Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Fairer votes: the phoney war

Setting aside the arrogant London-centricity of the decision to hold the AV referendum on the same day as Scottish and Welsh general elections, there is something even more absurd about the debate over AV. The people fighting for AV, in the main, don't actually want it; and the people fighting against it are, in the main, actually united by their opposition to something entirely different.

I find myself in the former camp. I am a strong believer in proportional representation. In fact I think anyone who attempts to argue against proportionality in a democratic system has no leg to stand on, since the entire basis of democracy is proportionality. But AV won't deliver PR. AV is really a bolster to the first-past-the-post system, effectively including a run-off vote in every constituency to ensure that the winner gains more than 50% of the vote.

On the other side of the argument, if you scratch the surface of a vociferous opponent of AV you will really find a vociferous opponent of PR. They can see that even a small shift away from pure FPTP has the potential to open people's eyes to the attractiveness of full PR, and they want to make sure that doesn't happen. Oh, they are rehearsing the arguments against AV - Churchill has been wheeled out more than once despite his opposition to AV being based on his view that the public were too stupid to use it effectively - but they are really opposed to PR. Ask them. The honest ones will tell you.

So here we are in the middle of a phoney war. We're all fighting over a system in which none of us have any really interest, while the real prize - true proportionality in democracy - has been quite effectively hidden away by the entrenched beneficiaries of FPTP in Westminster. Even so, this is our best chance to open a chink in their armour. So I'll be voting Yes to AV in May, and I urge you to do the same.


  1. PR just cannot work with a whipped party system in the house of commons.

    The old polarised debate "who runs the country the gentry or the workers" with one party on each side is over.

    There are more varied issues and they don't fit into a fixed left/right party mould.

    Is fox hunting a left/right issues? is nuclear power? nuclear weapons? Troops abroad? is the green belt? immigration? devolution? is EU membership a left/right issue?

    The referendum on AV is a good example on its own - the coalition is split as are labour!

    FPTP supresses this - if you don't vote for one bit party you'll get the other. AV will alllow people to show their *real* priorities -then the need for more fundamental reform will show itself. But PR and whips don't mix.


  2. Thanks for the input pop. There's certainly a lot more in the Jenkins report than has ever been seriously and honestly debated by MPs - or the public.

    In Scotland we have proportionality (of a sort) and whips, and it works to an extent though the fault lines are clear. But the political system will have to change if the electoral system changes, that's certainly true.