Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Alternative Vote

Apparently Mr. Darcy wants us to vote yes to the Alternative Vote. I'm with the Firth on this one; I'll be disappointed if there isn't a yes vote and I'll tell you why.

I don't see it as "a step in the right direction", if by that we mean a step towards proportional representation. I'm not sure I'm convinced by that idea. Strong government and a local connection to Westminster are two important things.

On the other hand...

Something needs to change. We've been locked into a left-wing/right-wing slanging match for about a century, and it's doing us no good. I'm definitely left-leaning, but the labour government has frequently made my blood boil; it represents many of my interests, but doesn't give a flying fox about many others. I was so fed up that I even toyed with the idea of voting c*nservative. If Mark Dobson feels an inclination to vote conservative, there's definitely something amiss with the voting system.

I understand that some people view the yes vote as an anti-political vote. That's nonsense. It is anti-status quo however, and that's a good thing. As it is, both the labour and conservative party have an arrogant, intransigent attitude which is holding the country back. Part of the reason that we have a con-dem coalition is because of the labour party's refusal to work with the liberal democrats. The labour party have probably won out thanks to that (who wants to be in power at a time like this?), but the country hasn't.

I wouldn't expect to see drastic, immediate changes if the AV system was adopted, but I think it would open up a significant political space to smaller parties which do deserve greater representation because of the support that they have at a national level. This might develop in time into a significant number of seats, and perhaps further coalition governments. I think it's a mistake to write off coalition because of the present shambles; it is a conservative majority after all. In a mature democracy, cooperation and consensus should not only be enabled, but encouraged.

With AV, one of the classic excuses for voter apathy (my vote won't count) is mitigated. Voter apathy is something we should do something about. Tactical voting is another; we should be able to express out voting preferences based on what we want, not what might happen in our constituency. I heard a senior labour politician saying that he opposed AV on the basis that in a democracy, people should have one vote. This sounds sensible, but it only makes sense with a direct voting system e.g. if we voted for party (not members of parliament) or prime minister. As it is, democracy is distorted by tactical voting, and AV is a positive way of compensating for this.

As for the people who say that voting would be too complicated, I don't think I'll lose any sleep over the votes of people who can't state a few preferences in numerical order.

Michael White of the Guardian has the impression that people will be using the referendum to punish politicians, depending on whether they like Cameron or Clegg the least (a tricky choice). Anyway, don't do that – vote for a small, but significant break from the status quo.
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On the side of the angels said...

Mark said...

Thanks for that; sounds reasonable to me.

Preaching to the converted in my case.