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The way AV will be exploited - The Ex-Communicator

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April 17th, 2011


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08:43 am - The way AV will be exploited
This is the nasty political tactic that I think will be used if AV is voted in.

Let me take two right wing policies as indicative. In real life it may be different ones. Let us say the removal of collective bargaining rights from public workers, and the privatisation of the NHS. Let me further assume that these are policies which do not have general public support (as I think they do not). With AV such policies could become law through a simple tactic.

The Lib Dems and the Cons publicly agree on the removal of collective bargaining, but publicly and loudly disagree on the destruction of the NHS. The Lib Dems then run a campaign at the election which says to the mass voter 'I know you don't agree with all our policies, but give us your second preference votes if you want to save the NHS.'

Under AV they pick up a few marginal seats in this way. They then form a coalition with the Tories and close down both collective bargaining and the NHS, shrugging and saying 'this is coalition politics, we can't achieve all the items in our manifesto.'

If this tactic has occurred to me, you may be sure it has occurred to people who - unlike me - want these outcomes.

Obviously if the AV referendum does succeed people like me must make a lot of noise to fight this tactic, and persuade people not to innocently enable policies that they will hate, but it is an additional big risk, and probably the main argument against AV.

(45 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:steepholm
Date:April 17th, 2011 09:02 am (UTC)
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I don't think this is an additional risk, so much as the status quo ante. David Cameron went into the last election saying that the NHS was safe in his hands and that he would "ringfence" spending on it. In the event, he's thrown that out of the window, and not because he went into coalition with the Libdems.

Politicians have always found ways to break election pledges when they wanted to. Possibly AV adds a new weapon to their already-bristling armoury, but they already have "The financial situation was worse than we thought", "What was right for 2010 isn't right for the changed world we find ourselves in in 2011", "I've always believed that the best politician is the one who is brave enough to change his mind", etc ad nauseam.
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From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2011 09:12 am (UTC)
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Of course breaking election pledges is possible in any system, but the AV system enables it as an overt strategy. A party can campaign for second-pref votes on the basis of partial agreement - and I believe this will happen - but will then be free to interpret that partial agreement in any way they wish (probably as complete endorsement). This is an additional piece of trickery which is not currently available to the coalition.
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From:del_c
Date:April 17th, 2011 09:10 am (UTC)
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Interesting. Have you got some examples from places where AV results in coalition government?
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From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2011 09:18 am (UTC)
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I am not an expert in the internal politics of any non-UK government, and I suppose you would need to be an expert to know about these kind of hidden deals. I believe that there are a lot of covert dealings and betrayals of the electorate in many countries. An additional issue is that I think ethnic and religious divisions have a bigger impact on coalition politics in many countries than they do in the UK.

ETA - But basically you would end up with a permanent political mainstream which is significantly to the right of the general populace. You'd find political cronyism and corrupt populist politicians who line their pockets. These are not rare around the world.

Edited at 2011-04-17 09:23 am (UTC)
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From:sheenaghpugh
Date:April 17th, 2011 09:24 am (UTC)
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I tend to be with steepholm on this one. I think there is already an awful lot of backstairs bargaining between parties, and by no means only parties in coalition with each other. My problem with AV, apart from the fact that the wrong version is being proposed, is

(a) Cameron doesn't want it, which inclines me to vote for it
(b) Clegg does, which inclines me to vote against it.

I do also wonder if a no vote will remove the last vestige of an excuse for Clegg to continue propping up Cameron. I'd like to think so.
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From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2011 09:31 am (UTC)
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remove the last vestige of an excuse for Clegg to continue propping up Cameron

He will continue to prop him up of course. The issue is whether (and I don't know) the rest of the party will continue to support him. It may be that the AV is just a pretext, and without it they will carry on as before.
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From:matgb
Date:April 17th, 2011 01:34 pm (UTC)
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I do also wonder if a no vote will remove the last vestige of an excuse for Clegg to continue propping up Cameron. I'd like to think so.

It won't. Coalition will last the full term regardless of referendum result. If anything, a Yes vote will make collapse more likely as Tory backbenchers are really unhappy--the Govt is too left wing, too liberal, and conceding tooo much.

No, I'm not joking.
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From:coalescent
Date:April 17th, 2011 09:50 am (UTC)
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If this tactic has occurred to me, you may be sure it has occurred to people who - unlike me - want these outcomes.

So why are all those people campaigning against AV?
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From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2011 10:34 am (UTC)
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They aren't all campaigning against it are they? The Lib Dems are campaigning very strongly for it.

There are obviously many different things going on, with some right wingers campaigning for AV, some for FPTP.
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From:gair
Date:April 17th, 2011 10:38 am (UTC)
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Doesn't this depend on the idea that AV will necessarily lead to more coalition governments, though? And I hear it doesn't (Australia has had one coalition in the last hundred years, Britain has had four). But I haven't been double-checking this.
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From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2011 10:42 am (UTC)
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It's true, the tactic isn't sure-fire. If there's a sufficiently determined and informed anti-Tory vote then the tactic won't work even under AV. And I think this is achievable. If the AV referendum succeeds I won't despair or give up, I just think the next fight begins.
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From:lamentables
Date:April 17th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
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Setting aside arguments about whether this will result in more/more successful nasty political tactics, I don't see how the proposition that the system can be abused constitutes an argument against the system itself. It seems to me the equivalent of saying, for example, that lazy people will exploit the system and get paid not to work, therefore we should have no unemployment benefit.
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From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
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The question is whether you tolerate a risk or not. Clearly some people will abuse a benefit system unless it is so draconian that you end up hurting other people. Or similarly, the price we pay for scrupulous judicial processes is that some guilty people will get off, but that's the price we pay to avoid imprisoning innocent people.

My argument is that the risk of what I describe happening is very high indeed. I think it will certainly be tried, and it might succeed. To me this risk is too great and the consequences too severe, while the benefit is negligible.
From:polyphant
Date:April 17th, 2011 07:43 pm (UTC)

Pro-AV

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I'm bemused by much of this debate: surely most of us have already used AV in other contexts? For example, I have been a member of various student societies and unions, and a trade union, all of which used the 'Single Transferable Vote' (STV) which is exactly the same algorithm as AV. I have seen no evidence of its misuse in these ways - on the contrary - it has received widespread support. How have other people commenting found the use of the STV/AV system in these contexts?

The main thing I like about it is that it provides 'consensus' on a candidate that the majority of people approve of in some way.

As for devious behaviour by politicians: this is something that is, unfortunately, part of politics. For example, we rarely find out what shenanigans go on /within/ political parties between different factions/tribes, and all the horse-trading and nonsense that goes on in that context has no democratic accountability.

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From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)

Re: Pro-AV

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Well, I think you are unlikely to be convinced by anything I say. But I do think what I describe will be attempted, and if it succeeds the results for our country will be disastrous. I don't think it is just a part of politics to be accepted. I think it's evidence of a new and unpleasant type of politics which is developing in this country.

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