...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Day 3743: More GOR'BLIMEY than GOEBBELS: But Baroness Warsi is still wrong on AV


There's been un peut d'un spat between Mr Huhney-Monster and Baroness Insider Warsi over her scaremongering that AV will aid the British Nasty Party.

As you might EXPECT, Baroness Warsi has it all BACKWARDS. Let me explain.

Let's take a COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS example of share of the vote: e.g. the latest YouGov Poll:

Sickly Green 2% Scots/Plaid 4% Hard Labour 42% Liberal Democrat 10% Conservatory 35% UKPNuts 5% British Nasty Party 2%

Suppose you're a Conservatory: whose second preferences will you go after? The 7% of UKIP/BNP voters to your right? Or the 51% of voters to your Left?

That's not JUST the Liberal Democrats. Should the Union's dictate an even-more loony left manifesto, then the more Blairite backers of Mr Potato Ed's Party MIGHT be persuaded to give their number one to Mr Balloon to support that neo-liberal market they've so enjoyed, so long as you're not posing as the new Oswald Mosley.

On the other fluffy foot, if you DO start trying to appeal to the far right, you are going to ALIENATE far more voters than you stand to win – you will be fluffing off the very fluffy woolly liberal centrists whose votes you will NEED to cross the winning line. Not to mention the more CENTRIST of your own voters.

Conservatories who adopt a hard right agenda MIGHT convince some of those Cameroon Coalitionists to switch first preferences to the Liberal Democrats to keep the centre-right economically sound but socially just government that they like.

Or suppose you're from Hard Labour: you might THINK you're sitting pretty on 42% under First Pass the Port, but Liberal and Conservative votes combined CAN BEAT YOU. So do you appeal to your deep left core? Or do you reach out to the centre ground?

It might give you a warm fluffy feeling to, for example, address several hundred thousand marchers and liken yourself to Nelson Mandela, but that's NOT going to reach out to "White Van Man" or "Worcester Woman" who can't stand Mr Bob Crow turning off the tube at the drop of a hat and are quite frankly fed up with paying for Mr Mark Serwatka's gold plated salary and diamond encrusted pension.

(I'm really sorry to all the overworked and underpaid public servants out there, but the simple fact is we cannot afford to have twice as many people on the government's payroll as there are working in manufacturing to PAY the government's payroll.)

And frankly, governments can afford to IGNORE mass protests like that one precisely because they don't need to reach out to people. Lord Blairimort could ignore literally MILLIONS more marchers because he could get a working majority on 35% of the vote.

It ought to be a NO BRAINER: AV will encourage politicians towards the CENTRE and encourage them to listen to and engage with as many people as possible because they need to have 50% of the votes if they are going to WIN.

First Pass the Port, in contrast, actively encourages you to the extremes because you can consolidate a winning bloc that DOESN'T appeal to 50% of votes but is just LARGER than anyone else's.

If you don't believe me, just look at what happened in the politics of Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement. As soon as artificial restrictions on Parties were removed, the moderate/centrist Parties collapsed and voters polarised to the more extreme Republican/Nationalist positions. Why? Because First Pass the Port REWARDS divide and conquer and PENALISES conciliation.

(As I've said before, "First Past the Post" more ACCURATELY describes AV – you only get a winner once someone gets to the 50% winning line and you stop counting when the first person to get there gets there. That is, the winner is the first person to get past the winning post. As it were. You'd be better off calling the current system something like "who gets nearest to the post" or to be completely accurate "who furthest from the starting line when the counting stops".)

The ONLY way for the BNP to win a seat under AV is if they can appeal to 50% of the electorate there. And if they can do that, they'd win under First Pass the Port ANYWAY.

There's a kind of secondary non-argument about results being decided on the preferences of extremists, or even extremists get a "second vote" when other people only get one.

Well in the first place, they ARE still Human Beans, all men created EQUAL, all girls together and all that, and they get to have their say the same as the rest of us. You can't deny people their democratic rights. You can't turn them into second class citizens just because of the colour of their… ROSETTES (after all, that's quite close to our PRINCIPAL complaint AGAINST the British Nasties!).

But let me just slap that "second vote" idiocy down.

If you're going to say THEY get a "second vote" then EVERYONE gets a "second" vote.

You voted first preference for the Conservatories? That vote was counted in the first round and in that round the British Nasties came LAST and were eliminated. Then you get your SECOND vote for the Conservatories again counted in the second round and any BNP voters who put a second preference gets their second vote, just the same as yours.

I say "any" because people pushed to vote for the British Nasty Party are probably least likely to express a second preference. Imagine your BNP voter thinking: "Well, I've voted for the racists, but I'll choose a multicultural party for my second preference." It doesn't make any sense does it?

Sure, the BNP have a few so-called strongholds, but almost everywhere else they get a derisory handful of votes. If those votes are the ones that tip a winning candidate over the 50% threshold, then that candidate was SO CLOSE to 50% already that they were pretty much bound to win anyway!

Look, I fully understand that Mr Huhney-Monster probably got a bit cross with the ZOMBIE ARGUMENTS that Baroness Warsi was using (you know Zombie arguments: you knock them down but they just keep on moving). But I'd rather he hadn't used the "G" word. Not only does it bring Godwin's Law into play, but it's the kind of hysterical language that, well, Ms Warsi was using. And she started it, isn't any excuse.

Besides, I do think we should try ever so hard NOT to use "hate" language against people we disagree with. We Liberal Democrats have been on the receiving end of QUITE A LOT of that sort of thing recently and it's not nice. So let's not dish it out either.

Finally, remember, REGARDLESS of the voting system we are moving into an era of multi-Party politics where the Red-Blue duopoly has been worn away by many more choices (UKPNuts and Sickly Greens as well as Liberal Democrats).

This means coalitions are MORE LIKELY (with or without AV). In which case, GOOD GOVERNMENT will NEED Parties that can work together – and because AV encourages the Parties to have manifestos that reach out for broad-based support that becomes easier.

After the last General Election, Hard Labour barely even TRIED to form a Coalition with the Liberal Democrats. First Pass the Port had convinced them that BUGGINS TURN meant the Conservatories would have a go this time, and that they would bounce back next.

We have an electoral system that makes politicians think first: "what is good for my Party"; AV would mean that they have to think about MORE than just their sectional vested interests, they would have to think "what is good for the majority".

Vote AV for the good of the country and leave the extremists OUT!


No2AV also seem to be using "None of the Parties want AV" as a reason to vote No; I'm surprised Yes2AV aren't using this as one of the strongest arguments for a "Yes":

"If NONE of the Political Parties want AV it MUST be doing SOMETHING right! Take our politics back from the politicians: vote Yes2AV!"


Andrew Hickey said...

Great post. One thing I think you should have mentioned here though is that by 'the centre' you're definitely *not* referring to the bland so-called 'centre ground' that all the main parties try to appeal to to a greater or lesser extent now. That's not the true centre of popular opinion in this country, but is the set of policies which are likely to appeal to easily-influenced^H^H swing voters in a handful of marginal constituencies.
AV will reward parties who reflect the *real* opinions of the people, not a notional centre ground that doesn't really exist...

Andrew Hickey said...

deletable comment because I forgot to tick the 'email follow-up comments' box

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Andrew,

Thank you very much, and you are of course correct.

By "the centre" of course I'm buying in to the idea of a spectrum between Parties. Of course there are more than one such spectrum: the political compass introduces us to liberal/authoritarian as well as the old economic state/private control but clearly there are many others. Digital freedom versus rewarding copyright springs immediately to mind; and electoral reform probably forms a spectrum too, given the way Labour and to a lesser extent the Tories are split.

But yes, the point is NOT to appeal to what the lazy meeja call the "centre ground" voters (or even worse "middle England" bleurgh) but that whichever way you lean, AV will require you to reach out in compromise towards the people opposite rather than towards the more extreme groups on your own side.

As for the disappearing comment: Google appear to have switched on "free spam filtering" or "everything will be classified as spam now without asking me first". So thanks for that Google.