose candidates more votes than it would gain them. It does, however, mean that green issues might be taken more seriously when the minority of Green votes is to be redistributed.

No candidate is going to become schizophrenic because of AV. Candidates will still have to have clear policies upon which they hope to be elected. Any candidate that says one thing to one voter and something else to another will soon find themselves with no votes at all, and rightly so.

Conclusion

Is there anyone to whom I can complain? Points 2 and 4 in particular contain downright lies. I will be appalled if this referendum is voted down because of this shameful campaign.

Yes to AV!

Posted by Mike

Comments (1) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Despite my mockery of you, you’re right and it’s good to get your thoughts down.


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