Archive for the ‘AV Debate’ category

12.6M people can’t be wrong…

May 6, 2011


So the verdict on AV is in and it’s a resounding NO.

Infact it has been such a huge victory, we might be forgiven for thinking that perhaps we worried a little too much about not enough voters coming out to defend FPTP.

In other news, the Lib Dems had a bad night, as did Labour north of the Border, whilst the Conservatives did rather better than expected nationally.


A NO vote perspective on AV | OBV

April 26, 2011

Peter Boland

A NO vote perspective on AV | OBV.

This is the article I have been asked to write for Operation Black Vote, putting across the NO to AV side of the debate. Link above.

Your comments are most welcome.

So what is the AV referendum?


On 5th May the nation will be asked to choose between keeping our current voting system of first past the post (FPTP) or change to the alternative vote (AV) system.


The question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not AV is a better system than FPTP. Whilst many of us would agree that or current system is not perfect and that some form of electoral reform is necessary, the question on 5th May is not how much we like or dislike FPTP, but quite simply “is AV actually better?”


So what are the issues?


Firstly, does AV tackle the issue of safe seats or so-called jobs for life? At the last election over 200 seats were won with 50% or more of the vote. Roughly a third of the seats in Parliament would remain safe under AV, indeed some new safe seats would be created with its introduction. AV does not tackle safe seats.


Would AV bring and end to “wasted votes?” In any competition or election there are winners and losers. Just because the person you voted for didn’t win doesn’t mean your vote didn’t count. It simply means more people in your area preferred someone else. If your candidate or party wants to win there next time they will simply have to convince more people to vote for them. We learn many valuable lessons from losing, it helps us grow and come back stronger. It’s no good losing a game of football and thinking the best way to start winning is to have the rules changed in your favour.


Further under AV there is no guarantee that any of the candidates will reach 50% mark. This will only happen if enough of those voting actually pick 2nd, 3rd etc preferences. To guarantee this we would have to make voting compulsory as they have had to in Australia.


In any event following the logic of AV backers, even if someone has 51% of the vote, by the same argument the other 49% of people’s votes didn’t count.


Is AV more fair? Under FPTP the principle that all men and women are equal is enshrined in the implementation of one person one vote. However under AV those who support the most unpopular or extreme parties with their 1st or “throw away” vote will get the first chance to exercise their 2nd and 3rd preferences. Those who support more mainstream parties are far less likely to have their other preferences taken into account. Therefore the 2nd and 3rd preferences of supporters of parties such as the BNP & UKIP will be far more likely to effect the outcome of the election than the other preferences of more main stream voters. As a result some parties and politicians will feel the need to pander to such extreme groups and may have to give concessions to these groups in order to secure their 2nd or 3rd preference. These parties may never gain seats under AV (as they almost certainly won’t under FPTP) but they will gain more influence and legitimacy.


More simply “should my 4th or 5th preference be worth as much as my 1st?” In my own mind it certainly is not, however under AV it could have the same value as your 1st choice. Does that sound fair?


Will AV be more expensive? Even if we accept the argument that no special counting machines will be required, anyone who has been to a count on election night will tell you, the process of counting and recounting and recounting is (quite rightly) a time consuming one. Under AV each round of the counting will no doubt have to be repeated a number of times especially in close fights. With each round the probability of human error creeps ever higher. The whole process will almost certainly take much longer, meaning far more overtime for those already hardworking count staff.


Will AV make politicians more accountable? There is an argument that because candidates will have to appeal to a wider base in order to secure enough 2nd and 3rd preferences, they will essentially have to represent the views of a greater population. In reality it is likely to mean that politicians will simply be more inclined to say what people want to hear rather than what they actually believe or will do if elected. I think there is far too much of this already.


In addition because of the increased likelihood of Coalitions being borne of AV elections, politicians will be far more likely to make all sorts of promises in there manifestoes safe in the knowledge that they can ditch those they don’t really support and blame it on not having won an out right majority. I think we should be trying to make manifestoes more binding not less so.


Will AV eliminate the need for tactical voting? Simply the answer is no. AV will however make tactical voting far more complex. In many ways it is a system designed for voting against candidates rather than actually voting for candidates. It may result in some Parties issuing instructions to their supporters on how to fill out the ballot paper so that tactical goals can be realised. Frankly I find the idea of voters being instructed on exactly how they should cast their vote quite abhorrent. Surely this sort of activity should have no place in our democracy.


I believe there are improvements we can make to the way we are represented in Parliament. Equal sized constituencies and the right of recall would be a good start. The best thing about the referendum is that it will bring the debate about reform centre stage.


AV will not deal with the issue of safe seats. It will not bring an end to so called wasted votes. It is not more fair. It is almost certainly not as cheap. It will not make politicians more accountable or eliminate the need for tactical voting.


More tellingly even AV’s supporters are clearly not that enamoured of it. Nick Clegg called it “a miserable little compromise.”


Roy Jenkins (leader of the Lib Dems in the Lords) said of AV “far from doing much to relieve disproportionality, it is capable of substantially adding to it.”


Neal Lawson (Yes to AV Campaign director) said,  “I’m sorry but I’m not a big fan of AV. It can lead to even less fair outcomes than FPTP and that to me is the critical point.”


Given their apparent change of tune it is hardly surprising that none of Yes camp have been able to persuade me that AV would provide any real improvement to our representation in Parliament.


For all these reasons I will be going to the polling station on Thursday 5th May to vote NO to AV.  



NO to AV

April 14, 2011
Peter Boland's thoughts on AV

Peter Boland's thoughts on AV

I’ve been asked by Simon Woolley Director of OBV to write a piece on the AV debate from the perspective of the No to AV campaign.

I feel it is really important that question of whether AV is the right thing for the UK is discussed in full, so that people can decide for themselves whether they want to make such a huge transition and go out and vote for the electoral system they want on 5th May.

It’s going to busy weekend, and I will Press the Article on here when it is published.