Why all progressives should back AV

December 29, 2010 § 5 Comments

It's time for fairer votes.

2011 is going to be a vitally important year for me, my party and for our whole political system.

For me because I hope I can persuade enough people to vote me into being a local Councillor representing Barwell ward on Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council.

For my party because I hope we can continue to be part of the Coalition, governing in the national interest…and delivering a fair deal for the people of Britain.

And for our whole political system because we have the chance, if we’re brave enough to take it, to vote in a much fairer, much more democratic, electoral system for the Westminster parliament.

It amazes me that there are still a number of so-called ‘progressives’ who can’t see the benefit of the Alternative Vote system for Westminster elections.

It is for those of us who are part of the formal ‘Yes to Fairer Votes’ campaign (I’m a member of the Leicestershire branch) to use the next four and bit months to persuade as many people that this will be good for our country; using one to one interaction, evidence, the media and so on.

So, why is it important that we vote ‘Yes’ in the AV referendum in May next year?

Here are three, simple but profound reasons:

* MP’s will have to work harder to be elected.

MPs will need to secure at least 50% of the vote to be certain of winning, not just in the 1 in 3 that can currently put them in power. They’ll need to work harder and go further to get — and keep — your support. They’ll have to appeal to more people in the communities they seek to represent, because doing just enough won’t be enough any more.

* A vote that really counts.

Forget tactical voting – just pick the candidate you really want to win. But if your favourite doesn’t win you can still have a say. It’s as easy as 1,2,3…

* Tackling jobs for life.

Too many MPs have “safe seats” or jobs for life, and the expenses crisis showed us just where that culture can lead. Now you can help end that culture of complacency.

For progressives there is an added reason as to why should vote yes to AV:

Just think back to our wilderness years in the 1980’s, when the Left was split which meant the regressive and reactionary policies of Margaret Thatcher were allowed to be implemented; not because there was a Tory majority in the country, there hardly ever has been.

But, because, the Left’s vote was split between Labour and SDP/Liberals…meaning many Tories got in on a minority of the vote.

If we’d have had AV and we progressives had been able to list our prefered candidates in order, it is highly likely that in the majority-though, I accept, not all-of occasions Labour voters would have put SDP/liberal candidates as their second preference and vice versa.

That would have meant a greater number of progressive MP’s elected to Westminster…which would have meant the Tory majority guaranteed in the 1980’s by First Past The Post would have disintegrated; meaning the devastation caused to so many of our communities would not have happened.

And those who lamely argue that AV leads to unstable government, I provide the following argument to the contrary.

Australia has had AV for its federal elections since the 1920’s and only twice…that’s twice…since then has it led to a hung parliament (the latest time, of course, being earlier this year.)

So, it is clear from the example of our cousins down under that AV leads, most of the time, to stable government.

Progressives who vote to keep FPTP are like turkeys voting for Christmas.

We progressives need to come together and argue the case for change.

How can any real democrat be against a system that would mean politicians having to earn the votes of more than half of their electorates (at least) to gain a seat in our prestigious parliament?

Those backing FPTP need to ask themselves if it is really acceptable for people to be elected to Parliament with only 30% or so of those who cast a vote in their election…meaning a majority voted against them?

And those who say this referendum doesn’t go far enough need to pull themselves together and realise that if there’s a ‘no’ vote on this in May, then it’s highly unlikely there’ll be another chance to vote for a fairer voting system in at least a generation.

It is time to vote for change.

To vote ‘Yes’ to fairer votes!

§ 5 Responses to Why all progressives should back AV

  • Neil Baker says:

    A pedantic issue and not one which does the post justice, but if AV does come in, I hope returning officers will be told to treat a single cross as a “1” next to a candidate. Some people will struggle with change – I know that sounds a touch patronising, but two examples from the May General Election.

    1) I overheard somebody asking the polling station staff “Do I put an “x” or a “cross”?

    2) Somebody said to me “I think I voted the wrong way. I wanted to vote for Mr Cameron and he wasn’t there on the paper”…after voting.

    The whole idea of “safe seats” is largely psychological. Every ballot box is empty at the start of the day (well, ignoring the surge in postal voting – which has changed campaigning quite a bit) and whoever gets the most throughout the day wins.

    With AV, it’s such a watered down version of vote reform it doesn’t make a huge difference (in theory) – could just exaggerate current outcomes, with Blair getting an even bigger majority in 1997, etc.

    Either way, on a personal level I can’t see myself using more than one vote!

  • “The whole idea of “safe seats” is largely psychological.” absolutely agree, it is self-fulfilling.

    Personally not 100% decided, but I think I’d prefer the system which rewards the most to the most popular rather than to the least unpopular.

    • Neil Baker says:

      Also think the days of “I vote this way because I always have” are drawing to an end, or at least a weakening. Younger voters tend to be more fluid (though the word could be “fickle”, in some cases), which may explain why membership of political parties is far lower now than a generation ago.

  • […] See the article here: Why all progressives should back AV « A Liberal Helping […]

  • Chris H says:

    I can’t help thinking some people voting no or staying at home will make STV more likely. If the result is “no” you can forget about any fairer voting for a generation at least. Plus STV is probably to bigger a leap for one go.

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