Fairer Votes

My column from this week’s Ham & High

Fairer votes are just that – fairer! When the public were highly polarised between two parties, in some ways it made sense to have a system that works with a two-party system. But now the public chooses to spread votes much more widely, the electoral system should reflect that – after all, that’s what a democracy is for -serving the public, not the politicians.

Labour and Conservatives got over 90% in 51, 55 and 59 elections but under 70% last year.

Life is more fluid and more complicated these days. We all talk about the importance of diversity – it’s just our political system doesn’t walk the talk. Plural politics is a more open and real life way of making decisions. So much better than the ya boo politics that this country has laboured under. Our current political system sets an example of political non-cooperation and bully takes all culture.

Do we actually like the way politics is conducted in this country? We are all guilty – us politicians – because in the First Past the Post (FPTP) system we have – negative campaigning is effective. We look good if the other guys look bad.

With AV we politicians need to be thinking about everyone – not just our core vote – because we need to be everyone’s second choice if we cannot be their first choice. That means that candidates have to work harder and reach out across party lines.

We would have more grown up politics. We could move to a world where not everything the other lot did was bad. We could be on an improving continuum. At the very least – we could feel that over half of local people in our own local constituencies voted for us as first choice or at least some choice. We would no longer disenfranchise the majorities who do vote but end up with a representative that they didn’t vote for or want at all.

But let’s not over romanticize the case. The Alternative Vote is a relatively small step. But it’s a hugely important step – because it will mean that in each constituency a majority of those who voted did not actually totally vote against the person who wins – and they will have a more effective mandate than before.

And just to rebut some of the dreadful myths that are being propagated – the next General Election – if it was to be under the Alternative Vote – will cost the same as it will if it is First Past the Post. Please don’t believe the scare-mongering about cost.

So I hope you will vote yes for change. I hope you will vote for a system where we can change the behavior of political campaigning to a more positive experience. I hope you will vote yes because having a few marginal seats on which the larger parties target all their efforts to swing them in their own direction is no way to think about how to run a country. I hope you will vote yes because safe seats where nothing ever changes or can change because the candidate only needs their usual suspects and doesn’t have to worry about what the rest think or feel is no good to anyone – which played its part at the heart of the expenses scandal. If you don’t have to work to get 50% of the vote – you might even start to take your position for granted.

Let’s move forward to a fairer system – where the people who represent us have to persuade more than 50% of us – one way or the other – that they are the person we want to represent us in Parliament.

0 thoughts on “Fairer Votes

  1. You wrote,

    With AV we politicians need to be thinking about everyone – not just our core vote – because we need to be everyone’s second choice if we cannot be their first choice. That means that candidates have to work harder and reach out across party lines.”

    That’s one possibility, but another, perhaps more likely one, and fraught with danger, is that most candidates will adopt a “middle of the road” approach so as to try and trawl the whole constituency for votes, whereas, in a first past the post system, they could more comfortably set out their stall (to use a phrase I can’t stand!).

    The result would be very weak governments comprised of MPs with little conviction. That wouldn’t be good for anyone. It’s bad enough just now with so many MPs willing to sacrifice so much to the EU and other pan-European and globalist institutions.

    The vote we really want is one to enable our escape from the EU. MPs are becoming increasingly irrelevant anyway. Giving the EU more and more and more authority is not only treason, but turkeys voting for Christmas.

  2. I’m pretty disappointed with the pitch that the Yes campaign have chosen, and which is repeated here in this article. The 50% threshold is an aspect of how AV works, and isn’t really as significant as Yes campaigners keep treating it as being. By focussing on the wrong point, the Yes campaign have seriously hampered their own efforts, limiting themselves to a fundamentally weak campaign.

    The real significance of AV – and this is the reason I’m most certainly going to be voting Yes! – is that it’s a solution to the serious problem of vote splitting that affects First-Past-The-Post (FPTP).

    The prospect of vote splitting under FPTP means that, in practice, there can usually only be two, viable candidates with supporting parties in each constituency. If there are two similar candidates from two similar parties, both standing against a third, significantly different candidate, that third candidate benefits from the vote being split between the two similar candidates. Voters often prefer to have some influence over the final outcome, rather than risk throwing their votes away voting for who they’d really like, and so possible alternatives to the two (or sometimes three) viable candidates are kept on the sidelines, the problem reinforcing itself election after election.

    Since we also principally draw government from parliament, we’re also trying to elect a government as well as a parliament. And big, national parties – prospective governments – also have much more campaigning clout by being able to campaign nationally, taking advantage of economies of scale. This most probably helps keep the two and a half big, national parties as the main, viable options in most constituencies. Obviously, AV isn’t necessarily much of a solution to this part of the problem. (I believe we also need directly elected governments, properly separated from Parliament but still accountable to Parliament.)

    With AV, the problem of vote splitting is largely solved. This means more candidates become safe to vote for as first (and second, and third) preferences, while voters still have an equal say on the final outcome (many with their first preferences counting right through to the end, many having to settle for less preferred candidates instead, but still completely one person, one vote).

    This means alternatives to the established, viable options can become viable immediately, without those alternatives having to spend a few decades gradually building up support. This gives the electorate much more power to throw out the establishment, instead of having to continue to settle for the same establishment election after election, decade after decade. And this means the electorate stand to have much more power over the establishment, by being much more able to vote the whole establishment out.

    AV as a solution to vote splitting also means that more than one candidate from each party can safely stand in each constituency. The Conservatives have already been piloting so-called “open primaries” (isn’t AV used for some of those?) as a way of giving voters in safe seats more of a choice as to who to have representing them, while still retaining those safe seats for the incumbent party. AV is a better solution to the problem of safe seats, not because of the 50% threshold (a weak argument that let’s us down), but because it’s like having “open primaries” built into the elections themselves. But obviously this only works as long as party members take advantage of it.

    Under AV, each party can safely have more than one candidate stand, since rival candidates can no longer benefit from vote splitting. This means more choice for voters, more power for voters, and less power for party machines. And those parties that try to stop multiple candidates from standing run the risk of having rebel candidates stand anyway. It means voters can not only choose between parties, but also between different wings of parties.

    But AV is really only an opportunity for these changes to be brought about. Such changes still have to be brought about by us, the people, as party members and as non-affiliated voters. Under FPTP, these changes aren’t really viable at all. So if we want more choice in elections, more power over parties and the establishment, we really only have one opportunity for that right now: vote Yes to AV!

  3. I’m voting NO2AV because Nick Clegg supports AV, and that makes NO2AV good enough for me!

  4. Just to remind your readers what Nick Clegg said about broken promises this time last year.

    Aren’t the Lib Dems complaining about ‘untruths’ on the part of the ‘No’ campaign? What hypocrisy!!

  5. Lynne,

    a couple of questions, because any change to the way we vote obviously requires some careful consideration:

    You say “Let’s move forward to a fairer system – where the people who represent us have to persuade more than 50% of us …” So, if in the referendum there is a turn out of less than 50% will the result be valid ?

    I thought the LibDems chosen preference was for PR. If this is the case and AV is just a compromise to placate your party in coalition, why can’t there be a referendum in which we are given the choice of PR, AV and FPTP ? Is it because the electorate are too stupid ? After all you told us that we didn’t understand what was on offer with the new proposals for tuition fees and proposed improvements (!) to the NHS …

    And why the enthusiasm to reduce the number of elected MP’s at Westminster when at the same time Dave is appointing more unelected peers than at any other time in history ?

  6. After receiving Lib Dem leaflets in the last European elections from the Lib Dems saying that the Tories – who topped the poll in London, in an election under proportional representation – ‘couldn’t win in Haringey’ so it was pointless to vote for them, I find it hard to believe that AV will suddenly produce ‘grown-up politics’. You’ll go on misleading the electorate in any way you can.

  7. But Lynne you don’t believe in AV do you, you believe in STV as per your manifesto. You are just advocating it for your own personal and party expediency. Pretty stupid reason for anyone to agree with you now if you don’t mind me saying.

  8. It’s almost tragic how you’ve failed to grasp the new political reality. The imposition of £9,000 a year student fees was a betrayal of a generation that will cement in place a concrete wall against future social mobility. When you went into coalition you had the chance to leverage one major concession from the Tories. It could have been tuition fees, your most high profile, vote winning, election pledge. You opted instead for a referendum on AV. Nick Clegg, I know, tried to persuade you this was getting the worst out the way early. There would be a few uncomfortable months but then Nick promised, things would move on. You would be able to point to some minor concessions and then tuition fees would be forgotten by the majority even if a small handful might never forgive you. Instead you could enjoy the spoils of making an argument for AV reform and quite possibly winning the vote. You shouldn’t have believed Nick Clegg’s promises nor trusted his political judgment. The new political reality is that no else believes or trusts Nick Clegg nor will they ever again. Voting down AV will the first test.
    When the AV vote is lost and when the Lib Dems have tasted the bitter pill of local government electoral meltdown it will be time to take stock. It’ then you must decide whether to stick with Clegg’s suicidal pact with the Tories or to salvage something of your party, its principles and its heritage and reject the coalition while ditching Clegg at the first opportunity. Clegg is the millstone who will drag your party into oblivion. He is the very worst example of a late twentieth century, old style politician: media trained and superficially likable but beneath the camera friendly pancake and the first name chumminess is someone who is transparently and fundamentally dishonest ,self interested, opportunistic and hypocritical.

  9. > Clegg is the millstone who will drag your party into oblivion.

    This really is immature and, dare I say, particularly English. In Europe, coalitions exist between parties which requires them to compromise and concede. The Greens formed part of the government in Germany as now do the Free Democrats. They both had to give way to the realities of power and to have other measures pursued.

    Politics is not a debating society – it is for the implementation of policy for the public good. That requires power. It seems to me that the Liberal Democrat supporters would have preferred the purity of their beliefs in opposition to the messy and dirty compromises required for government.

    Perhaps the reason why people are upset with the Liberal Democrats was the naive belief that they were a ‘different’ and ‘honest’ party. It is easy to be ‘honest’ when there is no prospect of forming the government. The Communist parties and those on the far-right can be said to be ‘pure’ and ‘honest’ and can make whatever promises they wish unconstrained by the reality.

    The upset shown towards the Liberal Democrats is less about them rather than the realisation that politics is not idealistic but real and that ideals must trim themselves to reality. The same is seen in the United States with President Obama. A minority of fervent believers cannot accept the inability to have their own way against a majority of those who do not support them.

  10. Voting no, so the bnp will get greater chance.
    shall be voting bnp with my votes, we need to get out of Europe and stop people coming in, current government are not listening. Everyone else has had their chance, its time to let the other party have their turn.

  11. George, aren’t you aware that the BNP have a better chance with AV?

    And, of course, if we’d had true proportional voting at the last election – what the Lib Dems are really after – the BNP would have 12 MPs in Parliament right now.

    Not surprisingly Margaret Hodge, who trounced the BNP’s Nick Griffin last May, favours the First Past The Post voting system.

    Now that it’s clear the Lib Dems are an unprincipled lot, they know their only chances lie with AV or proportional representation. Otherwise they’ve not got a cat’s chance in hell of being part of a future government.

  12. A desperate attempt by a dying party to cling on to some power Lynne.

    The Lib Dems are dead in the water thanks to the lies and deceit you and other Lib Dems have used, in doing so you have tarred the many Lib Dems who have morals and ethics with the same brush as yourself and Nick Clegg.

    A “miserable little compromise” with Gordon Brown is an equally “miserable little compromise” with David Cameron.