It’s no secret that, when it comes to political and constitutional reform, I am firmly on the side of the Yes2AV camp. The notion that 30% of the electorate can elect the government is, quite simply, unfair. The truth is, the system has always favoured a two-party race, and the country has far more eclecticism than that.
But then, I also don’t think any party has a duty to support one side or the other; after all, they also contain people of different viewpoints.
But what I would like to see – and I know this puts me firmly in the realms of idealism and wishful thinking! – is each MP giving their constituents the facts about both systems in a fair and balanced way and allowing them to decide of their accord. Sadly, this is not to be.
Recently, the NO2AV camp published a post entitled “Ten reasons to Vote No.” I’m going to attempt – hopefully successfully – to take each of these points in turn and debunk them where necessary.
1. AV IS OBSCURE
Well, that depends on where you look. AV, as a system, is used throughout the world for a variety of different situations – you need only look at the recent World Cup bids to see a globally recognised example (and this should not be used against the AV argument, as there are many problems inherent within FIFA that are not because of the voting structure). Not only that, but MPs use it themselves to elect the Speaker of the House – they don’t have a problem with it there, so why should they object to it for the general populace? (There is an argument here revolving around self-preservation for some, but that’s something for another day!)
2. AV IS UNFAIR
This is, possibly, the most frustrating argument of all. Peoples’ votes are not worth any more if they support fringe parties than those who support the big two. Every voter has one vote – it just happens to be more valuable, giving everyone the chance to say who is ultimately elected.
First Past the Post is unfair – how else could a party such as the Liberal Democrats increase their vote share significantly yet lose seats within the Commons? This is one of the many reasons people choose not to vote, as they think it simply doesn’t count. Now, they can choose to be given the chance to make sure it does.
3. AV IS UNEQUAL
Once again, this is untrue. More people are disappointed and angry with a result gained via FPTP than they would be with AV. And this shouldn’t be a party political issue, either – should any party be elected into government with less than 50% of the vote? Of course not.
4. AV IS ‘EVEN LESS PROPORTIONAL’ THAN THE CURRENT SYSTEM
This is dependent on how you phrase a question. Having spent far too long studying poll bias and phrasology for work-related issues, I have realised this is something that matters greatly. If you asked somebody who they want to win, then the answer will be rather different to the one you’d get if you asked them, realistically, which party would they prefer to run the country. FPTP doesn’t give people the second option, meaning you have to, in some cases, vote tactically to ensure you don’t get the candidate least desirable to your constituency.
5. AV IS ‘DISTURBINGLY UNPREDICTABLE’
The Hung Parliament argument seems the least able to stand up, especially when you look at the current Coalition – the third hung parliament formed under the FPTP system. But is it really such a bad thing? You may think so now, but a common issue most people have with any government is tribalism. MPs being forced to work together and cooperate – like every other person within a workplace has to – can only be better for the country.
6. AV IS NOT WANTED – EVEN BY THE YES CAMPAIGN
Not entirely true. Just because the Liberal Democrats would prefer PR (Proportional Representation) or STV (Single Transferrable Vote), it does not mean that everybody shares this view. Personally, I think our political system is stronger because of its links to constituencies, so would never be in favour of breaking that link. And if you asked the majority of people which they would prefer of AV and PR, I imagine they’d say the same thing too. Nobody likes the idea of parachuting candidates in, and this would be the norm under PR as the seats were split between parties.
7. AV IS NO-ONE’S FIRST CHOICE
See above. The manifestos of political parties do not base themselves on public opinion and should never be considered as such.
8. AV IS COMPLEX
No, it isn’t. Everybody uses AV at some point in their lives, whether it’s for voting on reality TV shows, choosing the World Cup hosts or, to go back to when you were a child? Writing your Christmas list. You know, contemplating whether you wanted a Transformer more or less than you wanted a skateboard. More to the point, it’s a choice whether you use it or not, so you don’t have to allocate all your preferences if you don’t want to. To say the public can’t understand a simple ranking system is both insulting and disingenuous.
9. AV IS EXPENSIVE
I’m pretty sure people can wait an extra day to find out the result; the country didn’t resort to mob rule this time round and, knowing what they could potentially expect in future elections, they won’t do then either. The implementation of electronic counting machines would be a benefit for any type of voting – but a machine failing is no more or less likely than human error is in counting ballots, so this particular argument seems redundant.
10. AV IS NOT THE REFORM WE NEED
The system does need reforming, most people are in agreement with this. An unfair voting system breeds apathy, disinterest and distrust. To use one of their own arguments against them – a vote for No is, essentially, not a vote against AV but one advocating the system remains the same.
And, whatever you think, you surely have to agree the system should not remain the same.