The mistaken and unhelpful arguments for electoral change…

Ok, I have been writing rather a lot about the contradictions of certain arguments – such as pluralism and tribalism – and now another contradiction comes to mind. This time it is in regards to the electoral system. As we know, there is to be a referendum soon on AV (well if it actually passes the parliament stage, especially with the news that Tories and Labour will join to prevent the bill from happening – oh, how one-sided this coalition is increasingly becoming).

Whether to support AV or not is to be debated at the Green’s party conference. I am increasingly coming down on the side of anti-AV – we need PR, as for one – it isn’t proportional, and in some cases, less so than the current system. Furthermore, it is to be tied to self-interested boundary changes (even if it is not in name in terms of the question) – and this could even lead to our one MP losing her seat. Then there is the erroneous nature of arguments such as it will get rid of tactical voting. I mean, seriously? People I know in Labour are clearly thinking and promoting tactical voting in the leadership election, the election which uses AV.

Another argument that I came across the other day, promoted by a LibDem, is the view that AV would near remove the BNP. I mean, as if there is really any presence of them anyway (they failed to win an MP and their council seats was dramatically reduced). This argument also counteracts many of those who are pro electoral system changes – as what they are saying is that, well we only want electoral change to improve our own party ratings, we don’t want the electoral system to really reflect the voting, instead, we just want more seats for ourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the BNP, they are a vile party. However, people vote for them, and as we live in a democracy and they are (for the moment) a legal party, we shouldn’t be voting for electoral systems on the basis that it will eradicate the BNP. I mean, it rather undermines a strong argument for electoral change, that it would make the electoral system fairer and be a better reflection of popular voting.

The author of the argument above, believes that with the use of the AV: NO BNP argument, Labour couldn’t possibly front an opposition to AV as it would undermine their moral obligations. I seriously don’t see this. As I have said, this is a clearly mistaken argument, and actually undermines the need for electoral change. You can’t change an electoral system to stop parties you don’t like (even though most people don’t like the BNP), as then you are just replacing the FPTP system with another biased and undemocratic system.

But in truth, that is all AV would do anyway. It would do little to improve the electoral system we have, and it will hamper any future reform. Hopefully, parliament will listen to Caroline Lucas’ amendment to get PR options on the ballot paper – that will certainly put the Liberal Democrats in a difficult position. I think if people are going to fight for the AV system however, they shouldn’t be trying to pull on the heart-strings as the article I cited is – it isn’t helpful, and is actually counterproductive to the pro electoral reform arguments.

What this also does is reflect attention away from the reasons that people support the BNP. There is a real need for proper investment in jobs, capital spending and the like – these are the real reasons behind most people’s support for the BNP. So no wonder some LibDems would want to play this BNP card in an electoral vote, as it takes attention away from the hurtful spending cuts that they are initiating with the Tories.

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10 thoughts on “The mistaken and unhelpful arguments for electoral change…

  1. AV gets rid of the grossest kind of tactical voting whereby anybody supporting the 3rd, 4th, 5th etc party in a seat are constantly exhorted not to waste their vote, but to vote for one of the two front-runners. This costs the Green Party among others much of their true support. AV fixes this at a stroke.

    It is not tied to the boundary changes – they will go ahead whatever the result of the referendum on AV. And what is the objection to more equal constituencies anyway? They only fix a tiny fraction of Labour’s distributional advantage. And why do you care about Labour’s advantages anyway?

    PR is a question for the next parliament (Vote Lib Dem 🙂 ). AV should be supported on its merits over FPTP.

  2. Joe,

    Nah, it really doesn’t help at all. I mean, look at the Aussie elections, the Greens controlled the balance of power in the Senate with PR, but they only got one MP! And yes, that was on AV. It isn’t proportional, and as a LibDem you should know that – and i bet you were one of the many against Brown and for Clegg’s this isn’t good enough remarks, in regards to Brown’s proposal when Brown was in power.

    No, if the bill isn’t passed, the boundary changes will find it hard to make there way through. Also, LibDems will lose a lot of their seats under those boundary changes, not good either for you. Its not equal constituencies, its a Tory compromise for the AV – and is about gerry mandering the seats. Also, as i noted in the blog – it could lead to our MP, Caroline Lucas, losing her seat!

    And no it isn’t. You fail to understand how damaging this vote will be, it will stone wall PR. And LibDems are finished as far as I am concerned.

  3. I was appealing to something bigger than narrow party advantage there. It may or may not win the Greens more seats, but it will help you over the ‘wasted vote’ hurdle, and allow the level of your true support to be seen at the ballot box.

    More importantly perhaps, it will give other parties a reason to appeal to your voters rather than attack you – and this will do more to advance the cause of green politics than decades of vote-splitting have done. More on this here: http://joeotten.blogspot.com/2009/06/av-would-be-brilliant.html

    Having constituencies of a more equal size is not a gerrymander. Allowing them to remain so unequal would be a gerrymander. But I wasn’t really talking about whether the bill is passed. The question is which side to support in the referendum.

    What makes you think AV would make PR less likely rather than more likely? Opponents of PR seem to be opposing AV for the opposite reason.

  4. Joe,

    Well my whole argument of this blog is how the LibDems and other pro AV aren’t, they are looking to use the line, we can destroy nasty parties (even though yes the BNP are a vile party) with this change. And no it wont get over the wasted vote hurdle – it isn’t proportional and people know this.

    I really think you are overestimating AV – after all this is something Clegg called a “miserable compromise”! Seriously, most of you LibDems know that AV is a waste of an opportunity.

    Yes it is when you consider how much it will benefit the tories and how much it will undermine the others, including you’re own – i think you are set to lose half of you’re seats. And whether the bill is based fundamentally links to the referendum though! If this bill doesn’t go through, the vote nor the boundary changes will likely go through!

    You will find there are many for PR with my view. It is because if you get it through, people will say well you have had you’re change so leave it – but if you don’t get it through, people will say you have had you’re shot and so shut up – regardless of the fact that PR wasn’t an option. I mean look at Australia again, they had AV decades ago – where is the PR, I don’t see it as a pressing concern, do you?

    Celia Jane,

    AV is a voting system that will be voted upon if the referendum passes to overtake the existing electoral system of FPTP. And BNP are the British National Party – have a look on Wikipedia – basically a very racist party.

  5. Pingback: The Case for AV (or: ‘AV it!) « Paperback Rioter

  6. Pingback: Who’s who in the four AV campaigns « Better Nation

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