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.

Five oh, no, nos…

Following on from my colleague Mr Neil (here below), I feel rather moved to brain-spurt this very night…

I’m afraid to say I have gradually become rather anti-police. That might sound shocking to the likes of ya’ll, but I think there are a few things that have contributed to my feelings of anger and frustration toward their, sadly essential, profession.

I wonder if they're retractable...
I wonder if they're retractable...

For starters there’s the increasing armaments they carry, we seemed to go from truncheon and whistle to asp and taser in the blink of an eye. One moment I see a bobby on the corner with his new pepper spray, then next me and Neil see two coppers in Matlock town with semi-automatic side arms. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for giving them stab-proof vests and something to subdue an over enthusiastic larcenist with but I’m of the opinion that if it’s something I, as a law abiding citizen of reasonable years, can’t posses then neither should it be something carried routinely by those keeping the peace.

Next, it’s the new powers they constantly ask for. Example; When they wanted to lock people up for 90 days without charge (never mind actually convicted you of something, they don’t even tell you what they think you’ve done) the Government were all like “Well they say they need it so that’s good enough for us”, seeming not to realise that they were are supposed to be the check in this whole balancing equation. Otherwise we’d just hand-out the tasers and tell them to “protect us from everything, even ourselves, in anyway you feel necessary”. Lines must be drawn and the people who enforce the law shouldn’t be the ones asking for or making the law.

Thirdly, the way they use powers given to them. Neil, below, briefly covered a couple of the more notable efforts. The shooting of a Brazilian electrician 7 times in the head, the unprovoked battering of citizens at a (or infact, anywhere near) a generally peaceful protest against the G20 and the kind of things that have landed us in this “financial crisis”. Another recent example would be the dispersing “The Climate Camp” by use of anti-terror laws to arrest more than 100 people who, before the police showed up, it appears were having a peaceful protest/hippy type anti-pollution camp out. I’m sure you can all think of at least one more of these yourselves.

The final reason of my quadrilogy of reasons is that I don’t think anyone who seeks such power should ever be granted it. Ok, so then you have the problem of exactly who do you get to be the bigger lad that’s on our side against the bullies in society. I’m not saying I have the solution, but something I have thought in life generally, those who want power over us want it for a reason and only very rarely is the reason a selfless one.

Those of you out there wanting a conclusion here are about to be sadly disappointed, please draw your own and post in the receptacle provided below.



The European Court of Human Rights delivered it’s verdict today in the case of two men from Yorkshire who’s fingerprints and DNA were kept on the National DNA Database even though they were never convicted of any crime.

Thankfully, in my humble opinion, it has voted unanimously (yes boys and girls, that’s 17 to zero) that it is a breach of European human rights law for the Police to keep innocent people’s fingerprints and DNA information on their massive big brother type database. Score one for freedom and liberty :o)

The "Lick it, it's your's" rule makes a comeback in London.
The "Lick it, it's your's" rule moves from the playground to the streets of London

The Court made a very strongly worded statement, which basically said this is a really bad idea and that they are shocked that a government in a democratic society would even think about doing such a thing in an indescriminate way like this. They go-on to say, if someone’s committed a crime then it seems reasonable (to a point), but keeping the fingerprints and DNA of innocent people is simply unjustifiable in any context.

The Government are playing it down, but this was the highest court in Europe (The Grand Chamber no less, from which all judgements are final) and they awarded the two complainants £36k in compensation, so me thinks the law will change pretty soon else we might have may more cases brought (baring in mind that there are over 4 million samples on the DNA DB and 20% are those of innocent people)…

Sorry, if this isn’t interesting to you all (though it really should be) but it is very important to me (e.g. I was literally praying about it all day) and I’m so glad/relieved that it’s gone the way it justly should have. I’m sure you’ll hear this in the news anyway, but I couldn’t let it pass without shouting about it and hopefully discussing it with you all…

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but thank the merciful heavens for Europe…

Verdict in full