Tuesday, 12 April 2011

AV or Not AV

The main argument against the Alternative Vote for General Elections, I take it, is this: that on a second round of counting, the voters who voted for the least popular candidate have a second preference added, and one with the same weight as all other votes. So everyone voted gets counted once, and some people get counted twice. The danger is the extremist vote, that someone voting for the racist BNP might on elimination have their second preference, say for the nationalist United Kingdom Independence Party, counted. It may be that UKIP votes never stack up high enough, but it is the extremists who may tip the balance on who gets through the winning post first.

This is really an important criticism, and it is why I am not swift to the Yes box. But I will on balance, so far, vote yes. The minority votes are really quite small, and it isn't certain where they will put second preferences, nor should they tip the balance.

Very often I want to vote a large percentage for one candidate and a lesser percentage for another. And although my second vote may not get counted, it also may be counted, or (and this matters) in marginal situations is more likely to be counted. That's important.

At present people often vote for their least worst candidate in constituencies that have some marginality to them, and many don't bother because a candidate has such a large majority. Although tactical voting is possible under AV, it is very difficult to have enough information to do it successfully, and therefore AV voting is more likely to be as people want - first preferences first, second second and so on. The problem is they are not all counted.

Ideally each constituency should have weight according to the number of candidates, and you vote say 10, 9, 8 by weighting (or this can be done by tellers) should there be 10 candidates. Then ALL votes are counted by such weighting, and the candidate with the biggest score wins. AV is a practical compromise to this.

I do think that AV is a means to further electoral reform.

Meanwhile I'd like to give Nick Clegg a thump in the electoral nose. He has clearly 'gone native' with the Tories, and when I voted Liberal Democrat I, like many, did so because I did not want Tory policies. There may have to be cuts, but we need economic growth, and just talking about economic growth in manufacturing does not bring it about. They are now smashing the economy into a brick wall, the result of which will be rapid decline. There is no rule of 'taking up the slack'. At this end of the economic cycle there has to be government led investment (not tax cuts) in order to get activity going. I am more in agreement with Labour policy on this, even if they would still have to be clearly tackling the deficit.

Also it is clear that the Liberal Democrats had a free university education policy that they had already decided they would dump in any negotiations, and this while Nick Clegg was dropping litter in election broadcasts about others not keeping their promises. In other words, he was bare faced lying to get votes and for this the Liberal Democrats are going to pay a most heavy price. He must step down before the next election and even then the Liberal Democrats will be taught a lesson.

However, I'll wait for the General Election for that, and hope it comes sooner than later. But I have long been in favour of electoral reform and responsiveness to the vote, and this is why I shall (just about) vote yes.

1 comment:

Robertson said...

A good analysis of the merits and possible demerits of AV.
The TV advertorials for both Yes and No campaigns have been awful - no real attempt to tackle the issues seriously.Neither group seems to have noticed that AV is used for many union elections now.
The issue is clear for me ; if Blair in 1997 could be elected with a thumping majority of seats but a smaller share of the national vote than Major achieved in 1992 ( where he had a majority in the 20s),there is something basically unfair in the "first past the post."
Sadly I don't expect a Yes vote in the referendum -the LibDems are likely to be punished for their compromises in coalition; so once defeated the matter will disappear for many years.