AV is a sham

by Darrell Goodliffe

It seems that serious battle is being joined within Labour over the alternative vote (AV) referendum. MPs supporting the “No” campaign have been adversely criticised by Labour “yes” for abandoning their manifesto commitment to hold a referendum. In truth, no party is bound by a manifesto commitment that has been submitted to and rejected by voters. Consider the consequences if it were: presumably. Labour “yes” thinks that we are still bound to commitments made in manifestos throughout the 80s? Maybe, in some cases, it would be better if we were. But insisting that commitments made in a losing manifesto are binding is nonsense.

The battle in Labour over AV will be hard-fought because the stakes are high. In all likelihood, the side on which Labour voters eventually come down will decide the outcome of the referendum. I will vote no. Not because I believe in first past the post (FPTP) – although I think it is superior to AV – but because I believe that AV is the wrong reform. Those who support AV in the expectation that it will lead to further reform are sadly misguided.

Let us assume that on 5 May the public votes for AV. Who will then go on to initiate further reform? It certainly will not be the Conservatives.

Nor will it be Labour. Ed Miliband, and the majority of the leading figures in Labour “yes”, have made their view clear: it is “AV and no further”.

Given the widely expected electoral wipe out of the Liberal Democrats – under whichever system – it will not be them.

And since smaller parties do not gain substantially under AV, as it makes getting a representative elected harder, it will not be them either.

It also seems unlikely that there will be much public appetite for another costly referendum on the issue. The question comrades have to answer is: where will this impetus for further change come from?

AV is presented as delivering “fairer votes”. But the reality of how the system will operate means that this claim does not stack up. Votes will still be wasted. In a marginal, only the first preferences for the main contenders will count, as they will not be eliminated. This will discourage supporters of the main parties from casting votes for smaller parties.

Tactical voting will still exist. But the locus of the tactical battle will be in how preferences are distributed. Larger parties will naturally chase smaller parties, in a desperate bid to win their second preferences. And they will, therefore, be disproportionately subordinate to their programmes.

AV will not increase the chances of smaller parties winning a seat. The 50% threshold makes this less likely than with a simple majority system. Caroline Lucas, for example, was elected with 31% of the vote in Brighton Pavilion. The reason smaller parties do not win more seats under FPTP is down to the scarcity of resources, the cost of campaigning and the geographical density of their smaller support. None of these are issues addressed by the introduction of AV.

Voting for a smaller party as your first preference will still be a “wasted vote”. Since this is the case, the likelihood of smaller parties’ vote increasing is slim to non-existent. And there is no real point in voters of larger parties giving them lower preferences either.

The “yes” campaign is based on a complex web of half-truths, spin and downright lies. They are not being honest with the public about the system they are supporting. This is hardly surprising given the AV referendum’s origins in Nick Clegg’s “miserable little compromise”. So the battle being joined within Labour is a welcome development. It gives us a chance to expose the sham that AV is.

Darrell Goodliffe writes the Moments of Clarity blog.


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21 Responses to “AV is a sham”

  1. The drive to more reform will be an AV general election with 15%-25% of 1st preferences being for parties/candidates that get ZERO seats.

    The first election under AV will make explicit and undeniable the democratic deficit –

    The best candidates will have won and become MPs – but the fact that parliament as currently constructed leaves so many un (or under) represented will be the trigger for further reform.

    I have yet to see a coherent argument in favour of FPTP. There are a few standard letters doing the rounds that have been totally debunked and discredited – but noone seems prepared to stand up and actually debate if themselves!

  2. Naturally Labour are allowed to abandon manifesto pledges. And naturally, any attempt to hold an opposition party to their pledges is ridiculous, and you might as well order that they hold to their manifesto pledges of decades ago. Naturally.

    I do take issue, however, with the part about there being no likelihood of future reform if AV is implemented. You make the point that parties cannot be expected to hold to their pledges (whilst, I imagine, shunning the Lib Dems for breaking their own) – and then assure us that, because Ed Miliband has said so, we will see no further reform after AV (if it is implemented). I fail to see the logic, especially considering Labour’s track record on AV.

    Furthermore, you believe ‘AV is the wrong reform’. This suggests that you believe other reforms are preferable. How exactly do you expect these other reforms to come about if the country votes ‘no’, as you would have it do? If we do say no to this one, relatively small change, by what logic will we say yes to the implementation of any greater one?

    Another point – AV will not increase the chances of small parties winning seats. because it won’t give them more resources or money or campaign strategies or better distribution of voters. What?! The primary reason that small parties do not win seats under FPTP is not because they are under-funded, it is because FPTP grossly under-represents them! With First Past The Post, large parties gain more of the seat share than that to which they are entitled, and smaller parties less. I bid you examine the statistics from the 2010 General Election and then tell me that FPTP does not discriminate against minor parties.

    Finally, the comment about AV’s support being based on ‘half-truths’ and even ‘downright lies’…I can’t argue with this because there is nothing with which to argue; I have yet to see even a trace of evidence for this point. As far as I am aware, the Yes to AV campaign is based on commitment to democracy; not party policy and not any political agenda. I wish I could say the same for the advocates of No.

  3. Darrell says:

    @Paul,

    So, your argument is basically that AV is so rubbish that people will push for further reform on those grounds? Not really a convincing sell is it….

    @Elenor,

    The logic is this. The number of Labour supporters of electoral reform to something approaching PR is very low indeed (personally I hate STV, prefer some form of AMS). It has a tiny (if existent at all) support within the PLP. The unions certainly dont want it and its hardly the top preoccupation of the Labour membership either (which is likely to be further drained of enthusiasm by a bitter battle over AV). No pressure you see, that’s the logic.

    I do support AMS as a transitional demand to move aware from representative democracy. Put simply, the only route is to try and ask the emerging anti-cuts/anti-government movement to adopt it as a democratic demand. Of course, if this did happen then my point above would be invalidated and you might be proved right and EDM may change course. However, that is one strategy to win a better reform.

    Your wrong there – thats why parties like the Greens, wrongly in my view, campaign for state funding of parties. AV doesnt represent them any better, in fact by placing a 50% threshold on getting elected it makes it harder for them to get elected than it is under FPTP. Study Australia where the Greens struggle as much under AV as they do here under FPTP.

    I have given some example here…’fairer votes’ ‘end to tactical voting’; these are half truths and lies the Yes camp tells.

  4. I appreciate that there are few Labour supporters of STV, but the issue is every bit as valid as regards AMS. If you want AMS, campaigning against reform is hardly the answer.

    Furthermore, you appear to be attacking the very feature of AV that makes candidates so much more accountable: it requires all MPs to gain the support of 50% of their constituents (as opposed to the meagre 30% or so that many candidates struggle on at the moment, leaving a majority of the constituency unrepresented.)

    I would argue that votes are fairer under AV, as fewer are discarded and thus fewer are left without a voice, and also that the sort of tactical voting popular under FPTP (voting for Labour/the Tories in order to keep the Tories/Labour out, when really you would much rather vote for a minor party) will be vastly diminished upon the adoption of AV.

  5. Brian Lawton says:

    Labour doesn’t have to stick to its manifesto, but it would be good to hear why they’d changed their minds on the issue. Simply saying that it’s not what the public voted for suggests that your party would change what it stands for based on popularity rather than principle. Why did your party think it was the right reform before the election, and what’s changed about it since?

    It’s all very well saying that further reform won’t be pressed for after a ‘Yes’ vote but, as Eleanor said so well, you’ve not suggested that there would be any reform at all after a ‘No’ vote either. For the very reasons you suggest, change won’t be pushed for by any party after a ‘No’ vote either: where will this impetus for change come from? It also seems unlikely that, after a ‘no’ vote, there will be much public appetite for another costly referendum on the issue.

    You’ve said of ‘fairer votes’ that “the reality of how the system will operate means that this claim does not stack up. Votes will still be wasted” The key point here is that fewer votes will be wasted, thus making it fairer, as Eleanor also said, even though the system will remain imperfect. So you clearly haven’t explained why the Yes campaign is lying about ‘fairer votes’, if indeed it is.

    “Larger parties will naturally chase smaller parties, in a desperate bid to win their second preferences.” Unnecessarily emotive use of the word ‘desperate’. It’s surely a good thing for parties to broaden their appeal rather than encouraging people to vote A simply to stop B getting in. And you clearly haven’t explained why the Yes campaign is lying about ‘an end to tactical voting’, if indeed it is.

    “None of these are issues addressed by the introduction of AV.” Once again, this applies at least equally to retaining First Past The Post.

    And then you say “They are not being honest with the public about the system they are supporting.” Please tell me you’re trying to be ironic: you appear to be being hypocritical to say the least!

    The referendum isn’t about AV versus the perfect system so, instead of simply criticising the imperfections of AV, perhaps you would care to explain why FPTP serves the public better than AV does.

  6. Richard Manns says:

    @ Paul Perrin

    Where did this 15-25% come from? You don’t see it in Australia, nor Fiji, and just about nowhere else uses it. You’ve just made it up.

    Otherwise, there are quite clear arguments for FPTP, as one might assume, given its ubiquity across the world.
    It provides most elections with a majority for one party, ensuring that the result is a deal between the electorate and the winner, not a deal between parties post-hoc.
    It ensures division in Parliament, forcing debates and rivalry and competition.
    It ensures that no politician is more than 30,000 votes from losing their job, where PR allows parties to rank and therefore ensures that a politician’s seat is far more dependent upon the central party than the electorate.

    And, of course, the most powerful point is that all this reform is advocated by parties who’d gain from it the most, with the LDs wanting AV or some form of PR, anything to take the decision of the election from the electorate to the centre-party kingmakers, who’d have the sayregardless of the electorates’ wishes. Isn’t that enough to be wary? The Tories’ one MSP argued against these systems in 1999, even though his seat relied upon it.

    FPTP allows change, and amplifies the swings of preference to give opposing camps a proper majority, without the protection of “we would, only our allies X…” You only have to see Alex Salmond’s salivation at the prospect of a hung parliament in May, planning to “hang Westminster by a Scottish rope”, to know what smaller parties would happily do.

    It’s not perfect, but votes aren’t “wasted” in FPTP; your party simply didn’t win. Do you see 2nd-place 100m sprinters demanding 40% of the gold medal? No, you do not. 100% or nothing. There’s a reason for that, and if you see what it is, you understand the strength of FPTP.

  7. David Gould says:

    The vote is between FPTP and AV. Why aren’t any other options on the ballot?

    Because we don’t have democratic representation.

    Why have only the Tories and Labour won every election in the last 60 years in spite of being mostly awful?

    Because FPTP is anti-democratic.

    Why did Labour break a promise to have a referendum on electoral reform in 1997?

    Because neither of the two parties which alternately win under FPTP want to give up that power.
    If we don’t take this opportunity for reform we will have to wait decades, maybe over a century for another one.

    You clearly don’t understand AV.

    You wrote “In a marginal, only the first preferences for the main contenders will count, as they will not be eliminated.”

    In a 3-way marginal, they will be.

    You continued: “This will discourage supporters of the main parties from casting votes for smaller parties.”

    And yet many will. Where is this opportunity under FPTP? Oh yes, it doesn’t exist.

    “Tactical voting will still exist.”

    It will be pointless. AV, like STV, eliminates FPTP’s incentive to vote tactically completely. If you want to vote for eg an independent who’ll gain 100 votes total, go ahead and do it. Your independent candidate will be eliminated first and your 2nd preferences will be counted in full.

    Again, this isn’t an argument in favour of FPTP vs AV. FPTP is still worse than even your mistaken assumption.

    Next paragraph:
    “AV will not increase the chances of smaller parties winning a seat. The 50% threshold makes this less likely than with a simple majority system. Caroline Lucas, for example, was elected with 31% of the vote in Brighton Pavilion.”

    Your argument being that 31% is less than 50% so she and other small party candidates wouldn’t get elected under AV? It’s hard to know where to begin with such broken logic.

    Caroline Lucus, like all MPs, will win if enough second, third maybe fourth etc preferences are transferred to her to bring her total to 50%. Furthermore, all the people who didn’t vote for her because they thought she couldn’t win would have put her first under AV.

    Funnily enough, all the smaller parties are in favour of AV. Except the BNP of course as the inherent tactical voting in AV will keep them out permanently.

    “The reason smaller parties do not win more seats under FPTP is down to the scarcity of resources, the cost of campaigning and the geographical density of their smaller support. None of these are issues addressed by the introduction of AV.”

    And here you prove you don’t understand FPTP either.

    The main reason smaller parties don’t win more seats is because potential voters don’t expect them to get enough votes and would rather choose a second preference over a third or lower preference.

    Partly, that’s a good thing. But it’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps small parties small.

    Every potential voter for a small party understands this. It’s a shame they didn’t write this article and not you.

  8. Old Slaughter says:

    Going back on your manifesto is like criticising the dead. All a matter of timing.

    The thing with recommending a policy to the electorate and then immediately after losing opposing said policy is that it tends to illustrat that your policy was pure politics. That you are willing to recommend that which suits above that which you believe.

    So no, you are not bound to a losing manifesto, it is however still appropriate to call you low down opportunist hacks for the switch.

  9. Darrell says:

    @Elenor,

    I want AMS as a transitional demand so yes it is the answer. The emerging anti-government movement which is the shining hope of extending democracy should not be encouraged to campaign or support a device (the av referendum) aimed to curtailing reform by limiting itself to a ‘reform’ that is actually worse than the status quo.

    That does not make them more accountable. It makes them less so because they will simply say ‘well I have 50%+ and that is my mandate; now I will do as I please’. Your ignoring the deeply and inherently flawed nature of representative democracy.

    I dont think either of those arguments stands up to serious examination. The first preference of smaller party voters is still wasted as are the lower preferences of larger parties. This leads us onto the point that tactical voting doesn’t vanish or even diminish; it just shifts to all being about how you tactically distribute your preferences so tactical voting does not diminish; it just moves to being somewhere else.

  10. Darrell says:

    @Brian,

    I suspect they probably saw it as a gambit for a deal with the Lib Dems. Some probably genuinely believe in it but to expect me to answer for the entire party is a little steep I am sure you will agree.

    I clearly have outlined this both in my comments and what I write so no need for a response there.

    No actually I dont think that is true; if anything the vote ‘wastage’ will be higher and all votes will in fact have a ‘wasted’ aspect. For smaller Party voters the ‘wasted’ aspect remains their first choice ie, their vote for a smaller party. Larger Party voters will be wasting their time casting any more preferences than their first (which also gives the lie to the myth it will ‘encourage’ them to support smaller parties; it simply wont because their first choice will not be eliminated therefore this support will be as non-existant as it was under FPTP).

    No it isnt because thats exactly what it will be. No it isnt actually because it leads to the kind of opportunism you seem to be decrying in your first paragraph. Phil Woolas will become the new norm as the pressure will be on especially Labour candidates to try and reach out to those voting BNP as their first preference. I cannot believe you would see this as a good thing. AV hands some power to minorities but not in a direct accountable and democratic way; in an unaccountable and undemocratic way because these parties do not get more representatives elected (which are therefore in a position to be held to account) they just wield power as ginger groups whose second preferences are needed.

    I agree about that but given the other negatives of AV (FPTP is on balance a flawed but better system in my eyes). No I am not being ironic. Half of the supporters of AV are arguing for it as if it is STV which it isn’t and its disingenuous to pretend it is.

    I think its better because it is actually (marginally) more likely that smaller parties can make a breakthrough (no threshold) into representative politics. Its better because it doesn’t transfer the power that it does to the second preferences of smaller party voters (a numerically small group) in an democratically unaccountable way.

    @Richard,

    Some good points.

    @David,

    I think that’s unlikely even in a three way marginal. I would expect somebody to reach 50% before the three main contenders are eliminated and even if that’s not true, the lower preferences of the big two still will be.

    No it doesnt. Thats a truly absurd claim which isnt backed up by actual fact. Not only did tactical voting take place during the Labour leadership election (held under AV) but it was actively encouraged by all campaigns I would presume.

    Your logic is very broken because its assumed that, for example,

    “all the people who didn’t vote for her because they thought she couldn’t win would have put her first under AV.”

    I doubt that will be so. In fact, I would imagine Lucas would have probably lost to Labour had AV been in place. Your ignoring the fact a substantial minority in the Greens, for example, are clearly not for AV. Indeed it was a close run thing as to whether they would support it at all.

    No, that’s ridiculous and its form of psychological denial. Its a bit like the Liberal Democrats who currently claim their unpopularity is down to lack of media coverage or SWPers who claim they are not a mass party because not enough copies of Socialist Worker have been sold. One of the reasons small parties are also very small that I didnt mention is the fact that the number of people who support their views is actually errrr small. They tend to be more narrowly defined in popular perception too (this is one good reason, for example, UKIP do appallingly badly in Westminster but not Euro elections; they are seen very much as an avenue for ‘venting’ Euroskepticism; similarly the Greens environmental concerns and the BNP immigration issues). I know each Party has a much broader program than that but I don’t think many people are aware of that and this comes down to resource based and media bias issues that wouldn’t be changed a jot by the introduction of AV.

    @Old

    Well the timing was something outside of Labour’s control. All we have learnt is something that was always true regardless of what was in the manifesto; Labour is divided on electoral reform.

  11. David Gould says:

    “I think that’s unlikely even in a three way marginal. I would expect somebody to reach 50% before the three main contenders are eliminated and even if that’s not true, the lower preferences of the big two still will be.”

    A 3 way marginal implies the top three parties getting at least 75% of the vote.

    Split three ways that’s 25% each and 25% for the non-contenders.

    In other words, all the non-contenders would have to put the same party 2nd in order for the 3rd party’s second preferences to not count.

    Compare with the top three parties getting 90% of the vote or 30% each. The 10% of non-contender preferences won’t take any of the top three parties anywhere near 50%.

    You’re just going to have to concede this point.

    “No it doesnt. Thats a truly absurd claim which isnt backed up by actual fact. Not only did tactical voting take place during the Labour leadership election (held under AV) but it was actively encouraged by all campaigns I would presume.”

    Using words such as “absurd” merely indicate your lack of a case.
    I never said that tactical voting wouldn’t take place, merely that it was pointless.

    Either way I presume you won’t deny that the need for tactical voting is hugely reduced under AV?

    “Your logic is very broken because its assumed that, for example,

    “all the people who didn’t vote for her because they thought she couldn’t win would have put her first under AV.”

    I doubt that will be so.”

    So because you doubt it, my logic is broken??? Wow.

    “In fact, I would imagine Lucas would have probably lost to Labour had AV been in place.”

    You can imagine all you want but evidence is required to back up an assertion.

    “Your ignoring the fact a substantial minority in the Greens, for example, are clearly not for AV. Indeed it was a close run thing as to whether they would support it at all.”

    No, I’m not ignoring that. I’m merely stating a fact, that the Greens and all other parties are in favour of a Yes result. Show us evidence of a substantial Green support for FPTP and it will still be irrelevant.

    “No, that’s ridiculous and its form of psychological denial. Its a bit like the Liberal Democrats who currently claim their unpopularity is down to lack of media coverage or SWPers who claim they are not a mass party because not enough copies of Socialist Worker have been sold.
    One of the reasons small parties are also very small that I didnt mention is the fact that the number of people who support their views is actually errrr small. They tend to be more narrowly defined in popular perception too (this is one good reason, for example, UKIP do appallingly badly in Westminster but not Euro elections; they are seen very much as an avenue for ‘venting’ Euroskepticism; similarly the Greens environmental concerns and the BNP immigration issues). I know each Party has a much broader program than that but I don’t think many people are aware of that and this comes down to resource based and media bias issues that wouldn’t be changed a jot by the introduction of AV.”

    True and I did not deny this.

    In fact, I could make a case that voting for a smaller party under FPTP is irrational and that smaller parties are deliberately targetting irrational voters.

    The fact remains that a self-fulfilling prophecy that not enough people will vote for small parties to make our own vote for them worthwhile keeps any small parties small under FPTP. There may be the odd exception where a hung parliament somehow makes enough people believe but this is a hugley anti-democratic bias that AV eliminates.

  12. Praguetory says:

    Appalling badly argued original post. I can see how your blog got its name.

    Your assertion that ‘in a marginal only the first preferences for the main contenders will count’ is patently untrue!

    In fact the whole post is so misinformed and disjointed that my only question is what the real reason is for your opposition to AV?

  13. Praguetory says:

    Reading your reply to other posters, I see that your real problem is anything that would involve the Labour Party reaching out to voters outside of its 25% – 30% core vote. Now I understand.

  14. Richard says:

    When AV was introduced in Australia, it was also flogged to the public as the first step towards more representative government. That was a century ago.

  15. Ellie says:

    I find it faintly amusing that this article was linked to by an email from the “No” campaign – an email that strongly criticises the Lib Dems (who won just 57 seats) for breaking manifesto promises and uses that as a reason for supporting FPTP. I get here and find, in the first paragraph, that a case is being made that parties should not be held to manifesto promises rejected by voters.

    So, putting that more concisely, FPTP will prevent exactly the sort of behaviour that this proponent of FPTP is showing clearly we get a large amount of under the existing system and advocating we should have more of. Logic:fail.

  16. Darrell says:

    @Praguetory,

    It patently is true. If it isnt then kindly please do tell me how many of the second preferences of Ed and David Miliband supporters were counted in the Labour leadership election? No that has nothing to do with it.

    @Richard,

    Good point.

    @Ellie,

    Really oh dear. If a manifesto is put to the voters and is rejected (as the Labour one was) then they are not bound by it. Its that simple really. The Liberal Democrats are in power and therefore bound by their manifesto unlike Labour who are out of power and had their manifesto rejected (therefore rendered null and void). Its that simple and highly logical. You are suffering from the logicfail.

  17. The Truth says:

    Darrell Goodliffe would find a way to f**k up a coherent argument if it popped in through his window, handcuffed him to his computer chair, and typed itself out in full. So it’s little surprise he’s failed to say anything convincing about why Labour should oppose AV.

    He’s a rabid Lib Dem hater (having once been a Lib Dem himself) who hasn’t quite grasped that many supporters of a Yes vote in the referendum belong to Labour, the Conservatives, the Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, UKIP, or (shock horror) no party at all.

    In his mind, AV is simply analogous with Cleggism, and must be stopped at all costs for that reason. He’s too stupid to actually understand the system, or to appreciate the intrinsic benefits of voting reform to ordinary people. He’s a party hack, and borderline illiterate to boot.

  18. Dean Rogers says:

    How is calling for a no vote in a referendum breaking a commitment to holding one? Is this the level of intellectual rigour left in our party? I supported having a referendum (although I expected the Lib Dems to run a “no, go for full PR” campaign fro their usual seat on the sidelines). That would have opened the debate and a good discussion about how we can make politics more accountable, relevant, transparent and hopefully eventually positive. The debate was as important as the outcome in a way.
    As it turns out the Lib Dems got into bed with the Tories and somehow AV has acquired some virtues otherwise unattributable to it. FACT- AV is first past the post with hurdles. FACT – it doesn’t ensure greater proportionality in parliament. FACT – AV is as transparent as mud. FACT – the debate is already becoming fatuous and devisive all round. FACT – the Tories have tagged on some gerrymandering for good measure becuase they just couldn’t resist.
    In my book there is only one serious choice. If you like the current system vote no. If you don’t but dislike the tories and Lib Dems more and want to pour more grief on the coalition vote no. If you believe in PR and think progressive politics needs radical change don’t sell yourself short…vote no. If it passes or falls you’ll get no nearer genuine PR in the Commons for decades. I can’t see any serious reason why any genuine Labour supporter should vote yes.

  19. Brian Lawton says:

    David Gould, Old Slaughter, PragueTory, The Truth and Ellie all make some excellent points extremely well. I notice most of these aren’t tackled by those standing up for the First Past The Post system.

    Richard, when women were first given the vote in Britain, it was also flogged to the public as a step towards more representative government. That was about a century ago. What’s your point? Would further reform in Australia have been any more likely had AV not been adopted a century ago?

    Dean, many Labour MPs voted against the Bill that introduced the referendum on AV – that is breaking a commitment to holding one. Of course, it would have been great for there to be a wider discussion about how we improve politics as a whole. Given this didn’t happen, and that neither the Tories nor Labour seemed willing to offer anything other than a referendum on AV, we are where we are and we need to make a choice between AV and FPTP. Let’s, therefore, have a look at your ‘facts’:

    What are the ‘hurdles’ associated with AV to which you refer? Why are they necessarily bad?

    Proportionality – I don’t believe the ‘Yes’ campaign is arguing that AV is more proportional than FPTP, so why bring this up at all?

    Transparancy – AV is more transparent in that people can vote for their genuine first choice without fretting that this is going to let somebody in by the back door. Subsequently, we will have a much more accurate understanding of who people actually want in power.

    Debate is becoming fatuous and divisive: yes indeed, articles such as this one, that are based on a complex web of half-truths, spin and downright lies, really don’t help.

    Gerrymandering: at the moment, the system is biased towards Labour; the other changes as I understand them, which are not subject to the referendum and therefore irrelevant to this debate, will reduce (but not eliminate) this bias. Surely you don’t think it’s fair for there to be bias in the system, even if it is towards your party of choice?

    In your final paragraph, you reveal your true intentions as well as making further fallacies: for you, it’s simply about party politics, giving a bloody nose to the coalition and, with it, a bloody nose to the people of this country and their democratic process. If you believe in PR and think progressive politics needs radical change don’t punch yourself in the nose by voting against a change – as you say, you’ll certainly get no nearer PR if the No vote is successful.

    Richard Manns: we’ve had more hung parliaments in this country in the last century under FPTP than Australia has had under AV. Hung parliaments are increasingly likely under FPTP given that an increasing proportion of people vote for parties other than the historically big two. We’ve also had situations under FPTP when the party that has gained the majority of seats has actually had fewer votes than another party. This is hardly a decent deal between the electorate and the politicians! In your defence of FPTP, you compare it with PR: this is highly misleading – AV is not proportional! Your analogy with sprinters is completely misplaced – here’s a better one:

    A group of 20 people have decided to play a sport but can’t decide whether to play football or rugby, with both rugby codes mooted. They take a vote and the results are as follows:
    Football: 8
    Rugby union: 7
    Rugby league: 5
    Under FPTP, football clearly wins even though rugby appears to be more popular. Somehow, this doesn’t quite seem fair, does it?

  20. Brian Lawton says:

    Darrell,

    You claim that the AV referendum is aimed to curtail reform, but haven’t substantiated this claim.

    By your logic, the more of a mandate someone has, the less they are accountable. Basically, your criticism of any improvement to the democratic system appears to be because you don’t really believe in democracy.

    You claim that Eleanor’s arguments don’t stand up to serious examination but criticise a point that she hasn’t made. Eleanor hasn’t claimed that there are no wasted votes under AV, just that there are fewer wasted votes. You’ve also claimed that tactical voting does not diminish, but again not substantiated this claim.

    You believe that some in your party saw AV as a gambit for a deal with the Lib Dems. This clearly isn’t a reason for thinking that AV is the right reform – it’s just political posturing. You might not know why the party has changed it’s mind, but the party needs to explain why it’s changed it’s mind to avoid it looking like playing pathetic party politics.

    I asked “where will this impetus for change come from?” I think it is this to which you’ve responded by saying “I clearly have outlined this both in my comments and what I write so no need for a response there”. Where? Please could you point me to your specific comments which address this.

    As regards wastage, more people’s votes will be counted because those who vote for candidates eliminated early on will have their second preferences counted later on. That not all second preference votes will get counted doesn’t mean that AV isn’t fairer.

    Trying to appeal to more of the electorate isn’t at odds with the idea of explaining why you’ve changed your mind on something. I’d hope that Woolas’ appalling behaviour is an exception, even within the Labour Party. But consider whether this is more or less likely in the context of AV: there would have been more second preference votes that had the potential to be transferred from both the Lib Dem candidate and the Tory candidate than from the BNP candidate, so Woolas would surely have been far more likely to try to appeal to moderate voters than to try to appeal to those considering voting for the BNP had AV been used instead of FPTP. Your suggestion that AV gives some power to minorities doesn’t seem accurate, therefore, particularly if they don’t actually get more representatives as you claim.

    Saying that half the supporters of AV are arguing for it as if it is STV is both unsubstantiated and rather irrelevant to whether or not AV is better than FPTP. Please do explain this breakthrough point you believe is more likely to hold with FPTP. Also, this transfer of power point – the first preference votes for the candidates with most first preference votes don’t lose any of their power when second preference votes for other candidates are counted. And votes transfer in an entirely democratically accountable way because it’s based on how people have actually ordered the candidates.

    Far from a perfect example, but take the result of the last election and the decision about what coalition to form. If we had known that, say, the majority of second preference votes had been for Labour where first preference votes had been for the Green Party, the Lib Dems or the Nationalists, this would have made a coalition involving Labour far more likely, making the coalition a much better reflection of what people actually wanted.

    You suggest that Caroline Lucas might not have won under AV. Would she have been “a main contender” under AV, in your opinion?

    On your response to Ellie, your logic would suggest that both the Lib Dems and the Tories are now bound by their manifestos even where they are clearly at odds. That really is logicfail.

  21. David Gould says:

    Dean Rogers says:
    (January 7, 2011 at 10:36 pm)

    “How is calling for a no vote in a referendum breaking a commitment to holding one? Is this the level of intellectual rigour left in our party?”

    It’s a bit of a farce though isn’t it. Especially when many of these Labour MPs/PPCs have been slagging off the LibDems on tuition fees for pretty much the same thing.

    In the end, I’d say MPs are morally obliged to do what they believe is best by their constitutents/the country/the world at large, regardless of prior commitments. But they may have explanations to make. 😉

    “I supported having a referendum (although I expected the Lib Dems to run a “no, go for full PR” campaign fro their usual seat on the sidelines). That would have opened the debate and a good discussion about how we can make politics more accountable, relevant, transparent and hopefully eventually positive. The debate was as important as the outcome in a way.”

    Of course, Labour made a manifesto promise to have this debate and referendum in 1997 and had 13 years to follow up.
    To not follow up is morally indefensible although how many Labour politicians could force the issue is debatable.

    What’s most important is the opportunity, the first time since universal suffrage that we have the chance to make our country more democratic. This situation has essentially been forced upon the 2 main parties. Let’s not pretend there will be another opportunity like it in the forseeable future.

    “FACT- AV is first past the post with hurdles.”

    What does this even mean?

    “FACT – it doesn’t ensure greater proportionality in parliament.”

    Taking heroin doesn’t ensure you’ll be worse off. So we should all do heroin, right?

    “FACT – AV is as transparent as mud.”

    I’m not sure if this is a slur on the Electoral Commission, the alleged stupidity of the public or both.

    “FACT – the debate is already becoming fatuous and devisive all round.”

    Only from the No2AV side *cough* Fiji *cough*.

    “FACT – the Tories have tagged on some gerrymandering for good measure becuase they just couldn’t resist.”

    Yes, making boundaries equally populated is gerrymandering.

    And resisting moves towards slightly reducing the huge electoral bias (5+%) towards Labour in the current boundaries isn’t gerrymandering.

    *facepalm*

    “If you like the current system vote no.”

    Like? Isn’t it about which system serves the electorate best?

    “If you don’t but dislike the tories and Lib Dems more and want to pour more grief on the coalition vote no.”

    Yes, whatever you do, don’t vote in the interests of the country on the first vote you’re likely to have that counts. Make sure you vote for petty, partisan reasons.

    “If you believe in PR and think progressive politics needs radical change don’t sell yourself short…vote no. If it passes or falls you’ll get no nearer genuine PR in the Commons for decades.”

    Now this really IS stupid.

    Either it favours the LibDems or doesn’t. If it does, they will be demanding STV in the next hung parliament. If it doesn’t, then no reason to vote for petty reasons as per your previous statement.

    “I can’t see any serious reason why any genuine Labour supporter should vote yes.”

    Not only are most Labour supporters planning to vote Yes!, I have several Labour activists in the Yes! Bristol campaign, one of who volunteers 10 hours a week in an office encouraging partisan and non-partisan members of the public to do the same.

    To me, they will stand in history alongside the Suffragettes, the sufferers, the Chartists and every pro-democracy movement in history.

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