LibLink: Chris Huhne – AV referendum: why progressives must unite to vote yes

On Sunday, Liberal Democrat energy secretary Chris Huhne joined the Green’s Caroline Lucas and Labour’s John Denham to pen a piece for the Observer, calling on all progressives in Britain to vote Yes in the Thursday’s referendum on the voting system. It garnered headlines on the day thanks to a paragraph critical of the Tories, but it actually makes some very sound points about why all those who see themselves as on the ‘left’ of British politics should be voting Yes (as, incidentally, did Will Hutton in the same newspaper on the same day).

Here’s a sample of what Huhne, Lucas and Denham had to say:

You cannot build a fair society on an unfair politics. Britain consistently votes as a centre-left country and yet the Conservatives have dominated our politics for two-thirds of the time since 1900. On only two occasions in that long century – 1900 and 1931 – have the Tories won a majority of the votes. Instead, they have divided and ruled. No wonder David Cameron says the current system “has served us well”.

For those who weren’t well served by the Tory 20th century, fair votes matter. They matter for the millions of voters who suffered the worst excesses of the Thatcher government, despite more than 54% repeatedly voting against her.

They matter for the millions of progressive voters, supporters of the Lib Dems, Labour and the Greens among others, who want to be able to express their support for the party of their choice without feeling that they are wasting their vote or letting the Tories in. And they matter for the millions who do not bother to vote because safe seats mean they have no chance for a change.

Fair votes also matter in regions where one party wins nearly all the prizes. Don’t be a Conservative voter in the north, or a Labour voter in the south, because your vote is less likely to count. In 2010 Labour won only 10 seats in the east, south-east or south-west regions, despite winning more than 1.6m votes there. The Conservatives’ 1.3 million voters in the east returned 52 Conservative MPs. The 1.1 million Liberal Democrat voters in the south-east ended up with only four MPs. The 285,000 Green voters elected only one MP.

Indeed, even the Tories saw whole areas without MPs, with only one seat in Scotland and no seats in the five largest English cities outside London. This is a recipe not for a parliament that holds up a mirror to the nation, so that we can debate and resolve our differences, but one that deepens divisions and resentments. Progressive politics needs fairness – no more, no less – for Conservative voters too.

You can read the piece in full here.

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67 Comments

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd May '11 - 7:59pm

    This article would only make any kind of sense if the alternative on offer on Thursday were proportional. Given that AV is obviously NOT proportional, it’s just gibberish.

    Let’s treasure this week though, because it’s the only time between now and May 2015 that we’ll hear senior Lib Dems attempting to align themselves with the “progressive majority”. Come Friday morning they’ll go back to being mini-Tories.

  • Perhaps you could explain, Stuart Mitchell, how exactly voting no to AV would make genuine proportional representation more likely?

    I would advocate the STV system. The nature of the coalition is such that the AV compromise is all that is CURRENTLY on offer. Better to accept this, a slight improvement that may reasonably be expected to lead to further improvements, than to support David Cameron, Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre and Nick Griffin and the worst elements of the Labour Party in their efforts to keep the status quo forever, and let’s be in no doubt that this is what they want.

    I am not a member of any party and I’d share a platform with these people as I have, in my time, with people like David Davis that I’d normally disagree with most of the time. The fact is that we are being offered this and I’ve explained why I’ll be voting yes, but you haven’t articulated any proper reason for voting no.

  • Paul Kennedy 2nd May '11 - 9:31pm

    Stuart Mitchell, I think you’ll find that Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader, and Tim Farron, Party President, both senior Lib Dems I would have thought, have been aligning themselves with progressive majority ever since the last election.

    And it just so happens that the Lib Dems in Government have implemented exactly the same policies as Labour were planning all along (including unfortunately the new higher means-testing tuition fees), with the exception of Labour’s policies of introducing ID cards, renewing Trident and locking people up without trial.

  • Kevin Colwill 2nd May '11 - 9:48pm

    @ Stuart Mitchell…agreed, the article makes a good case for PR as if AV were a real proportional system- which we all know it’s not.
    Yes, Mr Colwill, your first preference will be duly noted but it’ll be binned and we’ll go on to count your second or third preference as your “real” vote i.e. the vote that actually makes any blooming difference.
    Oh, but it will stop a candidate winning with less than 50% support, albeit scrappy second, third or fourth preference support! I’ll not go into the maths of how this might not be the case. I’ll just suggest that it’s really no great plus.
    Let’s play the old bar chart game and say a Lib Dem candidate busts a gut to get every non-Tory to support him in order to keep out/get out the Conservative (wild proposition I know, can’t imagine such a thing has ever happened…) If he succeeds he has lat east managed to get some sort of endorsement, even if not 50+%. Under AV he might get his 50+% but only after several rounds re-allocated votes. In the first round the Tory could be way out in front. Wouldn’t any “victory” in those circumstances look just a little tainted?
    As for progressives pulling together…well I’ve dreamed that particular dream for a very long time. Last May I woke up.

  • @asquith

    What makes you think that all labour supporters want the status quo? Its this sort of lazy argument by the yes campaign that has put off a lot of potential support (the megaphones in the yes broadcast is another example). I would like a form of PR but nothing in the yes arguments have persuaded me that AV is worth the change. The yes campaign needed very early on to get off its moral high horse with its claims that anyone who disagreed withem was anti-progressive. It didnt and I think it will show come Thursday.

  • Kevin Colwill 2nd May '11 - 11:00pm

    @ asquith…maybe you could explain how this badly timed, ill thought out referendum on AV helps the cause of fair votes? The Tory leadership was always going to be pretty solidly opposed to change in the voting system and Tory voters are not exactly firebrand radicals on these matters. So it must have been understood that a grand non-Tory alliance would need to form around AV for it to have any chance of getting through.
    Did no one think that it might not be so easy to develop an alliance of progressives around a Lib Dem proposal when the Lib Dems are in bed with the Tories? On one hand a minor change in more or less the right direction on the voting system, on the other hand a chance to kick Nick Clegg.
    Given those choices can you really expect anyone except a AV anorak not to reach for the steel toecaps?
    Face it…winning an academic argument on forums like this or having the support of the Guardian newspaper isn’t , with respect , going to matter much on Thursday. The reality is a chance for change has been tossed away because we had the wrong referendum at the wrong time with a pretty rubbish yes campaign into the bargain.

  • I think if we cannot convince voters to go for a very modest reform like AV then PR is just a pipe dream.

    The most effective arguments used by the No campaign against AV would have worked just as well against PR. For example, they seem to have convinced the public that:

    (1) Any system more sophisticated than FPTP is “too complicated”.
    (2) Preferential voting is contrary to “one person, one vote” (so much for PR-STV).
    (3) Coalition governments are a terrible thing.

    The final point is the most galling because coalitions don’t even have anything to do with AV. But by pretending that AV will lead to hung parliaments, the No-side have effectively turned Thursday into a referendum on PR. A referendum the Tories didn’t even concede to people!

    If, as seems likely, the referendum is defeated on Thursday, then I really can’t see the way forward for electoral reform in this country.

  • My first thought was that we should boycott this referendum. Cameron has given us a choice only between AV and FPTP, merely as a sop to Nick Clegg for handing him the keys to Downing Street. It’s rather like a dictator saying that you can have a vote but there will only be two parties standing, the two that he chooses.

    I notice in this thread that some people believe that AV would be a first step on the road to a fully proportional voting system. It wouldn’t be, and when asked if AV would hasten the introduction of PR, Nick Clegg said:-
    “No, no. It is not a Maoist perpetual revolution. This is a once in a blue moon chance to change the electoral system, not a step to anything else”.
    http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/….-to-av-campaign

    If AV is implemented and becomes accepted, why would anyone think of changing the system again? Supporters of PR are more likely to get their wish if the discredited FPTP system, which can give large majorities to a party with only about 35% of the vote (as in 2005), stays in place until demands for something much fairer reach a crescendo. Dr David Owen tends to agree:-
    “I have been a long-standing supporter of proportional representation and joined the Electoral Reform Society in 1985, determinedly campaigning for proportional representation for more than two decades. This referendum will not set Britain down the path of real electoral reform; it will replace a bad system with a worse one, and risks putting off the prospect of real reform for generations.”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/david-owen-i-support-a-pr-system-but-i-will-be-voting-lsquo norsquo-in-the-av-referendum-2240525.html

    It seems odd to find Chris Huhne playing such a prominent role in the Yes campaign when in February 2010 he wrote that under AV “the electoral system would continue to be like an ill-fitting corset attempting to squeeze all the diverse strands of opinion in our society into an inappropriate and deeply uncomfortable shape”.
    http://cuttingedgeuk.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=uk&action=display&thread=13&page=3

  • Take a look at today’s elections in Canada — Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party wins a majority in the Federal Parliament, despite the fact that 60% of the voters voted against the Conservatives. With AV, it’s unlikely that a result so entirely unrepresentative of the wishes of the Canadian people would have taken place.

  • Kevin Colwill 3rd May '11 - 9:24am

    @ Modicum- My gut reaction is against preferential voting because, despite your and others fine arguments, as I cannot be convinced that my second, third or fourth preference should be my “real” vote, the only vote that actually makes a difference. I’m sure you can easily see it as making informed choices in a grand democratic exercise. I know I’d feel I was engaged in a tactical game of voodoo voting- I’d never concede preferences beyond the first two (for many the first one) would ever amount to a ringing endorsement
    For that reason I’ve long favoured a party list/ multi-member constituency approach to PR – I’m not wedded to any particular version although open lists seem more democratic!
    That, however, is all totally academic. My point, laboured and badly made as it may be, is that the Lib Dem leadership have made a total Horlicks of this referendum and no one in the Lib Dem membership seems overly bothered.
    When you consider the one big cause that Lib Dem’s stood for almost to a man or woman was fair votes it strikes me as totally bizarre that all we seem to get is fatalistic “it’s the best we could do” accompanied by the desire to win the academic argument and hang the actual ballot in two days time.
    I’m reminded of the poor kid at school, the bully punches him and he says, “it’s OK- he’s my mate”.
    This referendum, bar a miracle, will be resoundingly lost. The campaign for fair votes will be set back years. Your one major concession from the Tories will have been tossed away. I know you’re buying the narrative of political self sacrifice to save the nation. Only it’s you guys, not the Tories, doing all the sacrificing.

  • “Take a look at today’s elections in Canada — Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party wins a majority in the Federal Parliament, despite the fact that 60% of the voters voted against the Conservatives. With AV, it’s unlikely that a result so entirely unrepresentative of the wishes of the Canadian people would have taken place.”

    Absolute nonsense. Projections indicate that under AV the Labour majorities of the 1990s and 2000s would have been even larger. Those were all gained with a majority of the voters – up to 64% – voting against Labour.

  • Denis Cooper 3rd May '11 - 9:47am

    After everything that the Tories and NO2AV are now telling them about the glories of the FPTP and the evils of AV, some people may be surprised next year when they are asked to vote for local police commissioners.

    Under Home Secretary Theresa May’s Bill the new police commissioners will not be elected by FPTP but by a form of AV.

    So no worries there then, about AV destroying the core democratic principle of “one person one vote”, or possibly allowing the BNP to take control of the police?

    Of course not, she knows that those concerns about AV are just fictions.

  • Surely this isn’t the same Chris Huhne who thought it would be a good idea to share a platform with Baroness Warsi whilst she alledged that Labour were “criminal” on the economy, and she should know being a lawayer, before having to backtrack as there was no actual criminality?

    Perhaps he should have considered the crucial role of Labour “progressives” in getting AV approved that morning?

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '11 - 10:48am

    Kevin Colwill

    My gut reaction is against preferential voting because, despite your and others fine arguments, as I cannot be convinced that my second, third or fourth preference should be my “real” vote, the only vote that actually makes a difference. I’m sure you can easily see it as making informed choices in a grand democratic exercise. I know I’d feel I was engaged in a tactical game of voodoo voting- I’d never concede preferences beyond the first two (for many the first one) would ever amount to a ringing endorsement

    This is a ridiculous argument.

    Any voting involves a compromise, it is unlikely the choices on offer will include one which is perfect for you in every single way. So when you cast your vote you have already gone several steps away from your ideal.

    Suppose instead of just a Labour, Conservative and LibDem candidate standing, there were many independents, several of which were closer to you in opinion than the official Labour, Conservative and LibDem candidate. Then the person you would have voted for out of the Labour, Conservative and LibDem candidate would become your fourth of fifth or whatever choice. So, by that argument you should not vote at all, because it is always highly likely there are people who would be a better choice for you personally than the official party candidates.

    All that AV does is to ask you repeatedly who you would vote for in a FPTP election, each time round with one less candidate. It leaves you free not to vote at all if it really is the case that you have no preference between the remaining candidates. AV does not deliver a result different from what FPTP would give had the only candidates standing been just those candidates left after the earlier eliminations.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '11 - 11:17am

    Kevin Colwill

    Did no one think that it might not be so easy to develop an alliance of progressives around a Lib Dem proposal when the Lib Dems are in bed with the Tories? On one hand a minor change in more or less the right direction on the voting system, on the other hand a chance to kick Nick Clegg.

    It is ABSOLUTELY CLEAR from the tone of the “No to AV” campaign that a win for the “No” side on Thursday will be interpreted as “Britain says it wants to keep the first past the post electoral system”. There is NOTHING in the “No to AV” literature which criticises AV because it is not proportional. Rather “No to AV” is saying very clearly that it believes the distortions of the first-past-the-post system are a good thing. It is saying that it is a good thing to have the representation of the largest party twisted upwards above its proportion of the votes and the representation of small parties twisted downwards below their proportion of votes, because this will generally give us single party government. NO-ONE (at least no-one who has an influential voice) will be saying, if there is a “No” win on Thursday that “Britain really wants proportional representation”. Therefore anyone who claims they are voting “No” because they would like proportional representation is either a complete fool, or is a Tory troll, just saying it to get the result the Tories want – FPTP and Tory dominance for evermore. And, yes, I do count all those Labour people in the “No” campaign as Tory trolls. It is big Tory money funding the “No” campaign, and big Tory money is only ever going to pay for what benefits Tories.

    Voting “No” to punish Nick Clegg for “jumping into bed with the Tories” is just so mind-blowingly stupid, that I can’t find words strong enough (or that LibDem Voice will allow to be published) to express my contempt for anyone who gives that as a reason for a “No” vote. You feel Clegg is bad because he is weak in getting concessions from the Tories, so you vote for an electoral system whose main benefit, according to its supporters, is that it weakens the influence of third parties? If you vote “No” to AV, then you are agreeing that it is better for government to be just if one party, even at the expense of distorting representation, so the logic of your “No” vote is that Cameron and the Conservatives should govern alone and that what is wrong with Nick Clegg is that he is getting a few concessions from them and stopping this government being 100% Tory.

    But this is Labour all along, isn’t it? Oh, they pretend they want to change the country, but in reality they want the good old two party system, in which we get pure Tory government most of the time, in return for the odd patch of Labour government which messes things up and lets the Tories in again. Labour would rather be a useless opposition moaning about the Tories when the Tories are in government (most of the time) and feeling so good about it, than conceding a share of power with other new forces. If those who vote “No” to AV to punish Nick Clegg and the LibDems had had their way before 2010 and there was no significant third party, we would have a purely Conservative government in now anyway.

    That is why a “No” vote in the referendum is a Tory vote. If you vote “No” you are voting Tory, you are voting Tory government for ever, you are voting that David Cameron should be Prime Minister now, you are voting that the worst thing about this government is the little bit of LibDem influence, you are voting for those Tory right-wingers who moan about that influence, and you are voting for the Tory money and those who control it, the fat cats and City whizz-kids who are bank-rolling the “No” campaign.

  • Matthew Huntbach –

    ‘So, by that argument you should not vote at all, because it is always highly likely there are people who would be a better choice for you personally than the official party candidates.’

    Decisions are made by people who show up. That a plurality of others might disagree with your own conclusions is a separate matter. Whilst it is indeed true that under AV a person can cast only one vote i.e. no part of their vote can be used to support another candidate, Kevin Colwill’s point about AV bringing about the triumph of mediocrity under the guise of ‘preference’ is a reasonable one.

  • Matthew Huntbach – ‘That is why a “No” vote in the referendum is a Tory vote.’

    Come on Matthew, you are better than that.

  • You can see the post Thursday excuse forming here if its a no – its all the fault of those awful non-progressive Labour types. Never mind that the yes campaign is just boring and Clegg’s contributions mostly ineffective and often wrong. Hopefully Lib Dems may learn one hard lesson if the vote is no – just because you 100% believed in something doesnt mean you win the prize if you have treated the electorate with disdain – it may not be a rational response but its a weapon they like to deploy.

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd May '11 - 2:01pm

    @Paul Kennedy
    “it just so happens that the Lib Dems in Government have implemented exactly the same policies as Labour were planning all along (including unfortunately the new higher means-testing tuition fees), with the exception of Labour’s policies of introducing ID cards, renewing Trident and locking people up without trial.”
    If you are suggesting that this makes the Lib Dems ‘progressive’, you will have to go the additional step of demonstrating that New Labour are ‘progressive’. Unfortunately the reality appears to be that ‘progressive’ is a nice word that means nothing substantive, so sure, why not, we’re all progressing down the path of good intentions.

    @Ivan White
    “My first thought was that we should boycott this referendum.”
    The problem with action through inaction is that it is essentially invisible. Only maybe a third of people bother to vote in local elections, only a third of people bothered to vote in the Welsh devolution referendum of 2011, so boycott by all means – but in the end you join the huge majority of less ideologically driven abstainers. It’s an statement delivered in a whisper.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '11 - 2:29pm

    peebee

    Never mind that the yes campaign is just boring and Clegg’s contributions mostly ineffective and often wrong.

    I agree with this. As ever, I have continued to offer my advice for free here and elsewhere on what the party should do, and as ever the upper class twits at the top of it have done almost the exact opposite and so lost us the great opportunity we had.

    just because you 100% believed in something doesnt mean you win the prize if you have treated the electorate with disdain

    I am not quite sure what you mean by this. If you mean the nature of the “Yes” campaign, then ok maybe, but if it’s the “jumped into bed with the Tories” thing, well ..

    How can it be “treating the electorate with disdain” to support as the lead party in government the party which obtained more votes than any other? Surely to have put into government the party which got fewer votes would have been more disdainful to the electorate even if it was possible (and thanks the way the electorate voted and the distortions from proportionality of the FPTP electoral system, it was not possible).

    The opinion polls are now showing a big majority for “No” in the AV referendum. Well, fine, but the main argument the “No to AV” campaign are putting is that government should be by just one party even if that party has the support of less than half the electorate, and the current system usually results in this by distorting representation in favour of the largest party and against smaller parties. In May 2010 the largest party was the Conservative Party. So, in endorsing the “No to AV” campaign, the electorate are saying we should have a purely Conservative government now. In that case, they have no right to moan that Nick Clegg has done little to stop Conservative policies – their vote for “No” is a vote to endorse those policies on the grounds the Conservatives won the election, first past the post.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '11 - 2:36pm

    Duncan

    Matthew Huntbach – ‘That is why a “No” vote in the referendum is a Tory vote.’

    Come on Matthew, you are better than that.

    For the sake of those who find it hard to think logically, I repeat – a “No” vote on Thursday is a Tory vote. It’s a vote for a campaign which is bankrolled by the City fat cats and international money men and they know why they are bankrolling it. It’s a vote to endorse the system which meant the only possible government following the May 20210 general election was a Tory one in which the Liberal Democrats would have little influence. It’s a vote for the system which gives us Cameron now and Tory-lite Blair in the past and means Tory, Tory, Tory for ever more.

    If you vote “No” on Thursday, you are voting Tory. I mean this from the bottom of my heart – a “No” vote on Thursday is the deepest Tory vote that can be given because it is supporting the Tories not just now but forever.

  • At the last General Election I don’t recall either Clegg or Huhne promising, in the event of a hung parliament, a grand alliance of the Progressive Left. Clegg’s position was that he would form a coalition with the party that won the most seats or gained the most votes. And that’s what the Liberal Democats cynically did. I don’t recall any talk of an alliance of the Progressive Left at the time of the AV Referendum legislation either. Clegg and Huhne were entirely happy to support the Tories in the gerrymandering of fifty Progressive Left seats and their replacement by unelected placemen in the House of Lords to drive the legislation through. All this nonsense about an alliance of the progressive left is the last throes of a bunch of unprincipled turncoats who are trying to dig themselves out of a hole because they have failed to sell AV to the electorate. Why? Because it is unfair. Any one who attends an agricultural show knows that a 1st Class marrow is better than any number of 2nd, 3rd and 4th class marrows. The British public understand that and accept it because unlike the Liberal Democrats they are not bad losers. If people don’t vote for the Liberal Democrats (and they usually don’t) it’s because they don’t like you or your policies. (c.f. Carman at Barnsley.) Why don’t you stop whinging and accept that? Or vow to grow a 1st Class marrow next time?

  • Matthew Huntbach – And I gladly repeat that you are better. Quite frankly there is an air of desperation in your latest missive.

    ‘It’s a vote for a campaign which is bankrolled by the City fat cats and international money men and they know why they are bankrolling it.’

    It is possible to separate a campaign from those that back it – and what’s more you know it. Do you not hold out the possibility that maybe, just maybe people can vote no for reasons other than to cause you affront?

    Worst of all is you are better than this.

  • Denis Cooper 3rd May '11 - 3:17pm

    Next year we’ll be asked to vote for local police chiefs, and those elections will be by a form of AV.

    That’s in Theresa May’s Bill, which has already been passed by the Commons and is now at its Committee Stage in the Lords.

    In Clause 57 here:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldbills/062/11062.33-39.html#j732

    So how come that we now have Cameron and other MPs who’ve already agreed that the election of police chiefs should not be by FPTP, but instead by a form of AV, drumming into us that FPTP is the only proper way to hold an election, and that AV is fundamentally undemocratic, means the end of “one person one vote”, and even risks letting in the BNP?

    Is it because they’re hypocritical liars?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 3rd May '11 - 3:31pm

    The PR purists just do not get it I’m afraid. If you think it is hard arguing for AV – imagine how much harder it would be arguing for a system which breaks the link between individual consituencies and their MPs and/or introduces party sponsored top up lists. And if you want multi member constituencies – don’t you think that AV is a compromise and it is a rather good and sensible one which allows the maintenance of the constituency link. I very much doubt there will be any appetite to consider further changes to the voting systems for the next 20 years – if the referendum is lost voting reform will become toxic waste.

    Now could the LibDems please do the senisble think and keep Clegg away from the Yes campaign until Thursday, you all know it makes sense – as it seems to be teh approcah you have adopted on your own election leaflets.

  • I agree with the claim that FPTP distorts the electoral outcome in that voters’ preferences are not genuinely reflected. The last General Election was a good example, I voted LibDem and got the Tories!

    Odds-on this won’t get through the net.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 3rd May '11 - 4:12pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    “And, yes, I do count all those Labour people in the “No” campaign as Tory trolls”

    Do you seriously think that this is the way to get undecided Labour voters to vote for AV?

  • daft ha’p’orth. Boycotting a referendum is not the same as being too apathetic to vote, even if the result may be the same. I genuinely believe that this referendum on electoral reform was nothing more than a sop to Nick Clegg in return for the keys to Downing Street for Cameron. Without the option of PR, the referendum has little credibility.

    I also think it would be easier arguing for PR than for AV. You would be arguing for people to cast one vote (preferably with a choice of candidate from a party list), and for people to support the principle that 40% of votes cast should result in 40% of the seats in Parliament.

    If the No supporters win as expected, the Tories will argue that there is no appetite for electoral reform. If the Yes campaign should be successful, it won’t be the first step on the road to PR, as Clegg has made clear with his “not a Maoist perpetual revolution” remark. Clegg has stuffed those of us who want real reform – PR – by being fobbed off with this “miserable little compromise”.

    The idea of voting the same way as most of the Tories makes me feel dirty, but I won’t boycott the referendum, I shall hold my nose and vote No on Thursday. The best we can hope for is that FPTP will become so discredited that there will be overwhelming public pressure for reform before too long. Why vote for a plaster when a transplant is needed?

    http://cuttingedgeuk.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=uk&action=display&thread=13&page=5

  • This is all very disappointing, as a 70 year old I thought it might have been possible to have lived in a Democratic country before I die, it now seems unlikely. I know that AV has its faults but so do most other systems and just because you would like PR don’t run away from preferential voting, after all it has been used to elect the Pope for hundreds of years so it can’t be all bad.
    If we don’t get the vote out on Thursday we will qualify as the most undemocratic country in Europe, an unelected head of State, an unelected Upper House of Parliament and the Lower House becoming even more an elected Dictatorship.

  • Kevin Colwill 3rd May '11 - 5:31pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach – “AV does not deliver a result different from what FPTP would give had the only candidates standing been just those candidates left after the earlier eliminations.”– My word, we agree.
    In a Tory/Lib Dem marginal the only choice that matters is whether I prefer Lib Dem or Tory. Any higher preferences I express for minority parties are counted and then binned…non votes, voodoo votes.
    My tactical decision to choose a Lib Dem to block a Tory is made by casting a 2nd, 3rd or 4th preference but it’s made all the same. It’s not a ringing endorsement of the Lib Dem.
    My first preference for a candidate I actually want is counted but don’t pretend it meaningfully counts for anything. It’s are like wearing a badge that says, for example, “Green voting Lib Dem” – nothing more.
    A party list/ multi-member constituency approach gives a vote for a minority party a real chance to really count. It gives a genuine chance to express positive support for a party rather than some academic exercise in saying you’re giving your 4th choice a big thumbs up.
    But it’s all academic… me and quite a few “fools” like me are going to vote NO. Not because we’re “Tory trolls” because we’re taking a principled stand against a voting system that is just not worth changing over to. It is also, by the way, quite legitimate to vote NO to register extreme displeasure (my rage has faded!) with the Lib Dems part in the coalition government. You may assume my NO will be making that point too.
    It’s a political truism that blaming the electorate for a defeat is itself self defeating. I suggest you consider how your leadership might have handled things slightly better and achieved a rather better result (for you) than looks likely on Thursday.

  • Old Codger Chris 3rd May '11 - 6:27pm

    It’s all a bit of a tangle.

    It’s true that a No vote on Thursday will be interpreted as a vote for no change at all. Perhaps this should have been considered before the deeply flawed AV system was contemplated.

    I’m in agreement with those who aren’t keen on lower preferences, whether AV or STV – and STV suffers from the problem of being SERIOUSLY complicated to explain, indeed it’s hard to justify the election of a candidate on the umpteenth count after transferring surplus majorities.

    PR has to involve multi-member constituencies (or a mixture as in the Additional Member System). But there’s no need for preferential voting if your first choice – provided it’s for a reasonably largish party, not a fringe outfit – has a chance of winning seats under PR. And it doesn’t have to be – and shouldn’t be – a Closed List.

  • Old Codger Chris 3rd May '11 - 9:51pm

    @Denis Cooper
    “Next year we’ll be asked to vote for local police chiefs, and those elections will be by a form of AV”.
    I believe the system will be the Supplementary Vote, which allows for second choices but not – thankfully – third and fourth etc preferences. And it will always count all second prefs except those of voters who supported either of the top two candidates. Of course, it would be no more suitable for electing a legislature than FPTP or AV.

    @Roger
    “it has been used to elect the Pope for hundreds of years so it can’t be all bad”.
    The cardinals keep voting until a consensus is reached. Under AV, the least popular candidate in round one would be immediately eliminated and the second preferences of his supporters distributed. If these were sufficient to push a candidate over the line, everyone else’s second choices would be ignored and their faces would match the colour of their robes.

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “Voting “No” to punish Nick Clegg for “jumping into bed with the Tories” is just so mind-blowingly stupid, that I can’t find words strong enough (or that LibDem Voice will allow to be published) to express my contempt for anyone who gives that as a reason for a “No” vote”.
    I’m glad we can agree on something Matthew! A voting system is for life, not just for (or against) Cleggmas.

  • Stuart Mitchell 3rd May '11 - 9:57pm

    @Matthew Huntbach: Why can’t you just accept that some people have considered this issue carefully and simply come to a different conclusion to yours, instead of hurling so much abuse at No voters? AV would be, as Clegg keeps saying, a “tiny” change, so your suggestion that anybody who rejects it cannot possibly be any sort of “progressive” is ludicrous.

    Progressive, to me, does not mean change for the sake of change; it means changeing to something better. AV is not better, it’s worse. For heaven’s sake, when most of the senior figures in the Yes campaign are on record as saying AV is rubbish, how can you be so surprised by the lack of enthusiasm for it?

    Believe me, the thought of backing something the Tories obviously want is something that makes me recoil like Dracula being offered a slice of garlic bread. But the thing is, is AV sucks, and if I overlook that and vote Yes simply to punish the Tories then surely that would make me as deserving of contempt as those people you hate who are voting No just to bash Clegg.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '11 - 10:31pm

    toryboysnevergrowup

    “And, yes, I do count all those Labour people in the “No” campaign as Tory trolls”

    Do you seriously think that this is the way to get undecided Labour voters to vote for AV?

    I’m saying what I believe, and I have given my reasons. If I didn’t say it wouldn’t stop me believing it.

    Look, how many times do I have to say it? The “No to AV” campaign are saying it’s better for representation to be distorted to give the largest party a majority of MPs so it can form a government oin its own than to have a coalition. Therefore, the logic of their arguement is that we should have a pure Conservative governemnt now, because the Tories were the largest party after the May 2010 election.

    Where am I wrong in this? I am simply using the very argument that “No to AV” uses. The only honest and non-contradictory line that a “No to AV” supporter could use on Clegg is that he is a bad man for trying to STOP the Tories having all their own way. Anyone who supports “No to AV” and says that Clegg is a bad man because he isn’t doing enough to stop the Tories is saying two logically opposite things. So if they are not Tory trolls, they are just very, very stupid for not realising what tehy are saying contradicsts itself.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '11 - 10:38pm

    Stuart Mitchell

    AV would be, as Clegg keeps saying, a “tiny” change, so your suggestion that anybody who rejects it cannot possibly be any sort of “progressive” is ludicrous.

    As I have already said, here, and before many other times, if there was a chance that the powers-that-be would interpret a “No” vote on AV as meaning “it isn’t a big enough change, so let;s offer Britain a bigger one”, you would have a point. But they won’t, will they? The Tories and Labour are salivating at the hope that a “No” to AV vote will dstroy the LibDems, return Britain (or at least England) back to a pure two-party system, and then where will your fine words get you? We have already seen the massive power of money and its agents in the right-wing press tell lie after lie about AV, and if they win because their money has led to people believing their lies, it’ll be a sad, sad day.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '11 - 10:57pm

    Duncan

    It is possible to separate a campaign from those that back it – and what’s more you know it. Do you not hold out the possibility that maybe, just maybe people can vote no for reasons other than to cause you affront?

    If I hear an honest, logical, numerate and non-contradictory argument against AV, I will accept the person making it as an honourable person with whom I am happy to agree to disagree. I have yet to hear any honest, logical, numerate and non-contradictory argument against AV from anyone in the Labour Party, and from precious few outside it.

    The only real argument that Labour has against AV is that FPTP means a two party system with them as one of the parties and the Tories as the other in perpetuity. Well, if that’s the case, as I’ve said, we would have a pure Cameron government now, so I would regard as honest a Labour person who was arguing against AV ONLY if that Labour person also dropped all crticism of Nick Clegg for “jumping into bed with the Tories” and in fact said that Clegg ought to have done that and that the bad thing about Clegg is that he is blocking the Tory policies that the Brtiish people voted for, FPTP, in May 2010. I would applaud and shake the hand of any Labour person who was honest enough to make that line. I regard as despicable Tory trolls all those Labour people who are “No to AV” supporters but do not have the decency to admit the corollary of their position, and I regard them as disgusting hypocrites if in fact they spout out opinions about Clegg which are directly contradicted by their support for “No to AV”.

    I accept the argument that AV is a minor reform, and that STV would be much better, but I feel it is very clear from the tone of the campaign that if “No” wins on the referendum, it will be taken as meaning the British people are opposed to all electoral reform, so it will massively put back the canmpaign for STV.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd May '11 - 11:05pm

    Stuart Mitchell

    @Matthew Huntbach: Why can’t you just accept that some people have considered this issue carefully and simply come to a different conclusion to yours, instead of hurling so much abuse at No voters?

    I will accept it if they demonstrate it by giving me a logical, honest and numerate argument for their position. As yet I have not met any opponent of AV who has given me such an argument, apart from Tories who support “No to AV” because they are Tories and admit they oppose electoral reform because it means an end to Tory dominance. That is at least an honest argument.

    I am very happy on any political issue to reach the point in an arguement where we “agree to disagree”. That is, when the person I am arguing with has made an argument which I regard as logical and sound and it just happens to be based on different suppositions than mine. I have not reached that point on AV, because all I hear against it is based on lies, is illogical, is innumerate, is self-contradictory, and is easily disproveable.

  • Denis Cooper 4th May '11 - 1:08am

    Old Codger Chris – yes, police chiefs will be elected by Supplementary Vote or SV, a modified form of AV

    http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/briefings/snpc-05317.pdf

    “3.2 Supplementary Vote

    A modified form of AV is used for the election of the London Mayor – the Supplementary Vote. It restricts the voters to two preferences so as to prevent the very weak preferences at the bottom of the ordering scale influencing the result unduly. If a candidate has over half the first preferences they are elected. If no candidate has over half, all but the top two candidates are eliminated, and the second preferences of those who voted for the eliminated candidates are counted – those for either of the top two candidates are added to the vote, and whoever has the highest number wins.”

    In practical terms it may or may not be better than the AV system proposed for the election of MPs, but as a matter of principle if that AV system is to be condemned because it is no longer “one person one vote” then SV must also stand condemned for the same fundamental flaw.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '11 - 10:01am

    Kevin Colwill

    It’s a political truism that blaming the electorate for a defeat is itself self defeating. I suggest you consider how your leadership might have handled things slightly better and achieved a rather better result (for you) than looks likely on Thursday.

    If you look at many of my other posts in Liberal Democrat Voice, you will see I am in an almost perpetual state of rage at the incompetent nature of the current Liberal Democrat leadership, and have given suggestion after suggestion after suggestion as to how things might have been handled better. The leadership has done almost the exact opposite of everything I have suggested, and look where it has left my party standing. As soon as we knew there was going to be a referendum on AV, I posted in Liberal Democrat Voice my views on how the campaign might best be run. The campaign was run in directly the opposite way I suggested – now look at the result. On Saturday 9th April I attended as a delegate from my borough party the London Liberal Democrat Regional Conference, but I had one particular aim in mind, one point I wanted to make. Those who were there will, I hope, remember my words. This was before the opinion polls started coming out showing the “Yes” campaign was losing. I stood up in that Conference and denounced the “Yes” campaign for the poor tactics and poor material it had produced, and made my prediction then that the poor nature of their campaign would lose us this crucial vote.

    So, Kevin Colwill, please don’t patronise me with your “suggestions” as to what I should be doing. I have already done that, more so, I think, than any other member of the Liberal Democrats.

  • Old Codger Chris 4th May '11 - 10:07am

    @Denis Cooper
    “if that AV system is to be condemned because it is no longer “one person one vote” then SV must also stand condemned for the same fundamental flaw”.

    Fair point. Choosing a fair voting system where only one post is to be filled is tricky.

    But I do think that counting the second choices of everyone whose first preference was for any candidate outside the “top two” is better than aggregating third and fourth preferences and stopping the process as soon as – by dubious logic – a candidate is deemed to have 50 percent support.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 4th May '11 - 10:59am

    @Mathew Huntbach “Where am I wrong in this? ”

    Because you are making incorrect assumptions about what they think – they do not necessarily believe that FPTP will bring about a clear government in all cases(or want it to do so) , just in more cases than AV. In those cases where FPTP does not deliver a clear winner, such as the last election, then they are perfectly free to criticise how the leader of the 3rd party makes his choices – and in this I share their criticism. I don’t agree with my friendsin the No to AV campaign on AV – but they are still my friends so I can respect and not try to take over their thought processes.

    I support AV because I believe it will give a better/fairer reflection of what the elctorate want and because I believe in the constitueny link. As a secondary argument, I do belive that AV would have made it harder for Clegg to argue that he didn’t have a choice after the last election and because it would have put pressure on him to be more honest about his intentions before the election. Given all that we know now I’m still pretty convinced he would have got in bed with the Tories however – although his own party may not have been so easily duped.

  • @Mathew Huntbach.

    I am voting no to AV not to punish Clegg or Cameron but because I believe, as a genuine matter of principle, in one -person, one- vote and that every other system, except pure one -person, one- vote PR with a list, as used in the European Elections, seems to be predicated on a complicated mathematical or statistical distortion of one person -one -vote If Clegg had extracted pure PR with a list from the Tories in return for this squalid coalition I could have understood his betrayal. And in a referendum I would also have voted for pure PR with a list. As a system it would have made safe seats impossible and its introduction could enable the House of Lords to become a fully elected chamber very quickly. As it is I shall vote no to AV in the referendum and wait for the next general election to punish Clegg and Cameron. I am voting as my principles dictate and I assume that others will do too. But Mathew, are all the proponents of consensual politics as intolerant as you are?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 4th May '11 - 11:24am

    @MacK”And in a referendum I would also have voted for pure PR with a list. As a system it would have made safe seats impossible”

    Well safe seats would have been impossible since they would no longer exist. But I bet those near the top of the party list would feel pretty comfortable.

  • Pete Rowberry 4th May '11 - 11:33am

    Well said Chris. I can’t agree with your energy policy and I don’t agree with Liberal Democrat compromises on key policies such as the graduate tax, but on this one I say an almighty YES!

  • @toryboysnevergrowup

    “Well safe seats would have been impossible since they would no longer exist”

    Precisely my point.

  • Can someone please explain to me what this “progressive majority” is, and how they have validated it?

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '11 - 12:38pm

    MacK

    I am voting no to AV not to punish Clegg or Cameron but because I believe, as a genuine matter of principle, in one -person, one- vote and that every other system, except pure one -person, one- vote PR with a list, as used in the European Elections, seems to be predicated on a complicated mathematical or statistical distortion of one person -one -vote

    The choice we have tomorrow is between AV and FPTP. A “No” win will be seen as an endorsement of FPTP. A “Yes” win will be seen as a tentative move away and could be followed by further moves away to a better system. STV, by the way, is a purer version of one-person-one-vote than a party list system. A party list system is really just STV where people are constrained to put their preferences in just a few limited patterns instead of free to put together whatever preference list they like.

    I am not sure what you mean by “complicated” with regards to AV. The algorithm, in terms of how it elects individual MPs, is very simple, and I’d be embarrassed to call it “complicated”, it would be like admitting I am illiterate. In terms of how int translates to a whole Parliament, it is complicated, but so is FPTP. How many voters can explain why FPTP can sometimes lead to the party with the most votes not having the most seats? In conversation, I have found most voters astonished when one tells them that actually FPTP does NOT mean the number of seats each party has is the same as its share of votes nationwide. Anyone who thinks FPTP is “simple” should try explaining all this on the doorstep.


    But Mathew, are all the proponents of consensual politics as intolerant as you are?

    I am intolerant of lies, hypocrisy, the power of money used to push down the power of the individual, and most of all, stupidity. And the “No to AV” campaign, and almost all the arguments I have seen put publicly for a “No” vote, are nothing but a mixture of these things.

  • Dave'shistoryteacher 4th May '11 - 1:26pm

    @Matthew Huntbach “I am intolerant of lies, hypocrisy, the power of money used to push down the power of the individual, and most of all, stupidity.”

    You may well be right, but as a technique for winning friends and influencing people it has little to commend it. Perhaps you should remember that “Good is an attribute, the meaning of which is indefinable”

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    “I am intolerant of lies, hypocrisy, the power of money used to push down the power of the individual, and most of all, stupidity.”

    As some one who came to the Yes campaign for research I would have to say that No don’t have a monopoly on these attributes – especially the stupity part (who in their right mind would use an organisation to promote their cause if the said organisation had spent years saying it was wrong – it’s akin to using a Green PR company to promote coal fired power generation).

    I’ve noted your previous comments about the Yes campaign, are you sure that this isn’t redirected anger – it being easier to blame your opponents than admit in your heart how truly awful the Yes campaign has been and how they may have totally ruined the chance of this change happening?

  • @Mathew Huntbach

    ‘I am not sure what you mean by “complicated” with regards to AV. The algorithm, in terms of how it elects individual MPs, is very simple, and I’d be embarrassed to call it “complicated”,’

    As this is a political site I was reflecting on the political consequences in terms of the public’s perception of the relative complication of AV and other alternatives to FPTP. The key concept being the apparent distortion of a pure one-person, one-vote by more apparently “complicated” systems which involve an element of numerical legerdemain. The attraction of FPTP, of course, is that it does not require the use of any algorithms whatsoever to produce a result. The no campaign has capitalised on this by producing on separate pages of its leaflet explanations of both AV and FPTP. The explanation of FPTP takes just four short sentences. The explanation of AV takes three lengthy paragraphs. That’s why to the voters AV appears “complicated.” But really, Mathew, if you think that because someone disagrees with you they are illiterate or stupid than you are much, much more than intolerant. . And there was I thinking you were part of the so called Huhnite “progressive majority”.

  • Kevin Colwill 4th May '11 - 2:47pm

    I came on here with a fair bit of Schadenfreude in my poor old broken left of centre heart. I confess, however, the debate has encouraged me to think more deeply about the substantive issue of AV and my conclusion is that AV is very much worse than I first thought!
    My support for electoral reform is based on the premise that every vote should genuinely count. That means fairness for minority parties that find their support spread too thinly to impact under FPTP and fairness for voters in safe seats were overwhelming numbers of votes still only elect one MP.
    AV offers nothing for either group. In a safe seat it gives you absolutely nothing beyond pointless exercise in rank ordering. In a marginal it gives a supporter of a minority party the illusion of voting for the candidate of their choice but even as they put their 1 on the ballot paper they know that vote will be binned and their 2nd or 3rd choice will become the one that genuinely matters.
    If I may personalise things, AV won’t help me vote Green or Labour in my Tory/Lib Dem area. I could register my support for these parties with my 1st preference but if I want a vote that influences the outcome I have to chose Lib Dem or Tory with my 2nd or perhaps 3rd preference. AV offers me nothing meaningful.
    AV can only be of significant benefit a party like the Lib Dems that’s likely to draw second choices from both of the major parties and the Greens. I can see the narrow appeal to a Lib Dem supporter and don’t blame you for wanting it. Only do I want to help you?
    I’ve never voted for any party except the Lib Dems and I’ve been around a long time! Only I wasn’t paying much attention, my fault I know, I heard what I wanted to hear about civil liberties, ditching trident, localism etc. Most of all I looked at the bar charts and the “it’s us or the Tory” that headlined every Lib Dem leaflet. But I didn’t notice the shift to the economic right and I didn’t see how much common cause Lib Dems had with Cameron Tories.
    So, do I really want to do anything that helps you unless it also helps me? No. I want proper PR (I want to win the lottery and I won’t get that either) and I don’t want to help the Lib Dems. So AV is a firm NO with only a hint of Schadenfreude.

  • Stuart Mitchell 4th May '11 - 7:49pm

    Matthew Huntbach: “I will accept it if they demonstrate it by giving me a logical, honest and numerate argument for their position. As yet I have not met any opponent of AV who has given me such an argument.”

    That’s because you have convinced yourself that your position is the only one that is capable of being right.

    Ultimately this referendum boils down to a bunch of highly subjective judgement calls, such as :-

    * Should 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) preferences be given the same weight as first preferences?
    * Is an election in which a candidate comes 2nd (or 3rd) on first preferences but wins thanks to lower preferences more or less fair than an election in which the candidate with the first preferences wins?
    * Is it fair that some voters will vote for multiple parties while other voters support only one? Does this run against the one-person-one-vote principle?
    * Will AV be more likely to result in hung Parliaments, and would this outcome be desirable?

    There are others. Numbers and logic don’t actually come into it much. This is about fairness. My own answers to these questions lead me inexorably in the No direction, but I respect those who think differently. Ticking whatever box tomorrow will not make anybody an idiot, liar, cheat, or crypto-Tory.

    Going way back to the original article, there is nobody who’d like to see a united progressive majority in this country more than I. But I do find it quite ludicrous, after everything that’s happened this past year, for Huhne to want such a “coalition” on THIS of all issues. Why not have a progressive majority fighting for lower tuition fees, or to stop the Tories’ crazy health and education plans? Do those issues pale into insignificance, compared to the possibility of notching up an extra 25 Lib Dem MPs tomorrow? That’s how it looks from here. I will be absolutely astonished to hear Huhne or Clegg or any of the others refer to this “progressive majority” again between now and May 2015.

  • “I will be absolutely astonished to hear Huhne or Clegg or any of the others refer to this “progressive majority” again between now and May 2015.”

    No need to be astonished as this “progressive majority” is a myth – a poorly-defined one at that.

    Progressive applies to tax rates. For all else, use the term Liberal.

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th May '11 - 7:59am

    Tabman: “Progressive applies to tax rates. For all else, use the term Liberal.”

    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/view/entry/m_en_gb0665290#m_en_gb0665290

    Lossely, “progressive” is the opposite of (small-c) conservative.

    I’m quite happy to define myself as “liberal”, but not “Liberal”.

  • @Stuart Mitchell.

    “Ultimately this referendum boils down to a bunch of highly subjective judgement calls, ”

    Very well put. You describe the public perception of the AV debate succinctly. And in politics the public perception is almost all that matters.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th May '11 - 2:40pm

    chris_sh

    I’ve noted your previous comments about the Yes campaign, are you sure that this isn’t redirected anger – it being easier to blame your opponents than admit in your heart how truly awful the Yes campaign has been and how they may have totally ruined the chance of this change happening?

    Admit it in my heart? I’ve been saying it loudly in public for weeks.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th May '11 - 2:56pm

    Stuart Mtchell

    * Should 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) preferences be given the same weight as first preferences?

    Why should the weight of your vote differ depending on how many similar candidates choose to stand? Suppose a very obscure candidate who no-one knows stands, but you know this person and know he’s really good, so that person would be your first choice even though because he is unknown few others will vote for him. Why should the fact that that person chose to stand mean what would otherwise be your vote gets weakened? Or why should you feel forced to give your vote to someone who isn’t really your first choice in order to avoid “splitting the vote”? Suppose now ten unknown but very good people stand – so the “big party” choice you would have made is now your real 11th preference? Why should your vote for that person be weakened just because those 10 unknowns chose to stand? Or suppose that by accident two people of identical views chose to stand. Those people get 30% each, the other candidate standing gets 40% and wins “first by the post”. Why then should a person who would have won not win not because of anything that person did but because someone else chose to stand? Suppose 10 people all of identical views stood, and they each got 9%. Why do you then think the person who has different views from 90% should win because he gets 10%?

    * Is an election in which a candidate comes 2nd (or 3rd) on first preferences but wins thanks to lower preferences more or less fair than an election in which the candidate with the first preferences wins?

    See above.

    * Is it fair that some voters will vote for multiple parties while other voters support only one? Does this run against the one-person-one-vote principle?

    No, there are repeated rounds of election, and in every round every vote is counted once. What you say is ridiculous because it is simply not the case that some votes get counted more than others. Consider the USA, where they have primary elections. Do you say there is not “one person one vote” there because of that? Do you say that a person who voted Edwards in the Democratic primary and Obama in the general election got two votes, while the person who voted Obama in the primary and Obama in the general election got only one vote?

    * Will AV be more likely to result in hung Parliaments, and would this outcome be desirable?

    If you believe it best for representation to be distorted in favour of the largest party, you should support a system which is designed to do that and says how it will do it, rather than one which only does it because of geographic accident. No such system was on the ballot paper, therefore the question is irrelevant.

  • Kevin Colwill wrote:

    “In a marginal it gives a supporter of a minority party the illusion of voting for the candidate of their choice but even as they put their 1 on the ballot paper they know that vote will be binned and their 2nd or 3rd choice will become the one that genuinely matters.”

    But currently the supporter of a minority party has their first choice binned, and then they have no choice at all that genuinely matters. Which is worse?

    It’s clear that you don’t see any value in registering your support for a minor candidate. So for you the chance to vote sincerely isn’t meaningful. But many voters do consider it to be meaningful, to the extent that currently they actually chose to cast a wasted vote. Surely you see that AV is of benefit to those voters?

    The existence of these non-tactical voters means that FPTP produces very arbitrary results, determined by how many candidates happen to be running, rather than by the will of the majority.

  • Stuart Mitchell,

    I think the judgment calls you describe are not so hard if the matter is given serious thought. Most of the anti-AV arguments only work on the most superficial level.

    *”Should 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) preferences be given the same weight as first preferences?”

    The number of first preference received by a candidate is entirely arbitrary, because it is determined by how many candidates happen to be running and how similar they are to each other. The same goes for 2nd preferences, 3rd preferences, and so on.

    The number of first preferences is not a measure of “popularity” or intensity of support or anything else. A large number of lower preferences does not indicate that a candidate is “inoffensive” or the “least worse”. An order of preference is just an order of preference. The voter is not asked to grade the candidates. That would be a different voting system.

    I’ve made this point repeatedly to anti-AV people and they have never attempted to respond. Perhaps because they can’t. It’s not an objective value judgement, it’s a simple matter of logic.

    * Is an election in which a candidate comes 2nd (or 3rd) on first preferences but wins thanks to lower preferences more or less fair than an election in which the candidate with the first preferences wins?

    The only question that matters is do a majority of voters prefer candidate X to the FPTP winner? You can’t answer that by counting first preferences alone.

    If a candidate supported by few or no first preferences is favoured by the majority to the FPTP winner then he should be elected. No one’s ever explained to me why in such a case the will of the majority should be overturned.

    * Is it fair that some voters will vote for multiple parties while other voters support only one? Does this run against the one-person-one-vote principle?

    AV is not contrary to “one person, one vote”. That argument is totally unserious. I would elaborate but this subject has been discussed to death in plenty of other places.

    * Will AV be more likely to result in hung Parliaments, and would this outcome be desirable?

    This is a question about which reasonable people can disagree.

  • Kevin Colwill 6th May '11 - 11:50am

    Modicum… a final word from me on this thread.

    Perhaps I’d think differently if I hadn’t been brought up on bar charts and “it’s us or the Tories” Lib Dem slogans 🙂

    As it is, under FPTP, a principled individual making a vote for a party that has no chance of winning gets a shake of the hand from me – my heart is with him. A individual, me for example, who might prefer a candidate from a minority party but who votes tactically for the least bad candidate that can actually win will get a shake of the hand too- my head is with him.

    AV might seem a chance to do both at the same election. I’ll give you that it has that merit. I still can’t get my head around the harsh fact that I’ll always see my only real choice as being between those who could win and my only real vote the vote that has a chance to effect the outcome.

    For that reason I come to conclude a form of open party list PR is the one that most helps me out of my fix.

    With that I withdraw.

  • I spoiled my ballot. AV is not any better than FPTP. AV can actually make it harder for small parties to get into power, could the Greens have got an MP under AV for example. So if you support only some of the small parties AV will not help you, in fact it will do even more than FPTP will to ensure there is not an MP to represent your views.

    I refuse to choose between a kick in the teeth and a kick in the balls. If that means I’ll get one of them anyway which I’ve had no say over then so be it, better than getting one after have freely chosen it.

    All AV would do (in Britain’s case) is turn the UK from a 2 party system into a 3 party system. After seeing the Lib Dems screw over the students in England for the deputy PM role and an AV vote, giving the Lib Dems a free pass into power at every election is not something I’m willing to vote for.

  • Reg Barritt 8th May '11 - 9:49pm

    In terms of healthy democratic practice the AV referendum was a disastrous and horrific failure. Neither the Yes or No campaigns come out of this with any credit. It was turned into a dirty business that saw the campaigners fail to educate in place of which they did much to indoctrinate, cheat, misguide, mislead, distract and destroy the real needs of an increased diverse electorate.

    The Liberal Democrat leadership in its haste to share power and gain cabinet posts take much of the blame for they in the process forgot to adhere to the key principal upon which many have justified voting for them on over the years following the forging of the Alliance with the SDP.

    That principal being to essentially stick to an uncompromising just and fair (‘just and fair’ being the cornerstone of the support given to them by ‘their sort of people’) position on certain key issues in favour of the people rather than the self interests of the cosy Westminster club; in this case a required continued commitment to the need to introduce use of the single transferable vote used in multi member constituencies for UK Parliamentary elections. A long standing requirement ofso many Lib Dem supporters, and the one system in this country the rest of the electorate was and is likely to seriously consider given the chance.

    So many citizens who would have supported this option in a referendum were indeed so angered by the naive and misguided wheeler dealing that lead to the rubbish choice that was offered that, along with similar anger against them and their actions as coalition partners on a couple of other key issues (that caused such devastation to their elected ranks in the local election contest), that they voted NO to AV while wanting STV. Not every NO vote to AV was a YES vote to FPP.

    For its part the NO case made against AV was worthy only of a regime operating in the worst sort of third world banana republic.

    A questionable cartel of interests including such as senior politicians, media moguls and serious reactionaries made sure the process of choosing between AV and FPP was not one that led to a decision based on education and enlightenment but rather on scare mongering and downright lying.

    The Prime Minister made himself party to offering the people this squalid little third rate choice as he along with Nick Clegg chose to describe AV as an alternative to our outdated and unrepresentative FPP system. How cynical, and no choice at all really. It is ironic that Mr Cameron actually came second in the first round of voting for the Tory Party leadership; winning through under AV on second preferences! A man clearly happy to bite off the hand that promoted him, and to deny to others what he is happy to have gained from.

    The PM may feel stronger and more empowered as a result of the overwhelming rejection by the people of AV but he makes a serious error if he does so. Not only Nick Clegg’s credibility but also his own has been seriously damaged by way of the processing of this referendum.

    The outcome for the people is that significant numbers of people in this country are left disempowered and aggrieved and more angry and disillusioned than before; and that has to be a significant worry for those who ask us to trust in the democratic process as it operates in the UK. What has been proven in this sorry affair is that it is not under the stewardship of this government worthy of such trust.

    So there you have it; a view albeit obviously of little worth to this ruling elite from outside the cesspool that is Westminster politics.

    Depressing is it not?

    Reg Barritt

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