Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#AVreferendum: The Naysayers

Parties Opposing AV: [via BBC]

I thought this would be an interesting Venn diagram to make. Unsurprisingly, the two parties who performed best in their own local areas are both against changing the current system, as it stood them in such good stead last year.

The other parties who are against AV include:
  • the racist BNP; 
  • George Galloway's Respect Party, who have lost their way politically after some initial popularity (just 33,251 votes in the entire country last year);
  • Jury Team, whom I'm pretty sure I'd never heard of before now, but were formed in March 2009 and seem pretty sensible from looking at their website;
  • and The Communist Party, who aren't even listed as a party on the BBC's election results page.  Note the lowest placed party listed, the Scottish Socialist Party, received 3,157 votes.  The Communists presumably couldn't even manage to beat that.
Note that perhaps with the exception of The Jury Team, who may grow yet, the opponents of AV are the parties who did very well last under FPTP thank-you-very-much, and parties who have limited support and are unlikely to figure even in a more proportional system such as STV.

(Again I include BNP in this group, even though they gained a significant number of votes last year, as they are deeply unpopular outside of their core support, and so are unlikely to secure enough preference votes to figure in a preferential system.)

This is probably the last blog post I'll make on this before the vote, and I want to make clear:

The Alternative Vote is not proportional.  It is a shitty disproportionate voting system with only minor advantages over First Past The Post.  In fact, it will sometimes deliver even more disproportionate results than FPTP.

AND YET I'M STILL VOTING "YES".

I want to make clear why this is, I want you first to listen to Professor John Curtice explaining some of the above.

Consider two scenarios.

Scenario 1
There is a close election, like in 2010.

FPTP result: Hung Parliament, but seats distributed unfairly between main parties (see previous post).
AV result: Hung Parliament, still with less unfair distribution of seats.

Outcome: AV is a bit better.


Scenario 2
One party is significantly more popular than the others, like in 1997.

FPTP result: Landslide victory for the winning party, allowing them to do pretty much whatever they like for the next five years.
AV result: Colossal landslide victory for the winning party, allowing them to do pretty much whatever they like for the next five years.

Outcome: No real difference.

[Edit: Actually, I feel a bit silly succumbing to speculation about how elections under AV will count.  No one really knows, as we'll all vote differently under a different system.]


And my last reason to vote YES next week, a quote from this document by the Political Studies Association.

Whatever the result of the referendum, I don't want to be left with either AV or FPTP as the system for decades to come, because they're both crap. I want an outcome that will give us the best chance of going on to make proper reforms, and somehow I don't think opting for the status quo will do that for us:
A “no” vote in a referendum is always followed by what Professor Lawrence LeDuc calls a “battle for interpretation”. Those who support the status quo argue that the people have spoken and that the issue should be left alone. Supporters of change, by contrast, argue that the referendum has not decided the issue: they might say, for example, that voters were offered the wrong reform option or that a better information campaign should have been launched.

This will happen in the event of a “no” vote in the UK too. Supporters of FPTP will say that the people have decided in favour of the status quo. Supporters of change will argue that AV was the wrong reform and that a more substantial change should be offered.

The question is, who will win this battle? Given that the issue of electoral reform has not caught the public imagination and that few voters understand the intricacies of electoral systems, it is likely to be difficult for reform supporters to convince many that another reform should now be considered. Such was the experience of reform supporters after recent referendums in three Canadian provinces: the battle of interpretation was decisively won by the supporters of the status quo.

It is clear that changing the electoral system is easier where change has already recently happened: the idea of reform is no longer so radical; more people are familiar with the reform options; there are fewer interests vested in the status quo. Four established democracies – France, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand – have introduced major reforms to their national electoral systems in the last thirty years. Two of these – France and Italy have subsequently instituted further major reforms, while Japan passed a further smaller reform, and New Zealand will hold a referendum creating the possibility of another major reform later this year.

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