Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Back to the sideshow - why you should vote against AV


Since I’ve a more important election campaign to fight in May, I feel it necessary to set out the reasons why you should oppose any change to an ‘alternative vote’ system for choosing members of parliament.

  1.  AV is not fairer, more proportionate or more democratic. And don’t let them tell you otherwise
  2. AV presents the risk of your vote making it less likely that the candidate you want to win won’t win – that is wrong
  3. AV means some people’s votes count for more that some other peoples votes – those who vote for less popular candidates, in effect, get more votes
  4. AV is more complicated, more confusing and more prone to error – again disenfranchising those who make an honest mistake
  5.  AV gives a disproportionate influence to smaller political parties and candidates from the fringes and extremes

However, the big reason for opposing any change is that the proposals are a political fix – a cheap compromise cooked up behind closed doors as a fig leaf for Nick Clegg to cover up his glee at joining the coalition. If introduced we won’t get better government, we won’t have more accountable MPs, we won’t rein in the growing power of political party elites, we won’t have a more effective parliament and we won’t be any more free or in control of our own lives.

The AV referendum is an insult – an expensive insult. It does not propose a better system, just a differently biased system. And as I’ve said before it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem. I argue that the method of election is a matter of monumental inconsequence next to some other concerns:

And those concerns? Firstly there is the issue of accountability. Secondly there is the matter of selection. And third there is the question of what we elect MPs to do. If our parliament debates the arcane of voting systems it does so without answering the real questions around our democracy – how we allowed MPs to get beyond the law, why those MPs (or most of them) felt empowered to indulge in an exercise of blatant exploitation and why we allow them to create a special, privileged and protected position for the political party.

None of these questions – how we hold MPs to account, how candidates are selected and what we the people want our MPs to do – are addressed by changing the system of voting. That merely creates the illusion of a substantial change without making the real changes we need. And those changes?

Direct election of the executive
Terms limits for all politicians at whatever level
The power of recall
Ending state funding for political parties
Repealing the Registration of Political Parties Act
Restricting all election campaigning to the promotion of individual candidates

Without these changes the voting system – how we choose – is of little or no relevance and will do nothing to restore public confidence in politics, let alone enthusiasm!


No comments: