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April 17th, 2011


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08:36 am - Against AV
One more post about AV. The referendum date is approaching. I am minded to vote 'No', against the recommendation of the Labour leadership, and my political hero Tony Benn. There are a number of reasons.

Firstly I am highly suspicious of the 'it's all terrible simple' bland message I am hearing from some AV supporters (mainly the ones who don't know me, and think that type of tactic will work with me). There are obvious complex issues raised by the new system, which are ripe for exploitation by political hucksters, and the 'Nothing to see here, move along, all very simple' talk makes me baulk. There is much I don't know, but I do know there is complexity here.

Secondly I think these same political hucksters are pressing the new system because it enables the very tactic which they are using in this debate. That is, a PR-type simplified smiley-face marketing message for the populace, with all sorts of shady backroom negotiation.

Thirdly, people in the 'Yes' camp talk a lot about how it is wrong for a party to run a government without majority support. It seems to me there are two possibilities. One is that a particular political platform has majority support among those who vote. In this case AV is not a superior way of ensuring the transfer of power. The second is that there are multiple platforms, and each has minority support. In this case it is wrong to manufacture a spurious majority for one of those platforms by counting up mild preferences ('UKIP better than BNP - I guess') as if they were a full endorsement on an equal footing with those who actually voted for the UKIP platform.

And more concretely I think that if AV gets through a particular tactic will be cold-bloodedly used to enable right wing policies which would not get the support of the majority, and further strip away some of the things which make this country tolerable. I'll post that separately.

(12 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:steepholm
Date:April 17th, 2011 09:01 am (UTC)
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Since I've already posted on this subject you won't be surprised to find that I disagree, but specifically...

Thirdly, people in the 'Yes' camp talk a lot about how it is wrong for a party to run a government without majority support. It seems to me there are two possibilities. One is that a particular political platform has majority support among those who vote. In this case AV is not a superior way of ensuring the transfer of power.

Well, it's not inferior either: it's exactly the same. The trouble of course is that relatively few results give anyone a clear majority.

The second is that there are multiple platforms, and each has minority support. In this case it is wrong to manufacture a spurious majority for one of those platforms by counting up mild preferences ('UKIP better than BNP - I guess') as if they were a full endorsement on an equal footing with those who actually voted for the UKIP platform.

I notice you don't make a case for FPTP at any point in your post, perhaps because you feel the onus is on AV to justify change, but here the omission feels rather pointed. AV may "manufacture a spurious majority", but FPTP simply hands the seat to someone with, maybe, a third of the vote. If AV is wrong, why is that better?

But I'm not sure how spurious that majority is anyway. Second-preference votes are absolutely not "on an equal footing": their lack of equalness is taken into account by their not being counted at all in the first round. Also, your UKIP/BNP example is a bit of a straw man. No one has to put down a preference for any party they don't want to, so if you don't like UKIP or the BNP, just don't vote for them. However, many people do feel in genuine (dis)agreement with more than one party on various issues, and AV at least gives them a way of expressing that, which FPTP absolutely does not. Shangri-la it isn't, but I can't see why is FPTP preferable in this respect.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2011 09:27 am (UTC)
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If there isn't support for a party then there isn't support, and no alteration of the way we count support will change that. All that will be achieved is that people - and we see them doing it already, so we know it will happen - will talk as if that support has been achieved.

No one has to put down a preference for any party they don't want to, so if you don't like UKIP or the BNP, just don't vote for them. Of course the more common issue will be Lib Dems and Tories telling us to put them ahead of UKIP and the BNP.

And we see the manoeuvring already, with people - the majority of pro-AV comments I get on this blog - saying 'just rank the candidates in order of preference - it's not complicated'. And I believe this tactic will only gather pace if AV is voted in.
[User Picture]
From:steepholm
Date:April 17th, 2011 09:50 am (UTC)
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I don't think support is quite such an all-or-nothing affair as you seem to. I might vote Green on environmental grounds, but still like Labour policy on, say, the minimum wage. AV gives me a way to express that - clumsily, true, but less clumsily than FPTP.

I'm afraid I don't understand your second point.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2011 10:39 am (UTC)
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I'm only really making one point in the previous comment, which is that I predict that unpopular parties will attempt to get preference votes on the basis of not being as bad as some other more extreme party.

Oh, I suppose my subsidiary point is that they will do this by fibbing that voters must rank all candidates in order of preference.
[User Picture]
From:sheenaghpugh
Date:April 17th, 2011 11:58 am (UTC)
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Oh, I suppose my subsidiary point is that they will do this by fibbing that voters must rank all candidates in order of preference.

But surely the ballot paper will make it clear that this isn't the case? It is of course true that some of our fellow-citizens are too thick or idle to read the ballot paper, or indeed much else, and that they vote from a condition of total ignorance, but that happens now, and will do unless you attach some sort of intelligence test to the vote, which would conflict with the principle of no taxation without representation.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2011 12:57 pm (UTC)
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Somebody the last time I posted about this said that this was the propaganda that went out in their country. Something along the lines of 'you must vote for every candidate or your vote will be wasted' which is kind of not precisely a fib (because 'wasted' could mean a lot of things) but implies that if you don't vote for all parties your paper will be deemed spoiled, which is a fib.

Edited at 2011-04-17 12:58 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:steepholm
Date:April 17th, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I suppose my subsidiary point is that they will do this by fibbing that voters must rank all candidates in order of preference.

But you and I both know that this not in fact the case. Are you really suggesting that this is a way Yes campaigners are persuading people to vote Yes? By lying that they would be obliged to vote for the BNP? Or is it rather a way that No campaigners are scaremongering (i.e. lying) in order to get people to vote No?
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 17th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC)
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Are you really suggesting that this is a way Yes campaigners are persuading people to vote Yes?

No, not at all. I am saying that in an election run under AV I predict that people will attempt to get votes by presenting themselves as 'not as bad' as more extreme parties,and implying that they should therefore get numbered endorsements. Nothing I am saying here relates in any way to the Yes and No campaigns themselves.

Edited at 2011-04-17 06:40 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:snowballjane
Date:April 18th, 2011 12:44 pm (UTC)
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I think I'm more worried about AV for the opposite reason - mainstream candidates will present as more extreme in order to pick up the extreme's #2 votes.

Under FPTP, if you have 1-2% would-be BNP voters, the Tories will try a certain amount to woo them, but can give up the worst of them as a lost cause. I think it's much worse under AV (as evidenced by Boris's London mayoral campaign pandering to the far right) because in a tight election, getting the far right's second choices is important.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 18th, 2011 07:39 am (UTC)
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Whatever system we have, it will be ruthlessly exploited by those who get power under it.

I don't trust any of them, and certainly none of the parties has an overall set of policies I agree with, so putting a single X under the current system is already an unpleasant compromise. At least under AV I could rank them in reverse order of how badly I dislike them.

What I hope is that AV will force them to pull towards the centre, and that extreme policies on either side won't get through. Clearly you believe the opposite will happen.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 18th, 2011 07:54 am (UTC)
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I think what is 'centre' for the political establishment is well to the right of what is centre for the general public, and very influenced by what will make them money.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 18th, 2011 07:57 am (UTC)
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Not sure why your comment was screened - I set it to screen only anon comments with links in (they tend to be spam)

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