APRIL 3rd 2011
AV - The Alternative Voting system has
Instant run-off voting was devised in 1871 by American architect William Robert Ware,
although it is, in effect, a special case of the single transferable vote
system, which emerged independently in the 1850s.
To learn more, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_voting
In a nutshell, AV can mathematically, in theory, to ensure that the
individual elected is the one that the fewest people object to.
However, this theory only works in
practice if (a) voting is compulsory
and (b) voters have a good idea how the system works and vote carefully.
Changing the voting system in the UK simply because of objections to
either some aspects of the current system, or to the result it has
achieved or is likely to achieve locally or nationally, without
understanding the conditions (a) and (b) above or knowing if they would
be fulfilled would be an action of folly so great as to merit the
adjective unparalleled in the history of our nation.
The AV system is not appropriate, firstly because it is not even a
system of proportional representation, secondly because it does not
connect logically with the rest of our political structure, thirdly
because it can be chaotic and unstable and fourthly because it is
vulnerable to very complex manipulation in the world of social
networking we have now entered.
If the first count gives a clear winner with 50% of the vote,, then
nothing new has been achieved. In many cases the majority of a popular
candidate will have been greatly enhanced, a safe seat made safer. But
once the cycle below starts, and the more it runs,
the conditions I have listed above as
well as on some unfathomable ones.
Depending on the number of candidates and their relation to parties
with multi-issue or single-issue manifestos, and on a number of other
factors, the potential chaos at this stage will, if AV is adopted, have
certainly have figured in the pre-election stages at hustings, debates
and the search for financial support.
"AV will get rid of the 'Safe seat for life' syndrome" we are told, by
celebrities and comedians and other such experts in the management of
human affairs wheeled out by the politically frustrated. Since we are
told that all political careers end in failure, I have always been very
impressed by any MP who has managed to make, or keep if given, a safe
seat. It must be one if the hardest things to do. It must allow them to
learn a very great deal about their constituents and life in the
constituency, about parliament and the realities of national,
international and global governance. But today we heard the complaint
of a man who said that under the first past the post system he might as
well not vote at all, because the outcome was (a) certain and (b) not
to his liking. Does this man have a point? In no way.
First of all, his vote is always counted, the numerical results
published and conclusions drawn. Secondly it will not necessarily make
safe seats less safe and could have the
Thirdly, there has never in human history been more means for
individuals to exchange views and formulate ideas, policies, focus
groups, networks and political societies. They can form new parties or
join existing ones and they can influence agendas and manifestos. In
such an environment, if any individual finds themselves in a
constituency where their fellow constituents cannot agree on a
candidate for parliament other than the
winner under the system we have, then he or she must accept the fact.
They are living amongst neighbours who do not share their opinion in
sufficient number or coherence. They therefore have a choice between:
(a) living with it (b) converting their neighbours to their point of
view (c) moving to live somewhere where there is a politically coherent
majority to their liking. The onus is not on
the system, or on the MP candidates; it is on the public.
Changing from an imperfect to an unfair, potentially chaotic, untested
in this context voting system in order to ease personal frustrations
and the inability to get your MP and his party to do exactly what you
want, on the outside chance that even if it made no difference it might
damage something or someone you are annoyed with - that is what this
coming referendum offers you.
The offer is being made by a mixture of those who have had to give
in to obtain popularity during the run up to the last election, those
who have had to give in subsequently due to the misinformation heaped
on the public by the media, and promoted by those in the media who need
newspapers and are themselves frustrated politicians, along with
and comedians who are by nature craving the approval of the public and
will flatter them in return. We do not have a written constitution that
outlaws a referendum of such danger and stupidity. National suicide is
not unconstitutional unless we understand the word constitution in its
more fundamental form, when of course it is by definition.
If we want this asylum run by lunatics, perhaps it has become an asylum
and it should be. Eddie Izzard makes me laugh a lot. He is very clever.
But there are lacunae in his brain of significant proportions which
both enable his talent and should confine its use.
Voters will be asked: "Do you want
the United Kingdom to adopt the 'alternative vote' system instead of
the current 'first past the post' system for electing members of
parliament to the House of Commons?"
Could I please
ask if this would be for one election, to 'see how it goes'? Or is it
for ever? Or do we need another referendum to confirm or overturn it?
Regardless of the answer to the above, without which nobody could
possibly know how they should vote on MAY 5, the answer must be NO, for
me. But don't let that influence you in any way.
What is really frightening is the number of pro-AV commentators who
say: "It's so simple. We are just asking people to mark the candidates
in order of preference!" I have heard that repeated every day on radio
and TV. Unless it is explained clearly on the form that that is NOT
what they should do, we will have millions of votes cast for people the
voters do not want at any price! That, combined with those who do not
vote at all, will make the result meaningless.
MAY 6th 2011
The referendum is over. Somewhat unsurprisingly the combined total of
those against AV and those who thought the question put to them was
meaningless and therefore voted no even of they were not dogmatically
against AV, came to 70%. Thank God for that, the national brain is
In Scotland, the parliamentary election went badly for Labour - let's
face it, Ed Milliband and Ed Balls will never play well there, their
vote-raising trip must have been the final kiss of death..