Wednesday, June 10, 2009

AV would be brilliant

Not so brilliant for the Lib Dems, but good for democracy. Not as good as STV of course, but let's face it, what is?

First Past the Post is the cornerstone of the brokenness of our politics. It has the power to subvert all your campaigning efforts for a good cause, making that cause weaker instead of stronger.

Support the environment? Vote Green where the Lib Dems could win and you do more harm than good.

Support Euro-nihilism? Vote UKIP where the Conservatives could win and you have the opposite effect.

Support socialism? Vote Socialist Labour, where Labour could win, and, well maybe the pattern breaks down there.

Want to stand as an independent? The problem is that whichever party it is you consider least bad, you will take more votes from them than from the others. So unless you can be very confident of winning, you will only make things worse.

AV fixes all this. It lets you stand and campaign for what you believe in without damaging the causes you support. It lets you vote for what you believe in without having to second guess what the result will be and support the lesser evil.

Sure, it's not proportional. That stinks. But proportionality is not the only important feature of an electoral system. If it were we would support list systems rather than STV. And this is the worst time of all to hold a referendum on a proportional system, when the BNP have just won seats.

If Brown and his few friends plump for AV, we will probably get it. We could even have it for the next general election - it is the only reform that won't require years of boundary commission work. And it may be a stepping stone to STV or AV+, but not towards party lists.

If they plump for PR, the whole thing will be quietly dropped, "after considered reflection", the next time Griffin gets some publicity. Or, even worse, we have a referendum on it after weeks of the Tory press giving publicity to the BNP at every opportunity in order to get a "no" vote. It would then be off the agenda for decades. This is the single worst time for a referendum on PR. Give it a few years when a couple more nazi MEPs won't have brought the world to an end.

See also: Anthony Hook, Mark Reckons, Himmelgarten Cafe, Jock Coats, Sunder Katwala, and Duncan Borrowman (already linked)


Bernard Salmon said...

It's not just the lack of proportionality which is a problem with AV. It will often exaggerate swings between parties and does almost nothing to end the problem of safe seats. It's very likely that Labour would have got an even bigger majority in 1997 under an AV system, with the Tories being almost wiped out. And AV is not a stepping stone to STV - if AV goes through, we would probably be stuck with it for decades.

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

It's a myth that tactical voting is redundant under AV. If in a constituency the result (after minor party elimination) is Labour 41%, Conservative 30%, Liberal Democrat 29% then it's probable Labour would win.But if some Conservatives tactically ranked the Lib Dems first then it's probably the Lib Dems would win. And no doubt this would appear on a bar chart.

Joe Otten said...

Bernard, your objection is somewhat double-edged.

It would probably have inflated Labour's 1997 majority precisely because people were united in throwing out a discredited lame duck government. The same might happen now for the Tories.

This blows away the single most common objection to reform.

Tim, yes tactical voting is never redundant. But the sort of example you give is one where AV gives the second best result and FPTP gives the worst result, in terms of whether a majority of voters would prefer some other result to the one they got.

Oranjepan said...

The question is not just where do wer want to get to, but also how do we get there.

I've mentioned the idea of FPTP+100 elsewhere because I think tories would find it difficult to resist amidst the clamour for change and we need to make the first step along the road to greater proportionality if we are to get this journey started.

There are a range of mixed solutions which I've yet to find any discussion of online, so I'd like to put that one to you to find out what you think.

Unknown said...

I've wonder how you brits deal with more than two parties and it seems to be quite confusing when looking at coalitions that have to be built and agendas won. Even here in America, as much as we like to think of our candidates as independent from poltical parties it stills seems to matter very little as they almost alwasys vote the party line.

Joe Otten said...

Orange, I don't see any clamour for mixed systems in particular. There is some clamour for independents (hence AV, AV+ or STV, and not list systems) and a general recognition of the need for reform.

Even if there were a huge clamour for moves towards PR, it would be water off a duck's back to most Tories. Oh they might increase the size of Scottish constituencies I suppose.

Oranjepan said...

No, I don't think there is any clamour for mixed systems and I don't think I said so, that's why I want to raise discussion of their potential.

Is AV+ or STV better? Frankly I could care more; the detailed policy discussion is a turn-off to most normal people. So while we debate the finer points among ourselves we are losing an opportunity to build a consensus for reforming the system and the defenders of the status quo are laughing their way into power.

While we remain divided on the subject nothing will change, so let's be open to the possibilities and save the precise nature of our personal proposals for the constitutional convention.

Which is why I think anything which will weaken our insistence on particular ways of reforming the electoral system will actually bring it closer. If we can reach out to moderate members of other parties to show we share some mutual concerns we'll be taking an active lead.

Elections effect everybody, so we can't be parochial about it.