Why you should vote Green in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 10, 2011

Our third and final hustings post of today comes from Peter Allen, the Green Party candidate.

I am employed as an Advice Worker in Manchester and every day I see the misery and worry caused by the Government cuts and by unemployment.

The Green Party has a fully costed set of policies which do not involve cuts in public services. We would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in renewable energy, recycling and upgrading the housing stock. We would reduce the obscene level of inequality that blights our society. The Coalition Government are proposing vicious cuts in public spending which will hit the poorest hardest and will do lasting damage to our public services. Their policies will deepen the recession and increase unemployment .* The alternative presented by the Green Party, paid for by increasing taxation of the rich , clamping down on tax  avoidance and evasion , and withdrawing British troops from Afghanistan, is needed more than ever.

I have been inspired  by the ongoing protests by students against the proposed rise in tuition fees and the abolition of EMA. Only the Green Party is prepared to defund and fund the principle of free higher education and to properly support young people and their parents through an increase in Child Benefit.

The voters of Oldham East and Saddleworth are the first to have the opportunity to express an opinion about this government at the ballot box. I am asking people to reject their divisive and damaging policies  and support instead the Green Party’s commitment to a more equal, just and sustainable society.

*A paper cowritten by Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas  concludes that cutting the job of an average paid public sector worker (paid £25,000 per year) might save as little as £2,000 per year once taxation lost and benefits paid out are taken into account.Moreover the reduced spending power of such a  redundant worker would threaten the security of private sector employment in the economy.

See here.


Thoughts on Old and Sad (or: I’m so vain I probably think this by-election is about me)

January 6, 2011

It’s very unusual for my home town to be the centre of anything, so I have loved keeping tabs on the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election campaign. Voting in that takes place on January 13th, one week from today.

The first by-election in any Parliament is always intriguing. Add the fact that we have a coalition government into the mix, as well as the exceptional circumstances in Oldham, and we have a perfect storm for political junkies like myself.

Not only is this by-election crucial for all three main parties, but it will also play a major role in determining the media narrative for 2011. Will the focus be on the crumbling Lib Dem vote? Or the stability – or otherwise – of the coalition? Maybe on Ed Miliband’s ineffective leadership? Perhaps the focus will be on disenchantment with the three main parties, as smaller parties see an increase in their vote.

As you’d expect, it’s a crowded field with ten candidates. We’ll be hearing from most of them next week in Paperback Rioter’s online hustings (check this blog out on Sunday for more information on that).

I even got the chance to speak to one last week, when Debbie Abrahams, the Labour candidate, canvassed our house. I gave her my best Paxman-style grilling; the impact of which was probably diminished by the fact that I was wearing my pyjamas and dressing gown at the time.

Debbie Abrahams was Head of Rochdale PCT but resigned over increasing privatisation. She also said to me that she was in favour of AV (“a step in the right direction”). Also, she is married to John Abrahams, a former Lancashire captain and current England under-19 coach. On the face of it, she is probably my dream Labour Candidate.

We talked for a bit about the cuts, and Debbie Abrahams reiterated Labour’s plans to halve the deficit in four years, as opposed to the three years set out by the Government in the Comprehensive Spending Review. She also said that Labour’s cuts would be “fairer” than the coalitions, but I am not sure how that is achieveable. It is the most vulnerable people in society that have the greatest reliance on public services, and therefore any cuts to public spending are going to affect them most.

The main reason I cannot vote Labour in this by-election is because there has still been no apology for what Phil Woolas did, nor any internal action taken against other Labour members of the Woolas campaign. An apology for his leaflets from Labour was a red-line issue for me – I would not vote Labour without that.

Debbie Abrahams said to me that Ed Miliband had apologised, and that “I was standing next to him when he did so”. I cannot find any evidence for this online; the closest is this article from the indefatigable Saddleworth News (their by-election coverage has been exemplary). When asked directly if he apologises for Woolas’s leaflets, Ed Miliband only says that he has “regret” over them. Which is not good enough for me.

I voted Lib Dem in May, and I’m sure you will be astonished to hear that I won’t be doing so this time. This is not only because Elwyn Watkins has said he would have voted for the tuition fees increase. As I’ve argued before, this is a ridiculous position that goes against not only his pre-election pledge, but also his party’s coalition agreement. Actually, the main reason why I shall not be lending Watkins my vote is because he has repeatedly said he would like to “rip up” the European Convention on Human Rights and the Geneva Convention. It is admittedly impressive that a Liberal Democrat is able to attack Phil Woolas from the right on immigration and asylum issues, and if I think about it too much my head will probably explode.

Given the sluggish Tory campaign, the next MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth will almost certainly be either Debbie Abrahams or Elwyn Watkins. Despite what I’ve said above, I would not be too displeased with either of them as my MP, for all their faults. They would both certainly be an improvement on the previous incumbent.

However, I am going to vote Green on Thursday, for Peter Allen. I met him on Uppermill High Street last Saturday, and he came across as down-to-earth and friendly. I’ve written before that I was impressed by Caroline Lucas at the Green Conference in Birmingham, whilst some of my favourite bloggers are Greens. They are also the only party that have a coherent anti-cuts message, and for that alone they deserve backing.


‘AV it! The case for AV (part 2)

September 15, 2010

Over the past few weeks I have written, tweeted and talked about AV for more than is healthy. Still, it’s all in a good cause. I promise this will be the last post on electoral reform in a while.

I alluded to my post on the Green Party Conference of an attitude within certain sections of the party to AV of what can be best described as “principled apathy”. As part of this, Jane Watkinson and Darrell Goodliffe have written an “AV Myth-busting” post which deserves attention.

Let’s get one thing clear: the referendum will be between First Past the Post (FPTP) and Alternative Vote (AV). Therefore all I hope to prove in this post is that AV is better than FPTP and deserving of a Yes vote. In the last point I’ll explain why AV is still worth voting for. Bear in mind, then: I don’t think AV is perfect – very little is – but it’s still an improvement on FPTP.

The article has five main points, which I have paraphrased:

1. AV does not eliminate tactical voting, because the focus then goes on second preferences, especially those of marginal parties

AV does not eliminate all tactical voting. However, it eliminates almost all tactical voting. Under FPTP voters like the Greens have to decide whether to vote with their head or their heart. Do you vote for a fringe candidate who’s policies you agree with, or do you vote for someone you agree with less but has more chance of winning? With AV, this dilemma is eliminated, as you can do both with a clear conscience. Or, as Roy Jenkins put it:

[AV] would increase voter choice in the sense that it would enable voters to express their second and sometimes third or fourth preferences, and thus free them from a bifurcating choice between realistic and ideological commitment or, as it sometimes is called, voting tactically

Hence, AV is better than FPTP on this score.

(I’ll deal with the issue of minority parties later)

2. AV is not a separate issue to the boundary review:

If the AV referendum falls then it would be quite legitimate and proper for the opposition to then insist that the government’s mandate to carry out the boundary review simply doesn’t exist and insist the whole Bill be reconsidered by Parliament.

Enough already about the bloody boundary review! As I have written before, there is nothing wrong about equalising constituency boundaries. These boundaries at the moment disproportionately favour Labour. On twitter tonight there was much talk of the latest Yougov poll that has the Conservatives on 40% and Labour on 39%. Someone from Labour tweeted excitedly that if replicated in a General Election, Labour would gain 321 seats to the Conservatives’s 281. Labour supporters tweet results like these, which show that the boundaries at the moment obviously favour themselves if they can win a majority of seats with fewer votes than the Tories, and then have the gall to complain that equalising constituency boundaries would be gerrymandering! What hypocrisy!

Also, the idea that one supposedly contentious topic in a bill renders all other bits of that Act of Parliament null and void is ridiculous. I trust that’s self evident.

3. AV would not elimated wasted votes

Here, Jane and Darrell quote Roy Jenkins:

AV on its own suffers from a stark objection. It offers little prospect of a move towards greater proportionality, and in some circumstances, and those the ones which certainly prevailed at the last election and may well do so for at least the next one, it is even less proportional that FPTP…In particular, there would still be large tracts of the country which would be electoral deserts for major parties. Conservative voters in Scotland, for example, might only hope to influence the result through their second choice…

This is all true, and why Jenkins recommended “AV plus”, which would probably be a better electoral system than AV, but not one being offered in May. However, if AV does eliminate some safe seats, and therefore some wasted votes, it is better than FPTP and therefore worthy of a Yes vote. Also, Jenkins does say that “Conservative voters in Scotland, for example, might only hope to influence the result through their second choice”. Scotland certainly is an electoral desert for the Conservatives, as they have no seats there at the moment. But if voters can influence the result through their second choice, than these votes aren’t wasted, are they? So AV is an improvement on FPTP and would help get rid of wasted votes.

4. AV will not elimate extremist parties like the BNP

I will give Jane and Darrell this point. It’s not electoral systems that can defeat the BNP, but debate. I also agree with them that the BNP deserves Parliamentary representation if people will be misguided enough to vote for them.

On the subject of the second preference votes of extremists like the BNP deciding elections: generally, people will vote BNP as a protest vote (in which case BNP would be their only voting choice and no second preference will be made) or they tend to be disaffected Labour or Conservative voters, in which case their second preference will go to them. Either way, I don’t think worrying about the second preference of fringe parties is worth it. As I wrote last time:

Burnley, for instance, was a safe Labour seat, and because it was a safe seat its sitting MP would not listen to the concerns of local residents. The BNP vote grew in Burnley because voters did not feel their MP was listening to them on issues such as housing and education. Their vote grew from zero in 1992 to over 4000 in 2001 and 2005: a reflection of how much voters felt their MP was ignoring them. It’s not as if 4000 people in Burnley suddenly became racist in nine years. However, an active Liberal Democrat party in Burnley began to campaign against the BNP and for the needs of local residents. This year the Liberal Democrats won almost 15000 votes in Burnley, tripling their vote from 1997, to take what had been a Labour seat since 1945, whilst the BNP vote dropped by a quarter. AV would make more seats more competitive, meaning that MPs would have to take more notice of their constituents. We’d have representative democracy, in other words.

5. A Yes vote for AV hinders the chances of future electoral reform:

In many ways, AV is the step in the wrong direction. It is unhelpful and does little to further the case for reform. It will act as a stalemate, and it will be very unlikely that there is another vote on electoral systems for some time….In conclusion, we have demonstrated the problems with the ‘AV Myths’ that are increaseingly (sic) being peddled by the pro-AV camp in its efforts to convince itself as much as other people of the worthiness of a system that was even described by Nick Clegg as a ‘miserable little compromise’.

If we are going to keep quoting Clegg’s remark, can we please put it in its proper context, in which he does say that AV would be a small improvement on FPTP. Which is exactly why you should vote Yes. It’s also strange that those in favour of PR are criticising the process by which we have this referendum, given that it’s a product of a coalition government, of a type we’d have lots more of if we had PR!

In a conversation on Facebook, someone made the point that:

We are not voting AGAINST AV – defeating the motion to vote FOR is just to say that we are neutral

Um…defeating the motion for is exactly the same as voting no. To say otherwise is a specious argument. As Rupert Read argued on Saturday, it’s a question on which one needs to ask oneself, “which side are you on?” – for or against reform. People standing in the middle of the road, as Nye Bevin said, generally get run over. A no vote would scupper electoral reform, probably forever, whereas AV is a step towards potentially something like AV plus. Voting no would certainly not show that the British people want a PR electoral system. The comment on Jane’s blog that she mentions is particularly dunderheaded, but it is correct to say, as Sunny Hundal argues, that electoral reform tends to be incremental.

AV is better than FPTP. Vote Yes for electoral reform. That’s all I want to say on the topic now, otherwise my mental well-being will be severely tested soon.


Our Day Out

September 14, 2010

I spent Saturday with Hannah at the Green Conference, and this is a brief summary of what I saw. The first event was a Question and Answer session with Caroline Lucas. This was great: there are very few parties that would have such a relaxed, unmoderated discussion with its leader.

What I found most eye-opening about Caroline Lucas’s talk was her call to modernise Parliament, which wasn’t something I’d thought much about before. She used her experience as an MEP to compare both Parliaments, and finds that the European Parliament looks like a “beacon of efficiency” compared to the House of Commons. It took Lucas six weeks to find an office, but upon arrival to the Commons was immediately shown the pink ribbon on which she could hold her sword.

For instance, if people want to speak in the European Parliament, they will submit a request to speak before the debate. They will then be given an allotted time, and told how long they can speak for. There are desks in the debating chamber, so that representatives can do some work while they are waiting to speak. In contrast, in Britain you have to catch the speaker’s eye by continuously bobbing up and down during the debate, which seems as inefficient a system as it gets. Also, the speaker chooses which proposed amendments to a Bill get debated in the Commons. I hadn’t realised how important a figure the speaker is until her talk.

Another archaic area of the Commons that needs modernisation is voting. In the European Parliament MEPs vote with electronic voting cards, and the process takes a few seconds. With the Commons having to file out and walk under either the “Aye” or “No” chambers, the whole process can take fifteen or twenty minutes.

We haven’t even mentioned the fact that the Commons doesn’t have enough seats: 450 seats for 650 MPs.

I think everyone in the room felt a great deal more enlightened after that talk. Crucially, Lucas seems to be keeping her sense of humour as she battles through the labyrinths of the House of Commons. Hopefully she will still have it in four and a half years time.

I attended both fringe meetings on electoral reform (can you tell I’m a bit obsessed?). Jim Jepps debated with someone from Unlock Democracy on whether the Greens should support AV in the Referendum. I was slightly disappointed by the arguments put forward by the Unlock Democracy representative. All she had to do was show how AV was a better system than FPTP, and then naturally follow from that that the Greens should support a Yes vote. This was never done. Instead, too much felt like a rehashing of old Press Releases saying that we need electoral reform. Someone should have told her that she was speaking to an audience of Greens, who know there’s a need for reform.

Another thing that griped was the constant interrupting of Jim Jepps when he was speaking. I’ve really enjoyed his blog for a while, and it was a pleasure to see him speak him person. His position – that AV would not benefit the Greens and they should therefore remain neutral instead and make the case for PR. It is an admiral, principled approach, and one that should not have been greeted with mild heckling and interrupting.

The second meeting was far more enjoyable. Organised by the Electoral Reform Society, there were three excellent speeches, from Peter Crainey, Jean Lambert and Rupert Green. All thought that the Greens should back AV, despite its imperfections. This attitude reflects the majority of the Green Party, which later voted overwhelmingly to back Yes. I’m very glad about this, as it’s the only real practical option for those in favour of electoral reform. To say that we should remain neutral and campaign for PR instead feels like a passenger on the Titanic refusing a lifeboat because it didn’t have a well-stocked minibar. But I get the impression it’s a topic I’m going to return to.

After a panel on public sector cuts, I met the lovely Jane Watkinson (who’s take on the day you can read here) and her equally lovely boyfriend Darrell, for an unsuccessful quiz and an (eventually) sucessful trip to find food.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable day. I learned a lot, and it was nice to dip my toe in the Green waters. I’m sure I will return.


The Case for AV (or: ‘AV it!)

September 8, 2010

The electoral reform bill has passed a second reading, so we will almost definitely have a referendum on the Alternative Vote system next year. Forget accusations of “gerrymandering”, because the referendum isn’t about the proposed boundary changes, only the way we vote. I will also be attending the Green Party Conference on Saturday, when they will be debating whether they should back a “Yes” or “No” vote at the referendum. Now therefore seems a suitable time to explain why you should all vote Yes. I want to get involved in the Yes campaign, so see this as a statement of intent, if you like.

If you are already in favour of voting Yes to AV, then great, but forgive me if I don’t address this to you. There’s little point in preaching to the converted, after all. If you are not (yet) in favour of voting AV, I assume you are one of two groups:

1) People who don’t think First Past the Post is better than AV.

2) People who would prefer a more proportional voting system and do not think voting Yes offers any benefits to them.

I’ll discuss both those points in turn. First, I’ll just explain how the First Past the Post (FPTP) and Alternative Vote (AV) systems work, courtesy of the Electoral Reform Society. Both of the articles on their site are rather partial, as you’d expect, but provide excellent summaries on the two different methods of electing a government.

So, FPTP:

FPTP voting takes place in single-member constituencies. To vote under FPTP, the voter simply puts a cross in a box next to one candidate. The candidate with the most votes in the constituency wins.

Simple enough, then. Whereas AV:

The Alternative Vote (AV) is very much like First-Past-the-Post (FPTP). Like FPTP, it is used to elect representatives for single-member constituencies, except that rather than simply marking one solitary ‘X’ on the ballot paper, the voter has the chance to rank the candidates on offer.

The voter thus puts a ‘1’ by their first-preference candidate, and can continue, if they wish, to put a ‘2’ by their second-preference, and so on, until they don’t care anymore or they run out of names. In some AV elections, such as most Australian elections, electors are required to rank all candidates.

If a candidate receives a majority of first-preference votes (more people put them as number one than all the rest combined), then they are elected.

 If no candidate gains a majority on first preferences, then the second-preference votes of the candidate who finished last on the first count are redistributed. This process is repeated until someone gets over 50 per cent.

It may look a bit more complicated at first glance. But all a voter has to do his rank the candidates in order from 1 to 5, or 6, or whatever. So it really isn’t that hard, is it? Anyone who complains that AV is overly complicated obviously doesn’t really respect the intelligence of the general public, which seems a bit patronising to me.

 Without further ado…

 Why AV is better than First Past the Post

 1) FPTP is unsuited to modern-day politics

 Our present democracy was made for a two party system. Look at the structure of the House of Commons, for instance: it’s adversial, and designed for two parties to sit opposite each other, bickering and throwing rotten fruit across the chamber. Since 1832 the system has served its purpose because generally British Politics has been about two parties. In the nineteenth century these two parties were Liberal and Conservative, then in the first decades of the twentieth century the collapse of the Liberals ushered in Labour to be the second of the two main parties. In 1951, for instance, Labour and the Conservatives got between them 96.8% of the vote.

Over the last three decades we have seen the breakdown of the two party system. This is best illustrated by this wonderful graph made by a user on Wikipedia:

Key (from top to bottom):

  • Blue: Tory (1832), Conservative (from 1835), Liberal Conservative (1847-59), Liberal Unionist (1886-1910), National parties (1931-45)
  • Grey: other parties and independents
  • Orange: Whig (to mid-19th century), Liberal (mid-19th century to 1979), National Liberal (1922), Independent Liberal (1931), SDP-Liberal Alliance (1983-87) and Liberal Democrat (from 1992)
  • Red: Labour

As you can clearly see, the proportion of people voting for a party other than Labour or Conservative has been the highest it has been for about a century. Because of the way FPTP does – or doesn’t – work, you end up with anamolies in the system. Which leads on to our next point:

2) FPTP leads to unfair, skewed results

The number of Lib Dem votes increased in May, but ended up with seven less seats than 2005. On three occasions – in 1929, 1951 and 1974- a party has secured most votes in the election, only to finish second in the overall poll. This is a system, remember, that its supporters will say should be kept because of its simplicity!

On the other hand, it can also exaggerate the majorities of parties who receive the most votes. In 1983 Mrs Thatcher’s Tories won 42.4% of the votes, which earned them a whopping 61.1% of seats; the SDP, in contrast, got only 3.5% of seats with over a quarter of the vote. In 2005 Labour received 35.2% of the vote, less than 3% more than the Conservatives (32.4%) but gained 355 seats to the Tory’s 198. With turnout so low, at under 60%, Labour receieved a commanding majority with only 20% of the popular vote. No wonder people like Lord Hailsham have called this system an “elective dictatorship”.

3) Millions of wasted votes

The reason FPTP produces these skewed results is because the election is fought within hundreds of constituencies. A party with a solid base in a geographical region (Labour in the North and Scotland, Tories in the South) will always outperform a party like the Liberal Democrats, which has decent support across the country, but not enough to win seats.

I know so many people who are not interested in politics because they said there was no point in getting involved and learning about the different parties. The result of their election was never in doubt, because their sitting MP (usually Conservative, but occasionally Labour) had a huge majority, so they thought there was no point in voting. These seats are the twenty-first century equivalent of rotten boroughs. That where you live makes such a difference to the weight of your vote is illustrated best in the voter power tool produced at the last election: it estimated that I had 0.25 of a vote (I was one of the lucky ones, friends of mine had half that figure!).

This system has led to a number of safe seats: 31 haven’t changed hands since the reign of Queen Victoria, for goodness sake. This breeds complacency, which can be best exemplified by the expenses scandal last year. To take a differnet point: Burnley, for instance, was a safe Labour seat, and because it was a safe seat its sitting MP would not listen to the concerns of local residents. The BNP vote grew in Burnley because voters did not feel their MP was listening to them on issues such as housing and education. Their vote grew from zero in 1992 to over 4000 in 2001 and 2005: a reflection of how much voters felt their MP was ignoring them. It’s not as if 4000 people in Burnley suddenly became racist in nine years. However, an active Liberal Democrat party in Burnley began to campaign against the BNP and for the needs of local residents. This year the Liberal Democrats won almost 15000 votes in Burnley, tripling their vote from 1997, to take what had been a Labour seat since 1945, whilst the BNP vote dropped by a quarter. AV would make more seats more competitive, meaning that MPs would have to take more notice of their constituents. We’d have representative democracy, in other words.

That’s enough about how bad FPTP is. Its disadvantages are plain to see.

Here are some positive reasons why AV is better than FPTP:

1) All MPs must get at least 50% of the vote

Presently, two-thirds of MPs are elected with less than half of the vote in their constiuencies. What sort of mandate does this give them in Parliament? With AV, all MPs will go to Parliament with the backing of at least half of their constituents, making them representative and giving them a proper mandate.

2) There will be less negative campaigning

My home constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth saw some really vile leaflets published by Phil Woolas. Some are the subject of an ongoing court case. In one leaflet he “sang from the BNP hymn sheet”, whilst in another he appears to have photoshopped armed police behind the Lib Dem candidate. These are divisive and put people off politics. Under an election held under the Alternative Vote, there would be much less of this sort of divisive attack, because all candidates would be attempting to get other participants’ 2nd and 3rd preferences. This can only be good for politics.

3) Virtually eradicates tactical voting

“If you vote X, you let Y in”. How often did you see that on the campaign trail this year? Those bar charts on Lib Dem election leaflets – “Only we can win here” – can be a thing of the past (it’s worth voting Yes for this reason alone). Too often under FPTP voters need to choose between the “lesser of two evils” – do you vote with your heart, for a party you believe in, or with your head, for the anti Tory/Labour/whatever candidate? With AV, you can do both: vote for a positive programme whilst knowing you can still stop the election of a party you hate. This doesn’t mean an end to tactical voting, but under AV there is far less than under FPTP. We’d have more debate over which party’s policies were best for the country, rather than which candidate is best to tactically vote for “to keep the others out”.

4) It retains the constituency link whilst being more proportional than FPTP

A key element of British democracy is the constituency link that MPs have. It’s inconceivable that this link could be abolished at present by the introduction of a  “list system”. Bearing this in mind, it’s true that AV, on average, over a wide range of scenarios, is more proportionate than First Past the Post. It would mean that the Lib Dems, for instance, who at the moment are under-represented under FPTP, would get fairer representation.

A footnote to rally those who begrudge the price: or a message to those who want a more proportional system than AV

Nick Clegg – AV is a “miserable little compromise”

We can expect to see that phrase repeated quite a lot over the next few months, so we might as well confront the elephant in the room straightaway. Let’s see what Clegg actually said:

Mr Clegg said: “AV is a baby step in the right direction – only because nothing can be worse than the status quo. If we want to change British politics once and for all, we have got to have a quite simple system in which everyone’s votes count. We think AV-plus is a feasible way to proceed. At least it is proportional – and it retains a constituency link.

“The Labour Party assumes that changes to the electoral system are like crumbs for the Liberal Democrats from the Labour table. I am not going to settle for a miserable little compromise thrashed out by the Labour Party.”

Most Lib Dems would probably prefer a more proportional system, like straight PR, or even AV-plus, as Clegg says above. There are quite a few people on comments boards who are basically saying, “I am in favour of PR, not AV. So I will vote no in the referendum because I don’t want AV”. This point of view was put most eloquently by Jane Watkinson.

There are a couple of points to make against this argument:

1) Half a loaf of bread is not the same as no bread

Whenever I read someone argue that they won’t vote for AV to replace FPTP because they prefer PR, I am reminded of this passage from Orwell’s The Lion and the Unicorn:

An illusion can become a half-truth, a mask can alter the expression of a face. The familiar arguments to the effect that democracy is ‘just the same as’ or ‘just as bad as’ totalitarianism never take account of this fact. All such arguments boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as no bread.

As Nick Clegg said in the passage I quoted above, AV would still be an improvement on FPTP. I hope I have demonstrated above that AV is a better system than FPTP. It isn’t perfect, but it is a start. Jane argues that a Yes vote to AV “would hamper any future reform”. I’m afraid I would have to respectfully disagree with this. How would a No vote further the cause of electoral reform? Surely a Yes vote would do infinitely more to further the cause of electoral reform. How many times have we heard from FPTP supporters that “Nobody really cares about electoral reform” and that “it isn’t a doorstep issue”? A high turnout and resounding Yes vote next year could put those arguments to bed. To vote No, or abstain, because AV isn’t the reform system you want would really throw the baby out with the bathwater.

2) AV isn’t the only proposed consitutional reform

As Jane Watkinson rightly points out, AV does not help smaller parties such as the Greens. This is AV’s main failing (I’m willing to admit it’s not perfect). However, remember that AV is not the only constitutional change being proposed. Amongst other initatives, plans will be announced earlier next year to introduce an elected House of Lords, perhaps under the STV system. In that case, smaller parties like the Greens could end up in a situation like Australia, where nine Green members in their upper house held the balance of power.

Parties like the Greens, and like Labour, need to look beyond their own self-interest. AV is a once in a generation opportunity for electoral reform. We must grasp it or face more decades of a shoddy system and millions of wasted votes. 


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