Dear John Reid…

Dear John Reid,

Is the electoral system you decry as being “unfair” in today’s Telegraph by any chance the same voting system as the one that Labour uses to election its own party leader?

I only ask because they are both called the Alternative Vote and I haven’t noticed you complaining about Ed Miliband’s election as leader being unfair or therefore calling for your colleagues to oust him.

By the way, a little tip about Fiji, which I notice you and colleagues have become keen on quoting. It’s a military dictatorship and, you know, if you go round citing its dislike of the alternative vote as a reason to oppose it, it might just sound to someone that you are admiring the political judgement of a military dictatorship. I know Labour got a bit authoritarian under Tony Blair, but even so…

Yours etc.

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75 Comments

  • Daniel Henry 26th Nov '10 - 5:38pm

    Lol! Definitely a research failure on their part.

  • The referendum won’t support AV. That’s my prediction. I think it’s pretty much dead in the water already. AV is not even a step forward – its more of a sidestep. If AV is scaled as a step in the right direction, then reducing the number of MPs is twenty steps back. I think Clegg and Co have mis-handled this completeley. They weren’t in the position of demanding the coalition implement PR, they simply had to agree to allowing the public to consider electoral reform through a referendum on voting system choices. Being asked to choose between FPTP and AV is like forcing a vegetarian to choose between chicken or veal, instead of presenting a menu. With feelings of being double-crossed by the LibDems, the more they campaign for AV, the more there’ll be a reverse-psychology reaction. People won’t vote – or they’ll stick with FPTP just to send a message, in the same way this feeling manifests itself in by-elections (or bye-elections). The problem with the way the whole thing is set up, is that if the country votes ‘No’ to AV it will be assumed we don’t want change, and if we vote ‘Yes’ to AV , we’ll be told to be grateful – and will be interpreted as broad support for coalition cuts. The vegetarian will abstain from dinner; the potential reformist voters will abstain from the referendum.

  • Richard Church 26th Nov '10 - 6:34pm

    How on earth do you work out that a vote for AV will be interpreted as a vote for coalition cuts? Most of the coalition-the Tory two thirds of it, will be campaigning for a ‘No’ vote.

    People are intelligent enough to separate a referendum question from their opinion of a government, just as they use their vote differently at different tiers of government.

    This referendum is winnable. We are already asking people their opinion on voting reform and we are finding good levels of support. People know that our system is broken and they want change, and today’s list of dinosaurs launching the No campaign helps our cause.

  • Mike(The Labour one) 26th Nov '10 - 7:17pm

    The requirements of a voting system for the internal party election of a leader are different to the requirements of an MP in one out of hundreds of constituencies. It’s perfectly reasonable to think that different voting systems are suited to different purposes. Talking about it taking longer to count is much less of an issue in an internal party contest for example.

    AV won’t pass. Illogically attacking opponents can only harm the chances, as will all the other roadblocks the Lib Dems have set up in the Labour voter’s way. Which is sad. John Reid is wrong but not because of stupid reasons like this.

  • Patrick Smith 26th Nov '10 - 7:22pm

    The message to John Reid the Chair of Celtic FC, is that AV would ensure that each MP is elected by 50% of the vote either on first second or third etc. counting of the votes.Is`nt this a fairer method of voting?

    AV would make a much fairer football referee, in General Elections and it is commendable that the Labour Leader is prepared to stick to his guns, as presumably will Alan Johnson and his friends on `Fair Votes’.

  • Would be an excellent article if the coalition hadn’t roundly condemed the manner of Millibands election!

    @RichardSM
    “AV is like forcing a vegetarian to choose between chicken or veal” Great analogy.

    @matt
    Agreed, the prominent Lib Dem members of the coalition are harming the chance of a pro vote particularly in light of Cable’s comments. They have a long way to go to get my vote for AV back…..

    Any chance of getting a decent amount of Labour support (not just the headline support, but support on the doorste)p was scuppered by including it in the same bill designed to reduce the number of Labour MP’s. Whatever the rights and wrongs of MP numbers and equalised constituencies, it is seen by them as an attack. Making it the same day as other elections even gives Labour the excuse of concentrating on these instead.

    Another clever move by the Tories to scupper the Lib Dem’s and another glaring mistake in allowing it to happen. Expect luke warm support at best from Milliband and Co.

  • Articles on here are consistently falling into the trap of demanding to know what Labour is going to do about this that or the other. Let’s get real – it doesn’t matter what the opposition does or does not do at the moment (I position that I would have thought most Liberals might have an understanding of that having been in opposition for so long) – and yes Richard I believe that people are intelligent enough to separate a referendum question from their opinion of a government – round here they also can’t wait to give te Liberals a bit of a kick after what they have seen going on in government, and my concern is the referendum gives them the perfect opportunity.

  • Mike(The Labour one) 26th Nov '10 - 8:02pm

    @Rich: I gave an example of how the requirements are different, that time is less of an issue for internal party elections than for electing a parliament- which you claim to have addressed but didn’t at all (that ‘same room’ comment is neither here nor there, answering nothing that I or John Reid said.) I’ll give another example- he talked about the idea that people voting for ‘fringe’ candidates get to use a number of votes. It is a wrong-headed criticism of AV, but if he does believe that then it is entirely consistent with supporting AV for internal party elections where the candidates are nominated by MPs before, thus removing any too ‘fringe’.

    Electing a party leader is different to electing a parliament, so it’s a stupid argument, akin to saying that if you don’t support polio vaccinations to combat the measles then it’s somehow hypocritical to support them to combat polio.

    As I’ve said, I support AV and would support PR. That’s why I find it so sad it’s being scuppered by poor actions and fallacy laden arguments from Lib Dems. There are clear ways in which John Reid is wrong that aren’t being addressed.

  • Tony Dawson 26th Nov '10 - 8:19pm

    “Electing a party leader is different to electing a parliament”

    Nobody in Britain has ever taken part in an election for a parliament. You elect your single MP in your constituency to whom you entrust the power to vote on your behalf, whether this be determining whether to support a government or on the minutiae of any given proposal in parliament.

  • Olly

    If the AV vote is lost then it will be last chance to see any further reform in the direction of STV for a generation. If you want to vote with the Tory party and the Blairite has-been’s just to give Clegg a kicking, then be my guest. But don’t pat yourself on the back for putting back the cause of reform for a petty grievance over one man. I just found out today 20% of my workplace are facing redundancy in the coming months. I voted Lib Dem last time and I don’t know if I will ever vote for them again. But I will be voting for a yes on Av regardless of my own circumstances and my feelings about this particular government. . This is about the value of my vote, and I have been waiting for the opportunity to move away from FPTP for many, many years. Years before Clegg was on the scene. Its me and people like me you are kicking and don’t pretend any different.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 26th Nov '10 - 9:22pm

    “If the AV vote is lost then it will be last chance to see any further reform in the direction of STV for a generation.”

    How will it be any different if the AV vote is won, though?

  • TheContinentalOp 26th Nov '10 - 9:33pm

    Even Celtic fans don’t like John Reid!

  • After seeing how this Coalition is working – where one party ditches the policies people voted them on because they are now in a coalition and the Coalition introducing new policies which wasn’t in anyone’s manifesto – there is no way that anyone would vote for AV. I agree with Olly, this is our opportunity to voice our protest.

  • The chance of seeing a decent electoral system in our lifetimes was lost the second Clegg made AV the price of Lib Den support for the Tories. It’s over, gone, let it go. The only possible good that can come from the referendum is that the electorate deliver such a resounding ‘no’ that Clegg is forced to stand down.

  • AV means that the losers get to vote twice. That’s why I’ll be voting against it at the referendum.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 26th Nov '10 - 10:52pm

    “AV means that the losers get to vote twice. That’s why I’ll be voting against it at the referendum.”

    I think I shall be voting against it too, but I thought that argument about losers “voting twice” was the silliest one among a pretty weak set proposed by John Reid.

  • AV is still winnable if we get someone like Charles Kennedy to explain the basics to the voter.
    FPTP is unfair. AV is fairer.

    Sadly everything will get drowned out unless Nick slaps down this type of incredibly damaging speculation.

    John Major: let’s keep the Coalition after the next election
    The coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats should continue after the next election and could lead to a permanent merger, according to Sir John Major.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/8164066/John-Major-lets-keep-the-Coalition-after-the-next-election.html

    I still think all the theories about Nick wanting a merger with the Tories before the election are a bit wide of the mark but the continuing stories about might make many people wonder if this really was Nick’s plan all along.

  • I will vote no as AV is [” miserable little compromise” i wonder who said that ] not better than FPTP .Why because Nick will be able to promise anything in his manifesto, then nothing will happen and he will just blame being in a coalition .Andrew Edinburgh.

  • This is an interesting debate as I am also keen on electoral reform. It does miss one thing, however, outside the political anoraks noone else really gives a toss and especially about AV.

    Even the supporters of AV can only muster a certain amount of passion for it and I would only consider voting yes if it makes proper PR more likely in the long run (probably be a yes though).

    As to the Labour Party approach – I think they should campaign for a yes but it seems the Coalition has tried to goad them which is as childish as some of the arguments being made from their ‘No’ camp.

    Firstly, tagging the boundary revision and MP reduction to the same bill would have been known to cause their hackles to rise and was a conscious decision. I am absolutely against reduction in MP numbers and also think the equalisation of boundaries is poorly thought out.

    Secondly, having the referendum on the same day as the local and regional elections. The first priority for a party is to the have its members elected to office and so the voting for election reform will always be second best for them (yes it is selfish self-interest but it is the reality). This is compounded by the only option being AV which, as I said, even the proponents do not get that excited by – instead seeing it as a stepping stone to proper PR. I can understand why it was done but it was aways going the affect the campaign

    AV is clearly better than FPTP but retains many of its weaknesses. In the end I hope it is passed but Clegg, as normal, seems to have made an arse up of it and made it more difficult to get a ‘yes’. Robust coalition government can only work with a proportional system – if there isn’t then you get the anomaly we have seen where the LD only ever really had the choice of one partner due to the maths – even though 63% of the voters voted against the Tories!

  • Anthony Aloysius St 27th Nov '10 - 9:09am

    “I still think all the theories about Nick wanting a merger with the Tories before the election are a bit wide of the mark …”

    I think that would be wide of the mark, but what people were suggesting was an electoral pact, not a merger. I think he may well want that, and the logical long-term result of it would be merger.

  • Emsworthian 27th Nov '10 - 9:52am

    When told Labour elected ts leader by AV Margaret Beckett said it was perfectly ok for electing individual leaders
    as part of an electoral college. But general elections a more profound and involve national policies touching everybody. I suspect that the experience of the coalition so far and its adoption of policies nobody voted for or at least not a majority will sink the AV referendum. People prefer to make their policy choices before rather than have them made for the after an election. I won;t support it but would back PR. As for Major’s daft suggestion-nothing is sure to cause a major coronary that bedding down with the Tories forever

  • Ian Sanderson (RM3) 27th Nov '10 - 10:10am

    For the individual voter, AV is a win-win system.
    In first past the post, the voter who wants, above all else, his/her vote to count in the result has first to guess whether his/her favoured party is likely to be in top two. If the guess is that it won’t, his/her best choice is to vote for a compromise candidate. If the individual voter gets the guess wrong the result is a “wasted” vote. In any case, the compromise candidate voted for will claim support that wasn’t really theirs.
    If the voter really won’t vote for any party other than his/her favourite, they can just not fill in later preferences.
    Any arguments about whether it will be more proportional, or more or less likely to lead to interparty coalitions are highly speculative.
    We must have a system where supporters of smaller parties can exercise their vote fully. Ignoring them in the long term leads to civic disengagement and disturbance, as Northern Ireland’s history in the twentieth century so graphically shows.
    AV is not PR. But it is a small step towards better elections, and worth supporting in the interests of the voter against the machine politicians. At least, most MPs would have the acquiesence of a majority off their voters.

  • Mike(The Labour one) 27th Nov '10 - 11:13am

    @Tony Dawson: ‘Nobody in Britain has ever taken part in an election for a parliament. You elect your single MP in your constituency to whom you entrust the power to vote on your behalf, whether this be determining whether to support a government or on the minutiae of any given proposal in parliament.’

    You’re not as clever as you think you are. We elect individual members to a parliament. We elect the people who make up a parliament. We elect a parliment. I guess, seeing as in your view people aren’t allowed to consider other constituencies at all, PR is unnecessary? Who cares what the country-wide vote is! But no, that’s completely wrong-headed.

    You didn’t address any of the actual points, which is that to vote for an MP is a different goal to voting for a party leader. Safe seats, for instance, aren’t an issue. John Reid’s criticisms of AV largely don’t apply to members and affiliates electing a party leader at all, or are less of a problem if they do.

    It isn’t inconsistent to think two different voting systems are suited for two different purposes. It’s a ridiculous idea.

  • @Anthony Aloysius St
    “I think I shall be voting against it too, but I thought that argument about losers “voting twice” was the silliest one among a pretty weak set proposed by John Reid.”

    The argument about losers voting twice may be ‘silly’ in your view but nevertheless I believe it is effective and true. and will resonate with the electorate. The NO Campaign should enthusiastically promote the notion. I do not think it silly because I would suggest that under AV winners in the first round who do not achieve 50% are heavily penalised in the subsequent rounds. Having an MP that only a small majority of the constituency half heartedly wanted, which is what could often happen under AV, would be far worse than having an MP elected with a clear majority (but under 50%) under FPTP. In fact, having voted recently in the Labour election, the more I see of AV and the more I observe this Coalition Government in action, the more I want a decisive result under FPTP.

  • @matt

    I didn’t advocate Nick fronting the AV campaign for obvious reasons andelectoral reform transcends Nick or any of the current Party leaders. It’s effect will outlast any current government or arguments about the relative merits of the Parties. It will be very clear that it is not a pastisan issue with MP’s from all sides both advocating and attacking it.

    AV is fairer and FPTP can be easily demonstrated as being unfair.
    So as long as it is handled skillfully there is no reason why it cannot be judged on it’s own merits.

    Those who want to use this referendum as a stick to beat other Parties or leaders will regret it as this wasn’t the first and won’t be the last referendum the British public has to vote on. If the political Parties don’t treat the public as adults who can answer a question fairly without recourse to cheap political pointscoring then the public will treat them with even more contempt than usual.

  • @Bridget Fox

    Nonsense. Here’s what I wrote:

    ”Being asked to choose between FPTP and AV is like forcing a vegetarian to choose between chicken or veal, instead of presenting a menu.”

  • Before the election, It was claimed that our politics was broken and in tatters. Now they’re in power, it seems to me the Lib Dems are trying to block the introduction of PR. It’s another U-turn. Is political power so intoxicating as to cause amnesia?

  • Anthony

    “If the AV vote is lost then it will be last chance to see any further reform in the direction of STV for a generation.”
    How will it be any different if the AV vote is won, though?

    As this is the first step in breaking the FPTP log jam then its seems clear that this could be a step towards STV. As neither Labour or the Tories will countenance STV or other PR systems in any form, this is a chance to circumvent the parties and allow a move from below. If Av is lost then do you think for a second STV will be on offer in the foreseeable future?

  • Olly

    Sorry I am not buying it – if we have a fully proportional system then the basis of politics will change significantly for the good in the UK. You convince me that if we have AV in 2015 we won’t have Clegg and Cameron urging Toriy and Lib Dem voters to support each other with 2nd preferences to perpetuate the Coalition and shut Labour out. Not taking that chance I’m afraid. AV is a sop that suits Clegg’s self-interest.

    I agree on your first point. However, Av can have a whole range of possibilities and people will make their own choices: Labour /Green , Respect,/ Labour, Green / SNP, Lib Dem / PC or whatever. I might even vote Labour/ Lib Dem next time. To see this as a way of stopping the Coalition seems a bit random. If they remain as hated as they seem right now then Labour will sail through on Av. If you prefer FPTP to Av then fine. Its a position many will support. I just think its a strange decision if you want to move to STV.

  • Apologies. My last post should have had the first section as a quotation:

    “Sorry I am not buying it – if we have a fully proportional system then the basis of politics will change significantly for the good in the UK. You convince me that if we have AV in 2015 we won’t have Clegg and Cameron urging Toriy and Lib Dem voters to support each other with 2nd preferences to perpetuate the Coalition and shut Labour out. Not taking that chance I’m afraid. AV is a sop that suits Clegg’s self-interest.”

  • Anthony Aloysius St 27th Nov '10 - 1:10pm

    David22

    ” If Av is lost then do you think for a second STV will be on offer in the foreseeable future?”

    No, but I don’t think STV will be on offer if AV is won, either.

    As you say, “neither Labour or the Tories will countenance STV or other PR systems in any form.” That’s the reason.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 27th Nov '10 - 1:13pm

    MacK

    “Having an MP that only a small majority of the constituency half heartedly wanted, which is what could often happen under AV, would be far worse than having an MP elected with a clear majority (but under 50%) under FPTP. In fact, having voted recently in the Labour election, the more I see of AV and the more I observe this Coalition Government in action, the more I want a decisive result under FPTP.”

    The first point is arguable. The second I tend to agree with. But neither of them has anything to do with people “voting twice.” Clearly they don’t. At any stage of the process, each person’s vote only counts once, for a particular candidate.The difference is that under FPTP a lot of people’s votes don’t count at all.

  • @ Anthony Aloysius
    The second I tend to agree with. But neither of them has anything to do with people “voting twice.” Clearly they don’t. At any stage of the process, each person’s vote only counts once, for a particular candidate.

    No. Under AV, second, third etc preferences would seem to have the same value as first preferences. So if a candidate wins overall on the first ballot but hasn’t got 50% then the candidate with the lowest vote is then removed from the election and the second preferences of that candidate are re-allocated and so the process goes on. Therefore, the people who voted for the bottom candidate, because the process has now moved to the next ballot, will actually get to vote twice. Each time there is no winner with more than 50% the bottom candidates drop out and their votes are re-allocated. BUT NOT THE VOTES OF THOSE WHO ARE NOT BOTTOM. So it is possible that their votes may only be counted once. And the votes of the bottom candidates, which have been counted twice, could knock back the overall winner at the first ballot. Therefore it looks like the losers get to vote twice. Have a look at the explanation of AV on Opinion: A suggestion for an amendment to the AV bill By Daniel Henry at the top of this site. It is a very good visual demonstration of the process.

  • The more the electorate sees John Reid and Margaret Beckett, the less chance the No camp have got. Just listening to those dinosaurs droning on about how wonderful FPTP is will convince millions they have to get rid of it.

    Seriously, apart from the argument that AV it isn’t full PR (a pretty silly one by my reckoning given that a No would obliterate any possibility of voting reform for decades), what are the arguments in favour of FPTP. Zero, it is useless, antiquated, failed system. Ditch it and then we can talk about what to do next.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 27th Nov '10 - 3:58pm

    MacK

    Sorry, but as I said, at any stage of the process, each person’s vote only counts once, for a particular candidate.

    In the second round, a BNP supporter’s vote doesn’t count _twice_. It counts _once_, for a different candidate – the BNP candidate having been eliminated.

    In exactly the same way, a Labour supporter’s vote also counts once in the second round, still for Labour.

    No one’s vote counts twice. Everyone’s vote counts once in each round.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 27th Nov '10 - 5:04pm

    “Surly that means, people voting for the smaller parties and for the likes of the BNP, are more likely to have their 2nd and 3rd choices used in the count, Rather than those who are voting for the main 2 parties?”

    Yes, of course. But correspondingly less likely to have their first choices used. In the final round, everyone who has expressed enough choices will have their vote counted once.

  • @Anthony Aloysius St

    “In the second round, a BNP supporter’s vote doesn’t count _twice_. It counts _once_, for a different candidate – the BNP candidate having been eliminated.”

    I don’t think the objection is that the BNP supporter’s vote counts twice — I think the objection is that the BNP supporter has been allowed to vote twice because, having come bottom, say, his vote has been re-allocated, and none of the other candidate’s votes have. So Blunkett is right when he says that losers are able to vote twice.
    I think that Matt (above) and I are at one on this. However, I don’t think that our conceptual dissonance is going to be resolved here. But, I would say, that given the difficult concepts involved for ordinary people, the Yes campaign is going to have its work cut out demonstrating the advantages of AV over FPTP.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 27th Nov '10 - 5:50pm

    MacK

    “I don’t think the objection is that the BNP supporter’s vote counts twice — I think the objection is that the BNP supporter has been allowed to vote twice because, having come bottom, say, his vote has been re-allocated, and none of the other candidate’s votes have.”

    Well, you did say above (at 3.16) that the votes of the bottom candidates would be “counted twice,” so it is getting a bit confusing.

    But basically you seem to be saying that you object to the fact that those who have voted for eliminated candidates will have their votes reallocated, but those who have voted for candidates who are still in the contest won’t have them reallocated.

    In that case, what I don’t understand is why anyone should want their vote to be reallocated _away_ from their favourite candidate (or their most preferred candidate who is still in the contest). Would you really want to add an instruction to the ballot paper saying “but if my number 1 candidate makes it to the final round please reallocate my vote to my number 2 candidate”?

  • Mike(The Labour one) 27th Nov '10 - 7:20pm

    I’m with Anthony on this.

    First round-
    A votes Labour.
    B votes BNP.

    Second round-
    A votes for Labour.
    B’s candidate was eliminated and votes UKIP.

    Third round-
    A votes for Labour.
    B’s candidate was eliminated and votes Conservative.

    Fourth round-
    A votes for Labour.
    B’s candidate was eliminated, but B didn’t like the other candidates and so doesn’t vote this round.

    Labour wins! Awesome!

    That’s how I see it in my head anyway.

  • Tony Blair, two days before the general election, persuaded me not to vote tactically for Labour in the knife-edge Labour/Tory marginal where I live (Labour lost by a mile). I doubt if John Reid is going to have the same success in persuading me to vote “yes” in this farcical referendum.

    AV is a worse system than FPTP because it encourages people to vote for the party they support rather than the party most likely to beat the Tories. Bluntly put, but someone has to say it.

    An example. In Salisbury, there is an entrenched residual Labour vote based on two council estates. In May, many of these voted Lib Dem tactically, and the result was an improved Lib Dem performance. Under AV, Labour might have come second, with the Lib Dem second preferences split equally between Tories and Labour – the result being a safe Tory win. Would we ever have won Colchester, Portsmouth South, Yeovil, even Bath, Taunton and Somerton & Frome, under AV? I suggest not, which is why Cameron is willing to let us have it.

    As for the Reidosaurus, let’s not forget that this is the guy the Republican pollster and psychological manipulator, Frank Luntz, persuaded a focus group to pick as their favoured choice for Tony Blair’s replacement. Nice to know that one of Cheney’s blue-eyed page boys is telling us what kind of electoral system we should have!

  • Rich,

    STV in multi-member constituencies doesn’t favour anybody. It is both proportionate and fair. If we had STV in multi-member constituencies I wouldn’t have to explain to fellow Liberal Democrats how Cameron’s proposed fiddling with the electoral system is intended to stitch us up. What is pleasant about a corrupt electoral system that gives the party with 23% of the vote 8% of the seats (and Cameron’s “reforms” would give us possibly less than half that)? Because Cameron (and hence Clegg) says X, that doesn’t mean that X is right.

  • AV isn’t fair, as it assumes that someone who votes for a minority party has the right to expect to cast an equally strong vote for their next preferences. It means that more than one candidate can get over 50% of the votes cast (in an election with 5 candidates, 500% of votes can be cast!). It’s just that unsuccesful party supporters have their extra votes cast, whilst more the votes of those who supported more popular candidates are discarded. It can mean a candidate who came second in first preferences and second in second preferences can win – as long as their second preferences came from supporters of minor candidates already knocked out.

    It most definitely is a system to bolster the voices of people who support losing candidates, and disadvantage those with mainstream appeal. It’s unfair and means not everyone’s votes are equal – truly a miserable little compromise.

  • Rich

    I think your comment about people’s conservatism is unfair.

    AV is a compromise position and because it retains a certain amount of intrinsic unfairness these criticisms are valid. Is it better than FPTP – probably but not that as much as it is sometimes sold on.

    To me it is a compromise position that retains unfairness and my view is that we would be better going the whole way and have STV

    The question I have to ask myself is voting yes or no more likely to bring about STV.

    Don’t be so condescending to those who make valid points in critique of AV – they are fairly made. Even the LD party leader though AV was a poor option a year or so ago. In fact AV could be introduced without the need for a referendum in my view. Save a referendum for serious changes like full PR

  • @ Anthony Aloysius
    “Well, you did say above (at 3.16) that the votes of the bottom candidates would be “counted twice,” so it is getting a bit confusing.”

    Apologies for the confusion. I stand admonished.

    Another anomaly with AV is that the secondary preferences of those who do not come bottom may not be expressed at all if they are in third or fourth place in a large field of candidates and several candidates have come bottom and have had their votes re-allocated which have given the leading candidate 50% and made him or her the winner. Again, in this case, the losers would have voted twice and influenced the outcome and those who were higher up the field have not. The only way that AV could remotely approach fairness is for every voter’s first and subsequent preferences to be registered on a matrix. We could see then at a glance everybody’s potential re-allocations. But this would be a time consuming process, susceptible to error, and I’m not sure how one could arrive at a result unless, perhaps, one established a points system for First preferences, and a decimal point system for 2nd, 3rd preferences etc. FPTP is unfair in many ways but AV would seem to incorporate all of FPTP’s inequities and provide several more of its own.

    @Anthony Aloysius
    “Would you really want to add an instruction to the ballot paper saying “but if my number 1 candidate makes it to the final round please reallocate my vote to my number 2 candidate”?”

    No. For heavens sake, AV already makes things complicated and unfair enough.

  • @ Anthony Aloysius

    “In that case, what I don’t understand is why anyone should want their vote to be reallocated _away_ from their favourite candidate (or their most preferred candidate who is still in the contest).”

    Exactly, which is why I shall be voting against AV in the referendum and hoping that the status quo will be retained

  • Anthony Aloysius St 28th Nov '10 - 12:10pm

    “Another anomaly with AV is that the secondary preferences of those who do not come bottom may not be expressed at all if they are in third or fourth place in a large field of candidates and several candidates have come bottom and have had their votes re-allocated which have given the leading candidate 50% and made him or her the winner. Again, in this case, the losers would have voted twice and influenced the outcome and those who were higher up the field have not.”

    But that’s not really an anomaly. If you really wanted those preferences counted you could carry on eliminating candidates until only two were left, and everyone’s vote would end up in one pile or the other (everyone who had expressed enough preferences, that is).

    But that would be rather a waste of time because the result would always be the same as if you’d stopped when 50% was reached. The only reason for stopping early is that further reallocations can’t make any difference to the result – just as someone can be elected in the first round if they have more than 50% of first preferences.

  • @Anthony Aloysius St.

    “But that would be rather a waste of time because the result would always be the same as if you’d stopped when 50% was reached. The only reason for stopping early is that further reallocations can’t make any difference to the result – just as someone can be elected in the first round if they have more than 50% of first preferences.”

    Yes — you’ve persuaded me there. But that stiill means that first preference votes have the same value as subsequent preference votes. I feel it in my bones that there is something inherently unfair about that.

  • The big advantage for AV is that those passionately committed to electoral reform will vote, those who don’t care, won’t, the lower the turnout, the more chance this has of passing.

    Personally I voted Lib Dem at the last election because of their proposals on cutting spending and electoral reform, they’ve done a complete about face on the economy, which to me is far more important than electoral reform, so now I’m faced with the situation of do I support electoral reform when a party will abandon, rather than compromise, their principles and at this moment in time, no I won’t, but there’s a while to go yet before the vote.

  • One of the reasons I originaly was drawn to the Lib Dem’s, among many, was our commitment to electoral reform. I’ve looked at the system being proposed and don’t really see any meaningfull fair reform of the electoral system contained in it so I won’t be part of the yes campaign. Nick and co. should have held out for a referedum on PR and other better terms instead of rushing into the fastest forming of a co-alition anywhere in the world.

  • I’ll be voting against AV because as far as I’m concerned it’ll help massively to entrench the coalition of Tories and Orange Bookers. The only reason I was going to vote for it, before I witnessed the current Lib Dems in action, was because Liberals and Labour could work together and now it’ll be the opposite – the few remaining Lib Dem voters split heavily in the Tories favour, as shown by countless polling cross-breaks. It’ll do nothing to allow me to vote for my ideal party – they’ll simply be eliminated in the earliest round – as Australia shows, even with 10% of the national vote the Greens managed the same amount of seats as they did here, with 1%.

    Not only that, but I’d like to ruin Clegg so blatantly that his party ditch him ASAP and distance themselves from the market-liberals that infest the party, as they’ve blown the one chance in a generation to force for meaningful electoral reform, and accepted “miserable little compromises” for the most right-wing Tory budget in history. Was the dismantling of our welfare state as we know it, the backdoor privatisation of schooling and the NHS, and blatant privatisation of Royal Mail (despite overwhelming public opposition) worth it, Judais?

  • Oh and I’d just like to say, I’m suspicious that their acceptance of AV was from entirely self-serving motivations.

    The only parties that stand to benefit from later preferences, are those that aren’t eliminated early – ie the large parties. So unless you’re in 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a constituency you’ll see no benefit whatsoever from these passed-on preferences, and guess who those are? Tory, Labour and Liberals. Both Tory and Labour will go for the Liberals (eventually) as their preference, and guess what – they make up the bulk of the electorate – those 2nd preferences will help Liberals like no other. Imagine that.

  • I will be voting yes to AV in May. I used to be a member of the libdems, but got out when Clegg was elected, as I could see then that they were going to stitch us up, and voted against the libdems for the first time since I have had the right to vote.

    Why then do I continue to support the campaign for AV? I guess hope mainly. Hope that while we have a bleak situation now, that some point in the future this will change, and that it needs all the support it can get to help it flourish. I have given up on the short term, but I know nothing will get better unless we start greasing the wheels for the future. We have an unfair and outdated voting system now, one that was designed for a two party system; is straining under the current situation of three main parties; and I don’t see it being able to support more then 3 main parties.

    I have seen arguments here speculating over what could happen at the next election, should we have AV, and what the leaders would be asking their members to vote as the 2nd preference, this is mere speculation; assumes that people will follow what the leaders say; and what is more, it is short sighted.

    Nothing is going to change short term. We are stuck in a right-wing neocon bubble/vacuum, which all 3 main parties are now subscribed to. We had hopes with labour, we had hopes with the libdems (we knew the torries wouldn’t give us hope), we are stuck! So what it comes down to for me, as I said before, was greasing the wheels, the political system has ground to a halt, moving to a more fair system, giving the future the best tools it can to break out of this situation we are now in. It’s not going to be instant, we are in a deadlock, the current parties are not in the position to do what is needed, but given time, things will change, and when they do, they will have the instruments there to bring it about.

  • Keith in Bristol 31st Dec '10 - 12:07pm

    matt et al – I think you’re mischaracterising how AV works if you’re arguing that people who vote e.g. BNP get to vote multiple times and people who vote e.g. Labour don’t.

    That’s not how it works. Everyone votes once – or if you insist on counting each round as a separate vote, everyone gets to vote more than once, not just those whose first preferences are eliminated. If you voted Labour first and Labour wins after three rounds, and someone else put 1. BNP 2. UKIP 3. Tory in the same contest, you get “three votes” just as they do – it’s just that you’ve voted Labour three times. Which is what you would want, if your preferred Labour candidate was still in the running.

    The principle is exactly the same as if we had real run-off elections, where people were asked to go to the polls multiple times and put an X in a box in each round, and the candidate who comes last is eliminated in each round. If we conducted general elections in that fashion, I don’t know on what grounds people would think it unfair. Expensive and tedious, perhaps (hence the short-cut known elsewhere as “instant run-off voting”), but hardly unfair.

    olly mentioned earlier about the prospect of some kind of Faustian preference-swapping deal between Lib Dems and Tories. However, I’d have to put it to you (olly) that the great thing about AV is that voters can make up their own minds, instead of having to wrestle with their consciences, hold their noses and vote tactically for an “anti-Labour” or “anti-Tory” (or even “anti-Lib Dem”) party that they don’t really support, cross their fingers and hope that the numbers work out for them. If you want to vote tactically anti-Tory, you can put 1. Labour 2. Green 3. Lib Dem, or whatever.

  • Keith in Bristol 31st Dec '10 - 12:17pm

    Craig – so let me get this straight, you’re going to vote against a different electoral system that might have resulted in a Parliament and Government that was more to your liking, and in favour of the present one, because you don’t like the election result that was delivered under the present one, and its consequences (namely that a Lib-Lab coalition could never work, because they didn’t have the numbers)? Well, there’s nothing like cutting off your own nose to spite your face, I guess.

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