AV doesn’t make a huge difference to voting in our electoral system. But it makes some. It won’t give us PR but it will get us a little closer there. The Green Party supports AV on May 5th.
But beware of the NO to AV arguments – sometimes they make things up. Here’s a handy guide below.
1. If you ever said to someone going to the shops – “get me a coke or if they haven’t got that I’ll have a lemonade’, then you understand the principle behind AV voting. It only sounds complicated if you explain it badly, which the No campaigners are doing on purpose (finding the most wordy academic text they can).
2. Simply rank the candidates in order 1,2,3 etc. You can put as few or as many preferences as you want. If you only want to choose one candidate, like you HAVE to under our present system first-past-the-post (FPTP), you can. The difference is that FPTP ONLY lets you choose one candidate which leads to more wasted votes and immense pressure to vote tactically which gives a distorted view of what people really want.
Imagine being a Tory living in Margaret Hodge’s constituency of Barking and hating the Labour party but wanting to stop the BNP, to make your vote count you are forced to vote Labour otherwise your vote would be wasted and risk the BNP winning with a small share of the vote. This adds another vote to the Labour pile and gives the impression that this is total support for their policies, whereas almost the opposite is in fact the case from this voter and probably many others effectively forced to vote the same if they want their vote to count and stop the BNP.
But FPTP is even worse than this, because it may be that loads of people have changed their mind in the constituency since the last election (which is the only source of information tactical voters really have) and although extremely unlikely maybe your Labour vote might be wasted and another candidate might have been better placed to beat the BNP if you had voted for them instead, so it is possible the BNP candidate wins with a dismal 20 something percent of the vote on a low turnout just because the majority who dislike them had voted for a range of parties.
Think this can’t happen? The BNP have won county councillor seats with just 29% of the vote under our present system. With AV you can vote with your heart and show your true first preference and so on. The Tory can stop the BNP with any one of his preferences, including showing that Labour were only his final preference but this still beats the BNP who he did not rank. AV does away with the electoral roulette that voters currently have to play under the present system of first-past-the-post (FPTP).
3. If you order a chicken curry at a restaurant, but are told that has sold out then decide to have a lasagne instead, you have only had one meal. The same is true for AV, only ONE of your preferences will count towards the end result. Don’t be fooled by propaganda saying otherwise.
4. In every UK general election bar 1997 and 1983, it is predicted that AV would have distributed seats more in line with vote share, i.e. a more proportional or fairer result.
5. Australia has used AV for over 90 years with just one hung parliament from 38 elections. Our present system first-past-the-post has delivered five hung parliaments and three non-working majorities over a similar time-span. So to claim that AV will deliver more coalition government is not necessarily true. Both India and Canada use the Westminster system of first-past-the-post. Canada has now had five hung parliaments out of the last 8 elections and India has a 18 party ruling coalition.
6. NO2AV are claiming millions will have to be spent on counting machines. Australia has used AV for over 90 years and still doesn’t use counting machines. NO2AV are just making things up.
7. “Many Britons already use AV when electing representatives for charities, churches, companies, trade unions, societies and voluntary organisations.”
8. “Whether or not they know it, many millions of Britons already have extensive experience of using preferential selection because they have been regular voters in Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor. They not only understand this form of voting; they enjoy it. The no campaign assumes nevertheless that they are incapable of writing 1, 2, 3 on a ballot”.
9. Politicians use AV to elect their own because they know it is more representative, yet want to deny us the chance to use the same system to elect them.
“Labour and the Lib Dems both elect their leaders by AV. Funnily enough, ever since the 1960s, when the Tories started to elect their leaders, they have used either AV or a close cousin. Had they used first past the post in their last contest, the leader of the Tory party would not be David Cameron. It would be David Davis.” Both points 7, 8 & 9 succinctly put by Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer.
10. AV will reduce the number of safe seats. Safe seats lead to the sort of complacency and corruption we saw during the expenses scandal because most of our MPs currently have ‘seats for life’.
Politicians don’t want the Alternative Vote because it will make them work harder to win their seats. They will have to win more support right across their constituencies and no longer can they pretend that only their party has all the answers. Parties will have to be more positive about each other and be honest about where they agree so as not to alienate potential preferences of their rival party’s voters. In short, AV will change politics and the effect will strengthen over many elections. AV will pull away the shroud of FPTP that obscures what people’s real preferences are.
We have this once in a lifetime chance to tell the politicians they are wrong. We need to take it. We are going to be up against the might of the establishment and all the media but people power can prevail. Vote YES on May 5th. See YES to Fairer Votes for more.
(Thanks to Neil Harding for this – http://neilharding.blogspot.com/2011/02/10-facts-about-alternative-vote-av.html )