...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 3495: Nine Good Things About Saying YES to AV


1. It recognises that our VOTING SYSTEM is BROKEN

2. It gives MORE POWER to voters

3. It lets more people feel that they have an MP they voted for

4. It lets people choose HONESTLY with no tactical voting

5. It gives voters a choice between PEOPLE not PARTIES

6. It makes politicians talk to people who aren't in their "base"

7. It makes politicians talk to each other, encouraging grown-up politics

8. As far as what the voter has to DO goes, it's exactly the same as voting with STV

9. It's on offer and STV isn't

The time for grumpy acceptance is over. Let's stop looking for the ways that the glass is half empty and start looking at how it is half full.

The AV referendum ISN'T about getting proportionality; it's NOT about Fair Votes. So let's stop COMPLAINING that it isn't what it isn't.

But what it IS is about giving more POWER to voters, and showing more TRUST in voters.

Honestly, the First Pass the Port crowd are going to be campaigning on a platform of "we don’t trust you to count up to five". Do you REALLY think that that's an unbeatable message?

Liberal Democrats DO trust people; that's why we're going to ASK them what they want (and that's why Hard Labour's so-called offer of instant AV with NO referendum was really toe-curlingly EMBARRASSING!)

Anything that moves away from tactical voting is GREAT. At the very least we can see who the voters REALLY want to vote for by looking at their first preferences and that might give a real boost to the Parties that currently have no representation at all. And that's got to be a boost for democracy. People can vote for real policies that they want. People do NOT have to vote for EVIL parties as a "protest" vote.

Anything that moves away from LISTS imposed by parties is GREAT. AV is about choosing YOUR OWN list of people and the order that they stand in, not one imposed by anybody else. And that's why the second preferences and third preferences… and LAST preferences… also tell us the sorts of people that people want in Parliament. And remember, First Pass the Port is a closed Party list system with a list of ONE. (That ISN'T true for AV – you probably won't, but you CAN have more than one person standing from one Party… or you could, entirely hypothetically, have two people standing for "the Coalition"… and people can choose between them for themselves.)

And anything that moves away from the status quo is more than GREAT it is FANTASTIC. We KNOW that people want CHANGE; they VOTED for CHANGE at the general election, and – no matter how queasy the public might be feeling about the Coalition… no matter how queasy some of US might be feeling about the Coalition – change is what they got: a different kind of government that NO ONE quite understands yet.

It's EASY to be FRIGHTENED of change. It's EASY to listen to all those voices saying how all sorts of scary and nasty things are BOUND to happen because of what the Coalition is doing. It's EASY to LOOSE FAITH in people.

Because change is HARD. Freedom is HARD. Being a Liberal is HARD.

The EASY thing to do is to promise to wrap everyone up in cotton wool and tell them fibs about how everything is all going to be all right; the really difficult thing is to tell them that THEY have to make the choices and then to TRUST them to make the choices and to FOLLOW the choices that they make.

And yes, that means following their choices when people give the Conservatories SIX TIMES more seats than us, or rather when they give the Conservatories ONE-AND-A-HALF times as many VOTES as us. More people voted for Conservatory policies so, grit your teeth people, Conservatory policies ARE going to happen.

Sometimes you just have to hold hands with the CAT-MONSTER and hope that it doesn't BITE OFF anyone's head!

If you don't want that to happen AGAIN… tough. The only way to prevent Conservatory policies EVER happening is to institute a socialist dictatorship, and we KNOW how successful THOSE are. If you believe in co-operative politics, then SOMETIMES the Conservatories are going to have to get a go.

But if you want to make sure that they have to BEHAVE, that they have to PLAY NICELY and JOIN IN with everybody else… well THEN you have to support a change in the voting system.

It WON'T stop things being horrid – but that's because the economy is bad-worded beyond repair – but it will start to heal our democracy.

So enough with the blubbing over STV.

Let's go out and WIN this!


I wrote this BEFORE seeing that Mr Fred Carveup had posted quite the opposite view on the Liberal Democrat Voice. Great Minds, it seems, think completely unalike.



Mike Taylor said...

I feel a bit pathetic even asking this, but ...

Could you please explain in simple terms what the difference between AV and STV is? The descriptions I've read of both make them sound like the same thing.


Andrew Hickey said...

I'll probably be doing a post about that on my blog (which I know you read on occasion) but simply put, STV is multi-member, AV is single-member.

With AV, you list the people you want in order of preference, the person who's got fewest first preferences gets knocked out, and their second preferences redistributed, and this continues until there's one person with >50% of the vote.

With STV, you still list the people in the order of preference, and they still get knocked out, but the top X get through (where X is usually 4 or so), and you have a large, multi-member constituency.

AV is preferential - which is the most important thing for me, as it makes everyone's views matter - but not proportional. For example, in my constituency and the three nearest to it, under AV we'd probably still have had one (really good) Lib Dem MP and three (poor) Labour MPs at the last election (that's not a judgement because of their parties - the Labour MPs are in safe seats and don't bother, while John Leech is in a very closely-contested marginal). Under STV we'd probably have had two Labour MPs, at least one Lib Dem, and the other MP could equally easily have been Tory, Lib Dem or one of the fringe left parties, depending on how preferences shook out.

So STV is moderately proportional in its outcome - while still ensuring that only parties above a minimum threshold of voter support would get in, so the BNP would be unlikely to win seats - and involves multi-member constituencies. AV has single-member constituencies and is not significantly more proportional than the current system.

It is, however, *MUCH* easier to move from AV to STV (just lump together four or five constituencies into one, more of a boundary review than a total change) and it will allow some smaller parties to get seats because there'll be no such thing as a 'wasted vote'.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Mike

Pretty much "what Mr Andrew said", except I would add this: under STV the constituencies have three, four or five, say, MPs each. Because you are voting for PEOPLE (not PARTIES) this does NOT put off independents. But at the same time it encourages the Parties to stand three, four or five candidates and so you can rank the Parties candidates AGAINST ONE ANOTHER as well as against other Parties. So you can express a preference for a BRAND of your Party as well as just your Party.

e.g. you could chose to vote moderate Social Liberal Lib Dem 1, Coalition Lib Dem Tory 2, Orange Booker 3, knowing this means that the Social Lib Dem is therefore more likely to get in on your votes and thus influence the MAKE-UP of your preferred Party as well as just whether they get in or not. Basically, you get all the advantages of an OPEN PRIMARY without the expense of holding a second election.

Mike Taylor said...

Thanks, both of you, that's much clearer. (By the way, Andrew, I read or at least look at everthing you post here, thanks to the wonder of RSS.)

So it seems that AV is a special case of STV: it's what you get when the number of candidates elected by STV from each constituency is one.

For me, this is 90% of the battle. The great, great failing 1PTP is that it forces you to lie about who you want to get in ("I can't vote Lib Dem, my vote would be wasted"). Fix that, and we're well on the way to an actual, you know, democracy. And AV does let me vote first for the person I want to get in, and only then for the Emergency Backup Not-As-Bad-As-The-Other-One candidate.

So ... is there any conceivable reason why anyone would prefer 1PTP to AV?

Andrew Hickey said...

Mike, exactly. Which is why even though AV is not my preferred system, I will be campaigning as hard as I can for it - it's a major step in the right direction.

Some people *do* prefer FPTP (mostly, oddly, MPs who are currently in safe seats. I wonder why...). There are, however, some half-decent arguments against the switch:

1) FPTP produces 'strong government' - if you like that sort of thing. I prefer democracy myself.

2) Any system more complex than an X in a box disenfranchises some people (the illiterate, some people with learning disabilities). Unfortunately true, and I wish there were some way to fix that. However, the current system disenfranchises nearly *everyone*, and those people would still be able to put their cross in their box, and would still get a proportion of the benefit - just not as much.

There is also an argument among some reformers - with which I vehemently disagree, but at least some of those making it are people I respect - that by accepting AV we are giving up the chance of STV for good, but that somehow people would accept another referendum on a different voting system after yet another unfair election. To me that sounds a bit Trotskyist - keep the rotten system until it collapses, then we can have utopia, comrade! - but some people do hold that view. The article Millennium references at the end - - is a reasonable summary of that argument.

I'm still hoping that someone will table an amendment for STV to be on the ballot and that it will squeeze through somehow, but either way AV is a *hell* of a lot better than nothing, and I'll go for jam today every time.