Archive for the ‘General Election’ category

Recruiting for 2011/12 MP Shadowing Scheme. | OBV

May 11, 2011

Recruiting for 2011/12 MP Shadowing Scheme. | OBV.

Having had the privilege of being on this great scheme last year, I can highly recommend this to any one who wants to know more about how our democracy really works, and wants to embark on a Political Odyssey of their own.

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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.

Congratulations! – Class of 2011 | OBV

January 18, 2011

 

 

Congratulations! – Class of 2011 | OBV.

 

Fantastic to see how much my fellow Shadows have grown over the last few months. Some very inspiring words not least those from amongst our own ranks.

It is a credit to the whole team at OBV who have made all this possible. I very much look forward to continuing to work with them and all the Shadows to help achieve our shared goal of more a representative Parliament.

One-Day Conference Attracts 70 Attendees | Conservative Future

October 27, 2010

One-Day Conference Attracts 70 Attendees | Conservative Future.

BBC News – “Gordon Brown to blame for cuts”, says Blair’s former Chief of Staff

October 20, 2010

A little honesty at last…

 

BBC News – “Gordon Brown to blame for cuts”, says Blair’s former Chief of Staff.

Back with a jolt

October 15, 2010

Having completed my first full day of shadowing some weeks ago I had been eager to get back to Westminster to continue my journey into the world of politics.

The recess had meant there had been little emanating from the capital to feed my growing political appetite.

The silly seasons did throw up a few tidbits however. I thought David Milliband’s “house meeting guide” was particularly hilarious and had it not been for the equally funny accompanying you tube video they might have actually been able to spin the whole thing as tongue in cheek. Perhaps future tittle might have included “How to organise a piss up in a brewery” and “How to recruit friends and control people.”

All frivolity aside my return to the thick of it came with an unexpected jolt.
On my way home from Bestival Music Festival I got a phone call from Ben Gummer MP for Ipswich, whose election campaign had provided me with the perfect crash course in grass roots politics.

He explained that due to voting commitments in the House he was no longer able to attend the launch of a memorandum of understanding on Hate Crimes at the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality’s (ISCRE) AGM scheduled for the next day. He asked whether I could go and deliver a message on his behalf.

The next day Ben sent me a copy of his letter to the AGM and asked me how my speech was coming along and informed me that Simon Wooley the head of OBV would be the keynote speaker at the event. So no pressure then. Needless to say I quickly puts some words of my own down on paper to bookend Ben’s letter.

Shortly before leaving for Ipswich Town Hall I spoke with ISCRE who had prepared some briefing notes for me to prepare my speech. So it was that I came came to only get my hands on the full content of the speech a matter of minutes before the event began.

I took my seat at the front of the packed hall next to Simon and began scribbling and annotating furiously.

Luckily the timely reappearance of the prodigal young dance group gave the respite I needed to calm the nerves before taking to the floor.

Those familiar with public speaking will know that delivering your own words even with a great deal of preparation can be a daunting task. Delivering the words of others at short notice is harder still.

Well I got through it without out too much stammering or stumbling and even managed a few laughs.

Simon’s speech was inspirational as ever and had the room buzzing for rest of the evening.

All in all it was a tremendous experience and I was glad not to have been the headline act. A supporting role suited me just fine, but it gave me taste of where I want to be in a few years time.

It was great to meet so many people from the local community and I hope to continue to be involved with these organisations going forwards.

The next day I was up early to get the train down to Westminster for my second day of shadowing Eric Ollerenshaw, but that’s a story for another blog…