The Apathy of #AV…

With the news that 114 Labour MPs are campaigning against AV, #LabourMPs was soon trending on twitter with many dismayed at what they see as Labour’s betrayal to one of their election pledges (and yes, many of these complainers are LibDems). I take an apathetic attitude towards AV, so much so, I debated whether or not I should even write this blog post. I am not going to discuss the pros or cons of AV, because frankly it’s rather pointless. The simple matter is the AV system will be exactly the same as the current one: undemocratic. You can butter it up anyway you want, but until we have a real change in the way we do politics, our system will remain unrepresentative.

This, for me, has got me thinking about the various merits of a proper PR system. Whilst I see PR as an important reform required to make the current system fairer, my political views have become closely associated with support for civic assemblies where citizens have a real say in the way policy is formulated. This has the power to involve groups/interests that are often sidelined, such as sex workers, enabling citizen democracy.

Therefore, whilst PR would assist with reforming our representative democracy; until we actually have a system where we aren’t ruled by consensus, where minority views are respected and listened to and where vested powerful interests are not a tyranny force, only then can we have citizen democracy. Frankly, I used to hold a very fantastical view of electoral politics, that when or if we have PR everything would be ok. But now I know, it wont.

There are problems electoral reform, within the constraints of our current system, wont change. However, that is not to deny the merits of a proportional system. The Greens missed their chance to actually argue for what a lot of people want; a proper representative democracy. As I have stated before,whilst it is important to build a counter-movement outside political parties, it is also important to continue reforming the existing system. Instead, the Greens are fighting with the establishment for a system that is as pointless as the LibDems. Decisions such as this, illustrate the need to remain independent from party politics, as well.

Sadly, energy and time is being wasted on debating the potential merits and problems of a system that can sometimes be less proportionate than FPTP. I doubt I will even vote for or against the system as it might as well be asking me to state whether I agree with FPTP. It is totally pointless. Again, this is further evidence that only under a new system of doing politics will we have real democracy, and under the current political structures pointless reform, such as AV, will do little but stall important debates about real political change.

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36 thoughts on “The Apathy of #AV…

  1. I also see AV as a poor system to put ourselves under, but I will still be voting for it in May simply because it makes the likelihood that we will progress to a system of PR greater. AV will make hung parliaments more likely and that increases the chance that a smaller party such as the Greens or the Lib Dems will push for full proportionality in the terms of a coalition agreement.

    Of course, PR will not remove all of the flaws in our system, but it will at least be an improvement

  2. Fair enough, I respect your opinion. But to me, AV is no different than the FPTP. Sadly, we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Either way, a vote for AV, a vote against, will stall future reform for a long time.

    Furthermore, AV could likely result in Lucas losing her seat. This bill for AV is also included within a bill that includes unfair boundary reforms; whilst not being voted on, the implication of if it goes through is strong. The sad thing is, the LibDems had a chance in government to get a referendum on a proportionate system, there is no guarantee that any other party if given that chance again, will go for PR – it’s sadly the result of a corrupt system.

  3. Of course the Lib Dems are the sole beneficiaries of AV and smaller parties like the Greens will fair no better than they do under FPTP, however I think that the Lib Dems will still push for PR simply because it is the system that will maximise their own representation.

    But then I do sympathise with your apathy as even a PR system could be rigged against small parties in the Lib Dems favour. Martin Horwood (Lib MP), when confronted with the fact that the BNP would have won 12 seats at the last election under a fully proportional system, said that a minimum percentage of the national vote such as 5% could be required to win seats. Such a system rigged against the BNP would of course be rigged against parties with similar electoral support, like the Greens. In fact, only three parties got more than 5% at the last election – guess which.

    So I suppose you’re right – however elections work, we will still live in a sham run by the big 3. Bummer.

  4. No, the LibDems are not set to gain that much from the change tbh. And seriously, the LibDems will not push for that, and even if they do no one will take them seriously. They have totally ruined everything they stood for by compromising on everything they used to believe. They are a joke.

    The point is, AV is not a PR system. I am not criticising PR per se, all I stated in my blog was that there were problems with assuming PR will sort all the problems of the system out. AV is like FPTP, there is no real proportionality to it.

    But as you say, for now, it seems we will have to stick with the soon to be two main parties dominating our political scene.

  5. Although AV isn’t proportional and isn’t perfect, it is undoubtedly an improvement on first past the post, so I shall vote for it.

    If we must have only one representative per constituency – and we must for the time being because the majority of MPs insist on it – AV is the best way to elect MPs. That is because it ensures that each MP is elected by more than half the constituency voters.

    Jane Watkinson is right that AV can be even less proportionate than first past the post, but it can also be more proportionate than first past the post. It depends on the pattern of voting, which varies from election to election. In other words, proportionality is irrelevant in a comparison between AV and first past the post.

    The boundary changes and the reduction in the number of MPs are also irrelevant to the voting system. Although I have concerns, the fact remains that these changes will take place because the Government’s majority will make sure it does. Whether the changes happen or not, we want to elect MPs by the best available method. Of the only two methods available in the referendum, AV is clearly the better.

    Some correspondents have asked whether AV would help or hinder the Green Party. While this is an understandable question for party members, it is descending to the level of those Labour and Tory politicians who oppose AV because they think it would be bad for their parties. I personally think AV would help the Green Party, but I support it because I think it would be better for voters and the country.

  6. Again, you are allowed your opinion but I think debating the merits of AV is a waste of time. It is no real improvement to the existing system, it stalls reform and will do little to make this system any more representative.

    Furthermore, the fact that we aren’t allowed a vote on PR systems illustrates the problems with the current system where the MPs are able to decide what people are allowed to vote on. It is faux democracy.

    The boundary changes are included within the same bill this AV vote was included in. Boundary reforms are the Tories compromise for AV.

  7. @Jane Watkinson: “but I think debating the merits of AV is a waste of time. It is no real improvement to the existing system, it stalls reform”

    You keep repeating this claim but you don’t offer any hard evidence to back up your assertion – why should AV make further reform any less likely than it might lead to further reform?

    There is one very real tangible improvement flowing from a positive referendum result next May – First Past the Post will be consigned to the dustbin of Westminster history What might follow later is open to debate but FPTP will be gone forever – it’s then up to the progressive forces to press the case for more reform, including of course proportionality (my strong preference being STV) but the prospect of further reform is much more likely to be enhanced by a positive referendum outcome – a NO vote next May will only serve to strengthen the hand of those groups (Labour and Conservative luddites) who wish to maintain the status quo whilst dealing a potentially mortal blow to those pressing for reform – in short a NO vote is tantamount to saying YES to FPTP for another generation, 20 years minimum

    Is that really what you want?

    1. Look at Australlia, they’ve had AV since 1910 or something and still no PR (except for senate).

      Which party do you assume will enact further reform, give LibDems sold out, and the Greens could lose their only MP through the changes? Labour barely want AV themselves.

      You see, this is where I disagree. I see your point, but then I see the point of those that a vote for AV will lead to Tories going well you have had your change, now shut up. It would be better if we didn’t have this vote. If it’s up to the public to decide, we should have had option of pr. It’s faux democracy, as I said above.

      1. It is perhaps worth boycotting the referendum to show our disdain for the lack of reform. This must be paired with a loud campaign in support for real change ie STV (100,000 signatures would warrant parliamentary debate), otherwise abstention will be used by the ‘luddites’ as proof that nobody really cares.

  8. I agree with you Jane – I, too, want PR as long as it is by STV. But the last two attempts to replace FPTP in the early 1900s were lost because there has never been a majority in Parliament in favour of multi-member constituencies! So now we will be making the decision, and not the MPs who stand to be unsettled, let us get the reform we can now, preference voting by 1,2,3.. which is the main feature of STV. The key benefit is that I could then vote honestly for my real first preference, for a person or a party, helping to show what real support they have even if it is supposed “they can’t win here”. What a surprise some would have if that supposition turned out to be wrong as other votes did the same as me!! I would no longer have to guess who the two front runners might be and then vote tactically to keep one of them out. And if my preferred candidate does turn out not to be a front runner after all, I know my vote won’t be wasted but will be used to influence the final result. That seems to me sufficient improvement over FPTP to vote for it in the Referendum.

    1. I disagree that AV will get rid of tactical voting; your arguments for AV undermine your arguments for further reform. The fact votes wont be proportional is key to keeping tactical voting.

      I can see why you would vote for it, but I can see why people wouldn’t. It’s a sadly missed opportunity.

  9. With respect this is the UK, not Australia so your suggestion is not really evidence, just mere supposition on your part.

    None of us can be 100% certain about what will happen post referendum but politics in Britain is very much about momentum and carrying the agenda with you.

    A firm vote in favour of AV next May will send a clear message to those who wish to maintain the status quo – the usual suspects amongst the luddite dinosaur tendency who hope that apathy and entrenched small c conservatism will do their job for them – all they have to do is introduce confusion and misleading information into the equation – hence their subliminal campaign message which equates to “if in doubt, better the devil you know, so vote NO”

    This approach exposes the vacuous nature of their arguments – they know a more informed and aware public will see through their duplicity so the main aim of their campaign is to effectively pour cold water on the debate – doesn’t that tell us everything we need to know about their motivations?

    I can only speak from my knowledge of the campaign for voting reform – I know exactly what I (and everyone else I am acquainted with in the reform movement) will be doing on 7th May, if we get a YES vote – planning for the next campaign to bolt multi-member representation on to preferential voting!

  10. @Alexander Tumilty: “It is perhaps worth boycotting the referendum to show our disdain for the lack of reform. This must be paired with a loud campaign in support for real change ie STV (100,000 signatures would warrant parliamentary debate), otherwise abstention will be used by the ‘luddites’ as proof that nobody really cares.”

    I vehemently disagree with you!!!

    If we want an example of why your idea will not work we only need to look at previous referendum outcomes in Britain

    I cite the 70’s referendums for devolution in Scotland and Wales and the failed plebiscite on English Regional Assemblies in 2004. It took 20 more years for Scottish and Welsh devolution to come back to the mainstream agenda and if we examine the latter campaign because it’s more recent (and I know about the background of the debate) what do we find?

    Every single public opinion poll in the years prior to the publication of the Regional Assemblies (Preprarations) Bill in late 2002 demonstrated a healthy public appetite for transfer of meaningful powers to more immediate tiers of accountable governance. The publication of the aforesaid Bill exposed the cynical manner in which proposals to devolve power to English Regions had been watered down by a unholy alliance of centralised power bases.

    Public support for the concept went South very quickly thereafter and when it came to the vote the NE.England electorate effectively said thanks but no thanks, not because they didn’t like the idea of and elected Assembly but quite simply because the nascent body proposed was a timid shadow of the original plan. So very similar to the relationship between AV and what we really want, STV.

    Six years later and where are the chances of meaningful devolution across England – answer; nowhere to be seen, off the agenda for a generation at least!

    Vote NO next May and the same fate will befall moves towards effective reform of the voting system. Vote YES and a platform for further change is established – who knows, with AV in place we could very quickly get 100,000 signatures for a proposal in favour of multi-member constituencies and move quickly towards STV?

    It’s really quite simple; say NO to AV and you’re effectively saying YES to FPTP!

    1. I don’t think anyone here is advocating a ‘No’ vote as Jane said in the blog post that that could be seen as an endorsement of the current system.

      The argument for boycotting would be that there is a risk people will stand back and say “well, we’ve fixed British democracy” once AV is passed.

      In actual fact there are many more problems with our system that are much more important than the difference between putting crosses or numbers on the ballot paper. To name a few: we have an unelected Upper Chamber; whips force MPs to go back on pledges; money and big business is far too important – it is no coincidence that the Conservatives came first when they were the best funded party.

      The political system is weighted towards those who have money and the ability to lobby the government – just changing the way we vote won’t have an effect on that; it merely risks making people think that they have changed things. This illusion is what could stall real reform.

  11. @Alexander Tumilty

    It’s difficult to know where to begin so I’ll start by providing you with some background about me and where I’m coming from on this vital issue.

    I’m a supporter/activist for a number of democratic renewal campaign groups, including, Unlock Democracy, Electoral Reform Society and Make Votes Count (the latter of these being in a state of dormancy at present). I’m also participating actively in the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign.

    I’m acutely aware of the UK’s democratic shortcomings – I could go on….and on…..and on about them, ad nauseum – but surely the real question is; how do we seriously begin to address Britain’s fundamental flaws?

    For me the answer is blindingly obvious; you concentrate your efforts on the mechanisms involved in the process of actually acquiring political power, not how it is wielded. In short you go to the root of the problem and apply solutions there – books can be filled (and have been) regaling us with tales concerning the rotten heart of British Democracy but in the end all of those rotten laws received Royal Assent and passed on to the statute book via one method and one method alone – they were voted through via a division in the lobbies of Westminster Parliament.

    How did those voting blocs come to fruition – through a morally and functionally bankrupt voting system used to elect our MPs – nothing less and nothing more!

    Solve that underlying flaw and you begin a process (albeit slow) to rejuvenate the way we do politics in Britain. I’m not pretending it will be easy or quick and in part the forces of regression rely on the desire for a quick-fix solution and when it doesn’t arrive, the impatience of an ambivalent British electorate leading to the abandonment of any prolonged assault on the bastions of power.

    I want (ultimately) STV in relatively small constituencies (say equivalent to no less than 3 but no more than 5 current Westminster boundaries).

    That way;

    • We retain a strong element of locality (the constituency link?)
    • Real choice (on the ballot paper) is introduced and through it greatly increased accountability
    • A healthy dose of proportionality (fairness) in the final overall result is provided.

    With such a system in place;

    • No single multi-member seat would be safe
    • Political parties with aspirations to govern would have to campaign across the entire UK
    • No single candidate would be guaranteed their seat without having to demonstrate their credentials to his/her respective electorate.
    • Parties considered minor under FPTP rules would have a real shot at gaining a significant Parliamentary foothold and thus exerting real influence upon the ensuing legislative programme
    • Independent MPs would be the norm rather than the exception.

    Of course all of the above would take time so hoping for some overnight transformation is just pie in the sky – those amongst the privileged classes now in control are not going to give up power easily, we must seize it back, piece by piece and the first piece in this long drawn out affair is getting rid of FPTP!

    Victory in the forthcoming referendum is far from assured – those whose only tactic is to confuse and obfuscate will continue to deliver their malicious message via a compliant media mouthpiece – a significant number of potential YES voters are minded to punish the LibDems (and Nick Clegg in particular) for their perceived duplicity in colluding with the Devil, A.K.A. the Conservative Party.

    In this precarious situation a significant boycott may just deliver a NO vote when a YES was the more likely outcome – how sick will you feel if the NO camp prevails 50.5% to 49.5% and your 1 or 2% of boycotted votes would have made the crucial difference – NO, the only credible tactic is a full bloodied campaign for a YES vote, to send the only message Cameron & Co will understand – we aren’t going to take your *&^% no more!!!

  12. Without going through point by point, I have to say I agree with Alexander here – especially his comment at 2.40 – sorry to be so precise, only way i thought I could link.

    Electoral reform is only one part of a much bigger problem. I would must more prefer public assemblies.

    What we do need though, is a coordination of those in favour of pr after this vote regardless, we can’t let this divide the movement, which it sadly is doing. Another reason for why I think this vote is so bloody pointless.

  13. The point is, AV will only act as a false sense of improvement. What we really need is to build the outside movement to the political structures that dominant to radically change the way we do politics. AV will only hide the flaws of the system for a bit longer, I have doubts about PR without a fundamental change in the way we do politics.

    It is glad to see you are so passionate though Peter, I wish you well with the campaign as I have said – this shouldn’t be something that we divide ourselves up over. Hence why I didn’t really look at the pros and cons in my blog, more an overall view of why I think it will do little to change politics.

  14. @Jane Watkinson: “The point is, AV will only act as a false sense of improvement. What we really need is to build the outside movement to the political structures that dominant to radically change the way we do politics. AV will only hide the flaws of the system for a bit longer, I have doubts about PR without a fundamental change in the way we do politics.”

    Whether or not AV proves to be a false sense of improvement only time will tell – initially it will feel like an improvement if only due to FPTP’s demise – it’s surely up to the reform minded community to build on the momentum provided by a YES vote and press for yet more reform – if we just sit back it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? I know I won’t be resting on any laurels but I can’t speak for others?

    Finally, the point I’m trying repeatedly to make is that only radical reform of the voting system boasts the capacity to act as a catalyst to drive the fundamental change in the way we do politics you seek – perhaps you have other ideas about how such fundamental change might arise – I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in this field but highly sceptical about their chance for success in the absence of voting reform?

    1. Well, frankly there are other issues i’d rather put my time and energy into campaigning for.

      I think voting reform is important for the existing system; but as I said in the blog – we need a movement to challenge the power relations – so communes, public assemblies. The current way of doing politics need to be radically changed. But I see no contradiction of working in system whilst also working outside it.

  15. Jane – I think you and all your correspondents want PR; I certainly do, but we’re not going to get it in 2011. The only two choices in the referendum will be AV and first past the post. You can’t vote “No” to AV without voting “Yes” to first past the post and abstaining might give victory to the No campaign.

    AV is better than first past the post because
    • every MP will have to be elected by a majority of voters who care enough to express enough preferences;
    • AV avoids the need for negative voting;
    • AV lets voters rank candidates instead of voting only for one as though all the others were equally bad.

    Another key reason to vote “Yes” is to break the mould. One of the key arguments for “No” is that we have always used the present system, so why change? Actually, there have been many changes over the years, but a change to AV now would make that argument totally unusable.

    OK, so you’re not encouraging people to vote “No” but, if the No Campaign wins, first past the post will have won and the No campaigners will say the voters want it and don’t want change. Explaining that you abstained because you wanted PR won’t help.

    Of course, if the Yes campaign wins, the No campaigners will say that’s far enough and a few Yes campaigners will agree with them, but we can prove them wrong. First, however, we have to win. If the outcome is close, it may depend on you, Jane, and your followers who are reformers at heart but not enthusiastic about AV.

    Please visit http://www.stvaction.org.uk or http://www.yestofairervotes.org for more information.

    1. has something happened? You were agreeing with my a second ago? :s

      I have issues with your points – for example, how does negative voting stop?

      And I can explain why i abstained/spoiled ballot: it’s a waste of time, no real change and faux democracy.

      Thankyou for trying, but I will remain apathetic :p

  16. @Jane Watkinson: “I think voting reform is important for the existing system; but as I said in the blog – we need a movement to challenge the power relations – so communes, public assemblies. The current way of doing politics need to be radically changed. But I see no contradiction of working in system whilst also working outside it.”

    But how, realistically, are you going to drive the radical change you are seeking? Power in the current set up rests resolutely with the political party (or group of parties) wielding a majority voting bloc in the Commons – that’s a harsh, unavoidable fact no one can avoid.

    There are so many things I want to change about the way Britain is governed, starting with where power resides and how it is wielded before we even get to policy outcomes.

    You talk about “communes & public assemblies” but for these to even have the faintest hope of coming to fruition, you first have to undermine the current seat of power – unless you are contemplating some kind of people driven revolution, storming of the gates of Parliament (are you?) how are you going to (lawfully) advance your arguments – without radical change from within Parliament the prospect your ideas and aspirations ever seeing the light of day is non-existent; sorry to have to break that bad news to you?

    The only credible route to a better way of doing politics and the outcomes it delivers is to attack the seat of power, play them at their own game if you like?

    Once you have a more progressive, citizen driven Parliamentary landscape in-situ, then you have a real opportunity to forge the kind of alternative, bottom up democratic landscape you advocate?

    1. Well if you look at the student protests/movements, that is evidence for it. Look around the world, such as the Zaptias. An outside party politics movement is possible.

      And again, you are reading my comments wrongly. Did i not actually say, an inside and outside political movement is what is required? We have to do it through and outside the system!

      We all have our own political viewpoints, frankly this av campaign is becoming a bit of a ‘moral vanguard’.

  17. You asked how negative voting would stop with AV. Actually, I said AV would avoid the need for negative voting First, let’s see whether we agree on what negative voting is. To me, it is voting against a candidate rather than for one; for example voting for A who you think has the best chance of beating B even though you would really like C to win.

    With AV, you could vote positively for C and give your 2nd preference to A. It may well be that many other people thought like you and C actually wins but, if C is still an outsider, your vote will be transferred to A whom you prefer to B. That’s how AV avoids the need for negative voting.

    You also wrote that an abstention or spoilt vote was a waste of time, so why did you write, “I doubt I will even vote for or against the system “? I have a lot of sympathy for the view that abstaining is a waste of time and I always vote myself, but I can see why so many people don’t vote in elections; they know their votes will have no effect.

    However, the referendum will be different because every vote will count. That is why it is especially important to vote in it and why I cannot agree with you that “this vote is so bloody pointless”.

    In fact I don’t think there is much difference between our basic views, because we both think that AV is not the best possible voting system and we would both have preferred a different choice in the referendum. Nevertheless, we don’t have that other choice and AV is better than first past the post. Also, more radical reform is more likely to follow a Yes victory than a No victory.

    Don’t abstain; even if you can’t bring yourself to campaign for Yes, at least vote Yes and don’t encourage others to abstain.

    1. That’s rubbish, it will not stop negative voting – you will do that through preferences, see labour leadership for eg.

      I never wrote that abstention or a spoilt vote was a waste of time, why would I when i said i would do that in a blog? You obviously read my comment wrong, as that is what I intend to do!

      I will not vote for or against, I don’t think I am being offered a real choice, so why should i take part in fake democracy?

      1. Dear Jane,

        I tell you again I never said that AV would stop negative voting; some voters who do not understand the power of choice voting systems like AV and STV may continue to vote negatively but, as I wrote twice, “AV would avoid the need for negative voting” and I believe that the vast majority of voters would stop voting negatively.

        You are absolutely right that one can stop negative voting by preference (or “choice” voting) and that’s exactly what AV and STV provide.

        You wrote at 12.05 today, “I never wrote that abstention or a spoilt vote was a waste of time” but you wrote at 11.01 today “And I can explain why i abstained/spoiled ballot: it’s a waste of time, no real change and faux democracy.”! I assumed that “it” referred to abstaining/spoiling” but, on rereading your words, I see they were ambiguous; perhaps you meant that voting was a waste of time.

        Well, voting usually is a waste of time for most people, because they live in safe constituencies where their votes cannot affect the result. Even in a marginal constituency, voting is a waste of time if the two leading contenders are Lib Dem and Labour but you are Green or Tory, unless you are prepared to vote Lib Dem to keep Labour out or vice versa.

        However, voting in the referendum will not be a waste of time for at least two reasons:
        • There are no safe seats in the referendum and every vote can affect the result.
        • By voting “Yes” on 5 May, you may make your vote more effective and a little more valuable in all future elections.

  18. @Jane Watkinson

    I thought something like this might appear in your dialogue

    It’s clear you have a somewhat idealistic perspective on how change, in the UK, might arise.

    @Jane Watkinson: “Well, frankly there are other issues i’d rather put my time and energy into campaigning for.”

    Well, frankly you can put all the effort you like into those other issues but they won’t deliver one iota of substantive change – in stark contrast I believe voting reform, if we get to STV (and AV is a small step in that direction) DOES possess the capacity to deliver effective change – that’s where we differ.

    Yes, I admit that this potential transformation will NOT happen overnight – unfortunately Britain doesn’t do radical revolutionary change (I wish it did!)

    So we have two potential avenues to drive change;

    1. A quasi revolutionary movement a la Zapatistas
    http://libcom.org/tags/zapatistas

    or

    2. A citizen driven process of engagement with the democratic political process, through a more responsive voting system, precipitating (slowly) the emergence of a more informed and enthused electorate and (hopefully) a more progressive political landscape,

    Now, if you were a betting person, which scenario would you put your money on happening in the UK – go on, be honest?

  19. Anthony,

    Regardless of whether you believe people will continue negative voting, I don’t think even with all the information AV will stop negative voting. Essential to this is the lack of proportionality. I don’t think you will ever stop negative voting, even though STV, but only reduce it. So the argument is idealistic to say the least.

    And yes, I was referring to voting being a waste of time! lol.

    Yes, but what I would be voting for isn’t worth it. I don’t want to give legitimacy to a vote that doesn’t give me a proper democratic choice.

    Peter,

    You may assume I am idealistic, but there is evidence of such changes already happening with the student protests. There is evidence of movements across the world. There is nothing idealistic about that, it is possible if we work for it. Movements such as the women’s movement, can work outside politics to bring changes, that is how successful changes occurred in the 60s/70s – that isn’t idealism, it is juts another pragmatic way of doing politics. Parliamentary politics is not the only way of doing things – there is nothing idealistic about that.

    I could accuse you of idealism in assuming a vote for AV will make things all better, and that future reform will happen, when actually there is more chance of reform being stalled with no obvious party to bring in electoral change (as the Greens will probably lose out from the changes as there is no proportionality to it!).

    Again, you are reading what I say wrong. I think outside AND inside traditional politics will help bring change. I just don’t believe AV has the means to bring about the change within the system – I think the referendum whichever way the vote goes, will be ineffectual.

    And I don’t think there is a choice between those two things, as I have said – we can do both. You are obviously missing my meanings thinking I am siding with one over the other! The blog says this rather clearly, to be honest.

  20. Jane, I fully accept that dissent, such as that manifested in the recent student protests, has a pivotal role to play in driving radical change.

    However, where we differ is the emphasis we place on each facet of the reformist struggle?

    You see struggles such as the student protests as the catalyst – I don’t. They are the cutting edge perhaps but to achieve their potential they have to proceed from a platform, an environment in which progressive politics has taken root on a more widespread basis in the public mindset – individual protests can never do that but root and branch reform within the seat of political power can.

    That’s why I believe voting reform is seminal and student protests are not. So you’re correct in claiming that these two aspects are complementary but you’re completely wrong in assuming that such student protest type dissent alone can force change – transformation in the way British society (who holds power and how it is wielded) itself is structured will begin with radical change at the heart of British political power and that can only mean Westminster!

    (this explains why I think you’re wrong to belittle the importance of the AV referendum next May – this is potentially a first step on the pathway to change we both want – we cannot afford to spurn this historic opportunity!)

    1. I am not sure I agree totally, I would say both are equally important for changing politics; but the alternative protests are the most pressing atm. You seem to be suggesting I think radical reform is less important, whilst complementary means they have their own specific roles, but complement each other – so are both as important.

      So, you misunderstand my argument of what complementary means.

      And I hope to be corrected, but I can’t lie to myself re the results effects on future reform.

  21. Peter,

    The idea that protest, dissent and revolution don’t have any place in British politics is wrong. Just look at some of the most fundamental changes that have happened throughout our history.

    It took rebellion of the Barons in the 13th Century to force King John to sign the Magna Carta, which put the ruling classes under the same laws as the common people.

    It took a civil war and the later Glorious Revolution for the constitutional monarchy under which we currently live to be created.

    It took riots in the 80s and 90s for the poll tax to be repealled.

    I am not calling for the creation of another model army, but it is naive and idealistic to suppose that gradual party politics is the only way to bring about change.

    King John, King Charles I and King James II (And John Major) did not just hand out concessions to the people, and neither will the modern day parliamentarians. That is why we are being given a referendum on something nobody even wanted in the first place.

    We are being tricked into believing that we live in a democracy and the movement for voting reform is going to look stupid: one minute it will be campaigning for AV and once the referendum is passed, the movement will begin a campaign against AV.

  22. @Alexander Tumilty

    Now you’re putting words in my mouth – I specifically DID NOT say “gradual party politics is the ONLY way to bring about change”

    In fact we need to forget party politics entirely and look at this issue from an entirely democratic perspective, devoid of any particular ideology (which is perhaps why Jane is lukewarm about AV – it doesn’t do the Greens any particular favours).

    What I am saying is that overturning the lazy complacency lying at the heart of power in British politics, ie. in the Westminster village, is the single most important factor in transforming the way we do politics itself so I am arguing for a different emphasis here, nothing more.

    Dissent has its place and I’ve expressed that fact here in my contributions to this debate but it’s about the context in which dissent forces the pace of change. I refer to words from Jane earlier in this thread:

    I think debating the merits of AV is a waste of time. It is no real improvement to the existing system, it stalls reform,

    I couldn’t disagree more with the general tenor of those remarks – getting rid of FPTP, which is what will happen if we say YES to AV in May this year DOES boast the potential to signal a momentous change, and it is momentous even though the change itself is small, simply because it sends a clear message to our political elites; “that we (the people) will decide how we elect our MPs, not them!”

    If we can secure this change, it creates a platform for further reforms but saying NO will have the effect of entrenching the power base of those regressive forces who would resist any form of change whatsoever – that’s why it’s so important to say YES to AV – not for the actual nature of the change (which is relatively small) but quite simply to establish the principle of citizen driven reform.

    Voting YES will give succour and encouragement to those, like the student protesters, who want further even more radical changes. Say NO and that momentum evaporates, possibly for another generation!

  23. I remember the student protests in the 1960s which were about matters far wider than that on which the latest apparently self-interested dissent has focussed – tuition fees. But they didn’t reach, let alone change, the basic problem to our concerns with politics, how we elect MPs and thereby Parliament.

    I agree with Peter Davidson. If there is to be ANY progress in changing the political system, there must be a majority vote for AV which is the ONLY way available to us NOW to replace FPTP. Otherwise, the voters will be agreeing with those MPs who objected to reform nearly 100 years ago and since so they could keep their seats with FPTP.

    If the NO vote wins, we can all say goodbye to any further movement on Electoral Reform for another 100 years. MPs will say with glee that they were right and that through the referendum the voters have shown they agree with them! I can hear the sound bites now – “The voters agree with us. Stay with the current system – it is what has served us well all these years. Let’s stop discussing this minor distraction and get on with the real problems facing the country”.

    They will then claim there is no need for any further referendums on this subject as the public is of the same mind as them.

  24. wow, please don’t say that the student protests are self interested – they have largely centred around increased fees and EMA cuts, neither of which will affect those of us who are already at University.

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