AV - A time for a change
Today, May 5th 2011 presents the nation with a once in a generation and even possibly for some, a once in a lifetime chance to vote in a referendum on what method we use to select our government. Today there is no excuse of ‘what is the point?’ or ‘no one will listen to me anyway!’ If you fail to vote, you cannot complain. Democracy is all about the people and what the people want, but in recent times we have been let down by a succession of governments getting in with less than half of the countries support and therefore not giving the greater number what they want. Now I am not saying that a change to the Alternative Vote (hereafter AV) will change this but it may just help. To add a bit of cynicism to the latter comment, even after a yes vote win, the change will only occur if parliament can agree on the Boundary realignments.
First of all a quick explanation of the two methods. First Past The Post (hereafter FPTP) is the method that we currently use and to put it simply, the man with the most vote wins. Although this on the face of it may seem fair, over time it has been exposed to many flaws, some of which will be covered later on. AV is where you rank the candidates, as many as you wish, in ascending order of who you want in, so the person you want in as first choice is number one, second choice is number two and so on. The winner is the one who reaches 50% of the votes, based on a number (or if a landslide then a single) round. The number 1 votes are added, if one candidate has 50% of the votes they win if not, then we go to a second round. In this round the person with the least votes is eliminated and those who voted for them as their number one choice will have their second preference added to the candidates name and this is repeated until someone reaches 50% of the votes.
With the methods explained, time to look at the argument for AV.
FPTP is out of touch. An MP can get elected with less than a third of the votes. This in effect allows them to do just enough in the campaign and if successful their term in power, to secure (re)election. They can afford to push through policies against the will of the majority knowing that they may need only three out of every ten people to vote for them. This has created in certain areas a seat for life and therefore for the lucky man (or woman) in that area, a job for life without the need to really worry about the consequences of his actions locally or nationally. Indeed it is true that unless a huge scandal breaks out, the MP will keep his head low and the majority of his constituents, especially in times of low voting turn outs, will not even know who their MP of maybe 20 years is!
The wasted vote argument has come to the fore with FPTP, as previously discussed some seats are renown for being safe and therefore many will think that there is little point in voting. The result can appear a foregone conclusion leaving many feeling unmotivated to vote or even end up having to vote tactically to stop one party rather than voting for what and who you believe in. AV allows us to pick the person we really want to win but as well we can rank them so we get in effect a second, third and forth vote where our first choice does not make it. Alternatively if you only wish to vote for one so no one can say you backed another who you later dislike, you can! Your choice as democracy meant it to be.
It will help keep the country unified and peaceful with no risk of extremists getting in. BNP have got in to town halls under FPTP even though the majority want them out
AV is good enough for the politicians so why not us? All the main party candidates were elected to represent their party by this method. Charities, unions, organisations and businesses also use it to elect people to positions. They all try to come across as men of the people, so let the people have equality in votes and to use the method deemed good enough for the people we wish to vote upon.
Millions of people already vote using this method, if it was such a disaster as the No campaign would make out then why would it be in place in those countries? Furthermore the No campaign keeps stressing the need for expensive counting machines. The same machines that we rejected the use for in FPTP, we did not need them then, we do not need them now and we will not need them in the future! You merely need a group of counters with a pencil and paper, just like we currently use. This economic argument is a sign of the opposition plucking at straws to fend off a method that would see them under greater pressure and scrutiny.
The impact of a yes vote today is one small effort, for one small change that will create a huge difference. MPs will have to work harder to secure that 50% mark, meaning more policies for us, more time for us and hopefully a working model of why democracy is the model the world should be using.
AV is a very British reform. It goes against the norm . Yes most countries use FPTP but most European countries use the Euro, we do not. We do not need to follow suit and any argument that we should is laughable and desperate. We get to keep what works with our constituency ties but it will improve the relationship between the people and those who are paid by the people to represent the people.
This is not a referendum on Nick Clegg, do not treat it as so. In fact Nick Clegg does not want AV he wants Proportional Representation. Vote today even if you never have before and never will again. This chance of one small change may never happen again, it could well be a last chance to start pulling politicians in to line and getting what we voted for.