The Pros and Cons of the Alternative Vote

The 5th May has the potential to be one of the most important days in the political landscape of Britain for many years to come, as a referendum is to be held on whether to stick with the current ‘First Past the Post‘ (FPTP) voting system or switch to the Alternative Vote (AV) system. The sytems in a nutshell work like this:

First Past the Post (FPTP)

An FPTP ballot requires you to mark one box of your ballot paper with an X to indicate your favoured candidate. The ballots are counted and the candidate with the highest number of votes wins.

Alternative Vote (AV)

An AV ballot gives you the option of ranking your preferences in a given election. Instead of indicating your favourite candidate with an X, you would use the number 1. You may then, if you wish, place a 2 against your second favourite candidate, a 3 against your third favourite and so on until your apathy levels reach maximum or you run out of candidates. If a particular candidate has more first preference votes than the other candidates combined then we have a winner, otherwise the second preference of the last placed candidate are used and so on until someone has a majority.

Let’s have a simple example:

Three candidates are vying for 15 votes. Alan gets 4 votes, Brenda gets 5 votes and Charlie gets 6 votes. Under the FTPT system Charlie wins. Let’s say that Charlie’s policies have divided the electorate greatly and Alan and Brenda are running on similar policies to each other. In an FPTP system this doesn’t matter as Charlie doesn’t need a majority to win, however if the ballot was done using AV, and assuming that Alan’s voters would prefer Brenda as a second favourite, then Brenda would have won with 9 votes.

So what are the pros and cons of each system?

FPTP gives a clear winner. This has been attributed to a strong government, and less likely to give a hung parliament, whether this is true is a matter of debate. FPTP is also easier to count and is a well known system. By comparison AV is only used to elect a government in Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, although it is often used for things such as student government elections.

AV will allow more local support for MP’s although it is debatable whether this has anything to do with a government. Fringe votes are also likely to have more effect under the alternative vote, since these are the votes likely to be redistributed, leading to questions about the ‘fairness’ of this and whether the votes from the fringe voters are the ones that a should be determining governmnents.

Since the proposed version of AV allows optional ranking of candidates, an interesting question is whether people would use the rankings, and what are the implications if not.

An important consideration is the wider issue of electoral reform. This has been offered as a compromise between the current system and other systems like proportional representation and single vote transferral. Regardless of whether you vote Yes or No to AV on May 5th will we get to look again at these other options.

Dumb and Coke…


Turns out we won the war against drugs this year, and the international cocaine market, like the Darkness’ fanbase, is “in retreat.”

This is based on the news that wholseale prices have increased by about £6,000 per Kilo to £45,000, recession be damned. The Serious Organised Crime Agency believe this is an idication that the supply is diminishing under the pressure of their “strategy of working in South America, the Caribbean, across the Atlantic and with European partners.”

These increases in cost have not been passed onto the punters though, the ‘street’ price has remained relatively stable, take that capitalism… Instead those plucky street entrepreneurs are just cutting the blow with ever increasing amounts of cockroach insecticide, pet worming tablets and the cancer causing drug phenacetin. Figures from the Forensic Science Service show a third of the cocaine seized is less than 9% pure, the lowest it has ever been.

With more spin than the crucible this is being portrayed as a success.  THIS IS BAD NEWS YOU FUCKING IDIOTS… Great, there is less cocaine knocking around, this is not going to put off the people that create, cut or even use coke. It’s standard suplly and demand economics, the less coke there is available, the more the price rises meaning the manufacturer has a premium product. To offset the hike in prices the dealer will try to maximise his product and cut the quality of the wraps being sold. The habitual user wants more coke regardless of the danger. The mortality rate amongst coke users rises.

It’s ok though, SOCA have a plan… People that import any of the cutting agents will be ‘targetted’. Quite what will happen when they change the cutting agent to something else remains to be seen.

There will always be people that want to do dangerous, illicit drugs, that is a fact of life. Furthermore it is hard to imagine a situation where drug manufacture is completely removed. It strikes me as obvious that the only surefire way to remove the dangerous criminals that perpetuate the drug industry is to remove their customers by allowing the state to control the industry, generating income for the government and giving a safe outlet for the users, a view previously discussed on the SC.

The Darkest Of Liquids

Blackwater… Now anyone who’s heard of this company before has probably backed off a couple of feet from their screen already. They’re the kind of people that, once encountered, you remember with some trepidation. They’re what the US Government refers to as a “contractor”, but are basically guns for hire, and have no small amount of controversy attached to them.

Artists Impression
Artists Impression

I myself had heard of these guys a while back. As I read much in the way of geopolitical news, there was this little spat going on in Mesopotamia a few years ago and Blackwater took on several contracts in the wake of said conflict. The reason they were brought to my attention again was that, usually some might say, a group of their more enthusiastic workers are being brought to book for going above and beyond their customers expectations when dealing with a crowd of people who happened to be in a square they were going through.

After reading the news article I realised I had the interwebs close at hand and, therefore, looking at their company website might prove interesting, informative or even reassuring… perhaps they aren’t as dark as the liquid they’re currently employed to protect… sorry, I mean as evil as the previous regime of the country who’s rebirth into freedom and liberty they are currently being employed to support…

Ok, so the vague mandate these types of contractors seem to operate under makes me feel quite uneasy and the things they do with the power they have does nothing to dissuade me from this opinion. So please understand me rightly when I say this was nothing compared to how overwhelmingly disturbed I found myself after reading through their website.

After reading the first page I began to wonder if I had the correct website at all, the description of what they do and how they do it could adorn the title page of any service industry website I care to mention. As I progressed deeper into the bowels of their web presence I became more scared of the complete ambiguity that pervades the text than anything actually stated. It feels a bit like seeing something menacing in the darkness, then shining your touch there and it’s gone… You know you saw something but where’s it gone now??

Personal lowlights for me were all from the Pro Shop area:

  • The inspirational posters (“Blackwater Determination” being illustrated with an oil rig, wonder what they’re getting at there, and “EOE Baghdad 911” with what looks like their equivalent of the Bat-call spotlight).
  • An instructional DVD called “Basic Pistol Training” (can’t help thinking that, if it had Arabic writing on, it would surely get you arrested and imprisoned without charge).
  • The very worst must be in the Clearance section, where you can buy Blackwater branded “Christmas Onesies” for your baby (age ranges from 3 to 24 months).

As there are far too many “highlights” for me to comfortably cover in this post, I invite you to visit their site and sample this rather unsettling experience for yourselves…


No, I’m not talking about the strange but effective pause-time first person combat system of Fallout 3 fame but the other and very much more boring kind. (Although I wouldn’t put it past Les Government to coerce Microsoft into using their Gamer Live system to subtract 17.5% of my Action Points, for them to put to use in another one of their completely legal and not-at-all hypercritical wars…)

Any who, by now (yes, just one paragraph in) you can already tell that my other articles haven’t been going so well and, in an effort not to be dispelled from the collective for posting too infrequently, I have fallen back to my ranting roots. Please also find enclosed a very special analogy expanded beyond comparability by yours truly…

So, VAT it is (that’s Value Added Tax for all of those dyslexics that have stumbled upon this site whilst looking for superior methods of vegetable drainage). Every type of financial data seems to be in the news at the moment and today was no different, as the Government rolled out VAT to take a kicking. Alistair Darling, our most amusingly named Chancellor (yes I too have Blackadder like visions of Gordan Brown shouting “Darling, Darling, what are you doing Darling??”), has decided to tinker with this little blighter now. Oh goody, I hear you collectively sigh, that’ll do the trick…

The analogy I heard involved the good ship Britannia having hit an iceberg and The Treasury were simply rearranging the deck chairs on board instead of solving the problem at hand. This, I feel, gives them too much credit, so I take it upon myself to embellish the story for greater accuracy and my own bloody enjoyment (after all we are British and, as such, enjoy kicking ourselves in the gut at every opportunity).

What do you mean bailout?? I'm perfectly dry thank you...
What do you mean bailout?? We're watertight thank you very much...

T’is certainly true, we have hit an iceberg of monetary problem here. However, we all stood on the bow and watched this problem approach, shouting at the captain to reach ramming speed before impact. Now we’ve hit that little Credit Crunch we’ve discovered it was just the tip of a very deep, very dark and extremely cold recession.

What-ho, the Powers That Be spring into action, but instead of pointlessly rearranging the deckchairs they begin to handout caviar and champagne to the idiots that reassured us it wasn’t such a big chunk of icy rock and stoked the furnaces to prove it. Even worse, they’re now ushered into the lifeboats and bid good voyage…

Now it’s time for the deckchairs, but instead of simply moving them around our higher-ups decide to pile them in the middle of the deck, pour flammable liquor across them and set them alight. Never considering for second that it would only result in giving us a choice between immolation and the slow sink into the freezing depths beneath, but at least we’ll have warm feeling inside and something pretty to lookout as we meet our self-inflicted demise.

Oh, and I almost forgot, there’s those poor souls that have already fallen over the side into the murky ice filled waters and are struggling for air as we speak. Why I’m sure our erstwhile commanders have a solution for them too, and here it is. Allow them to present the ping-pong ball measures. That’s right, enough of these little blighters can raise a ship (They saw it on MythBusters once) so if we throw just the right amount at these unfortunate bastards they should be able to cling on to them and rescue themselves…

Hurrah!!! Oh the humanity!!!! Etc…

It’s at times such as these I like to remind myself that all this financial shenanigans is completely made-up, an artificial mechanic we’ve been bred to believe in. Ho-hum, what’s on the other channel?? Zombie-Celebrity-Knife crime?? Brilliant…