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.