‘AV your say… and why I’m a No to AV voter

Ok, so I’ll come right out and say it, I’m intending to be a No To AV voter. This opinion has been questioned a lot by most of my friends of late. Sometimes nicely, sometimes curiously, other times heatedly and (rarely) insultingly. So I thought it best to post this here to save me explaining myself time and again today. Please read below to find things you may not agree with…

I’m all for reforming the system we have, it’s not entirely representative or “fair” (although “fair” is a very divisive and completely subjective term). I just think the proposed AV system is a poor, with more cons than pros when compared to what we have and other systems that are out there. My reasons for this briefly are:

1 – I like the “One person – One vote” principle. If you vote for a loon that gets 3 votes why should you get a say (and perhaps the deciding say) between other more reasonable candidates. You could have voted for them initially, you didn’t, so don’t cry about it now.

2 – “Fringe” voters (far right and left wings, and extremist independents) have their votes (working down their prefs) counted more than “Mainstream” voters. In fact the more crazy/unpopular your initial vote and subsequent preferences are the more carry-overs you’re likely to get.

3 – It’s my opinion that this AV system will lead to the main parties trying to appeal to fringe voters to get 2nd, 3rd, 4th prefs. I can even see politicians campaigning solely for 2nd/3rd pref votes. This would mean either you have parties standing for everything (so effectively nothing) or some more distasteful extremist ideas coming into mainstream parties agendas simply so they can get 2nd/3rd prefs.

4 – If you vote for the more popular candidates your 1st choice will be compared to the previously mentioned “Fringe”/extremists 3rd, 4th, 5th etc… prefs and given equal weight. Which, to be honest, just seems insulting.

5 – If you vote for one of the more popular candidates that makes it to the last few “rounds” no-one will every look at your other choices, even though your 1st choice is being compared directly to others 3rd, 4th, 5th prefs. Mathematically speaking, this could be incredibly important as the result could be completely different if these were considered or weighting were applied to popular candidate’s voters further prefs.

6 – There are huge transparency issues. I’d want to know how many of which preference level each candidate got and from whom, but it would be a nightmare to work out what actually happened, even with all that data available. This won’t help the public trust their MPs more but probably less.

7 – I think it could only weaken the stability of our democracy. Honestly I don’t think it would have a dramatic effect on this front, but the only thing it could do is provide more hung parliaments and shaky deal making between parties. My point here being it won’t make it more stable only less.

To me the proposed AV system just seems an inherently unfair and essentially flawed. I think we need to move on from the system we have, but I’m not going to vote for a change just so we can then have a hope of changing again which (no insult to anyone who is voting yes) but seems to be the reason most have for told me for their intention to vote yes. It seems largely to be “I don’t like this AV system, but we might get to change again to something that works if we go to this now”.

Any who, there are a few of my reasons (oh, I have more) for my intended no vote. Feel free to pull me apart or tell me I “just don’t understand” the proposed AV system in the comments section below.

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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.

Election Time!

Yay! It’s time for the midterms in Americaland!
Who gets to sit in the Senate? Who will be in the House of Representatives?
Probably asshats like the Tea Bagger Partier candidates.
Come on Americaland, don’t be a tool!

Politic

It appears some rather interesting things are going on in the corridors of power these days, well the darkened rooms with shuttered windows of power at least. Last Friday night I wrote a short piece about what I saw happening and, as usual, neglected to publish it. However, since the story seems to be developing very much in the direction I predicted I figured I ought to expand it and put it to your half interested eyes. Yeah, I know, I wouldn’t be writing any of this if it had gone the other way but in my defence I prophesied it to all I met over the weekend, so indulge me this once…

This picture = 1001 words

So the Liberal Democrats talk to the Tories about a possible coalition and everyone falls around in seeming disbelief that such a thing could happen, but of course it would, in fact it had to. A corner stone of Lib Dem policy for years has been that of electoral reform, with the aim of producing a Parliament that is more reflective of the proportion of votes cast for each party. They could hardly go on evangelising some form of proportional representation without at least being seen to consider handing power to the party that the largest number of people voted for.

However, I believe this to be a ruse done for the sole purpose of preventing them from being criticised during the electoral reform campaign soon to come. It is my belief that they will soon form an alliance with Labour, a minority government will be put in place for a short time, before having a referendum on changing our electoral system and calling another general election in short order.

The reason for this is simple, the Lib Dems have found themselves with a sliver of power, but the only way this generation of Wigs might do so again is if they gather up all their chips now and put them on one spin of the reform referendum wheel. It’s easy to see why, just look at the percentages of votes polled for each party and the number of seats that’s earned them. For example, Labour had 29% of total national votes and secured themselves 258 seats, in stark contrast the Lib Dems got 23% of total ballots but this gave them a meagre 57 seats. A 6% less votes but 201 fewer seats. Ouch!

Sure they could now go into government with the Conservatives, but what will that get them? Some agreements on Education, a select committee on electoral reform and cabinet seats in Culture, the Arts and probably the Olympics. The downsides would be a mass abandonment by anyone even slightly left of centre and sailing all their talk of change down the river.

Join up with Labour and things are much more comfortable. The two parties are much closer on many topics and the party faithful would find it much easier to stay on board. They certainly significant differences still, but Labour have already said they’d be open to a referendum on electoral reform and that’s the big win they’re looking for, a shot at changing the electoral system and possibly guaranteeing the party a share of power for generations to come. In this man’s opinion, that’s all they need, end of story. If it’s a decision between a scent of power now or the chance of having influence for the ages to come, there can be only one choice.

At present Mr Clegg is performing the very delicate manoeuvre of moving from one horse to another mid-race, that he may have planned to do this from the start makes it no easier now. The Tories wont let this go without a fight either, they’ll shout and cry foul all the way cause they actually thought they might win this time out. Clegg sending in a team to negotiate just made them believe it even more. As I type, it appears Brown has played his card now and in quite a timely fashion too. All that remains is for Lib Dems to suddenly discover an impasse in their talks with the Conservatives and the Labour party to suddenly find a youthful, bright and articulate leader (I’m lookin at you Miliband(s)).

Update: It appears the Tories have now offered a referendum on AV (Alternative Voting system) after the resignation of Brown. They must have seen this for the game-changer it is. A hearty “Well played” to the Liberals for getting possible electoral reform out of both leading parties now. Looks like that referendum’s happening no matter what now then…

I.D. Rather Not

So, I’m driving to football and I hear half a news bulletin saying that the Home Secretary stated the compulsory ID Cards scheme has been dropped and will now be voluntary.

I was in he car alone but, at hearing this, I actually said “Awesome” out load and did a little cock-rock air punch. From this reaction you can assume my opinion on the whole idea of having a compulsory ID Card in Britain is to the contrary.

After running round like a madman for 80 minutes and driving home, I hear the whole news item (yes, it’s either the iPod or Radio 4 in my car ladies). I half thought I’d misunderstood the story the first time around, it being such a massive U-turn and what-all, but no it was all true and sense was finally winning out.

The entire scheme has been a farce from start to finish. I mean, does anyone actually think that someone bent on coming here to commit acts of terrorism or people trafficking will diligently sign-up for an ID Card on their way in? Furthermore, if said individuals were circulating without ID Cards, are they really going to go do something that requires them to present one? The only people carrying these insultingly oppressive things would be John Smith normals, who frankly have better (or worse but more essential) things to spend their money on or time thinking about.

This is without even mentioning that I’m sure we have far better uses to which we can put the apparent £9 billion the scheme will/would cost to set up in the first place.

On my return home I look to the internet for confirmation of the news, surely if I type ID Cards into google this massive story will immediately spring forth and I will be bombarded with a plethora of news copy and quotes. Well apparently not, I have to manually go to the BBC website, then to the news section, then click on politics and it’s buried as the third story. Honestly, am I the only one that cares about freedom and liberty these days? Apart from the Yanks of course, but I find them a little… misdirected in their approach to the whole thing.

Anyway, enough of my blather and rhetoric. The simple fact it’s looking very much like we wont have to have one now. The Home Secretary has said he wants the whole thing to be voluntary, which effectively ends it as an even tenuously justifiable expenditure.

So go home reader and sleep safe in the knowledge that the only country wide government run database that abuses your civil liberties will remain the one the police keep your DNA on, even if you’re proven innocent of any crime…

What’s that buzzing?? Must be time for my tablets again…

Ahoy hoy!!

BBC story is here but watch the video too for better info:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8127081.stm

And a big well done and good work to the air-side airport staff, pilots and the unions that have supported them. As the first group who would have had ID Cards foisted upon them, they are the ones that have been fighting this, finally braking the back of this issue. We all have you to thank.

On Voting

BE FOREWARNED I will sound like a parochial fool with Tourette’s, but I am an angry internet mans right now. People refusing to exercise their democratic right are linked to a switch in my brain labelled ‘Angry and Indignant’.

I am sick, absolutely sick of people not voting ‘because there’s no point’. True, most politicians will do things you don’t like, but not voting at all is like rolling over and asking to be taken by every sweaty inmate in the political community. I hope you enjoy it.

Recent example: the fabulous 42.81% turnout for the European elections has allowed two members of the fascist, almost neo-Nazi BNP to represent us in Europe, their vote totals are lower than the last election, but they gained two seats due to the terrible turnout. They got in simply because people couldn’t be bothered to put a cross in a box.

And that’s the point isn’t it. People claim to object to politicians and refuse to vote as any asshole is as bad as the next, but it’s really because it takes a lot of effort reading about the parties and candidates when all that mental bandwidth could be used thinking about how Susan Boyle is the second bloody coming instead. Not to mention actually hauling ass all the way to your polling station, losing 30 minutes of valuable TV time. I admit it, whoever you vote for you will still be fucked, but isn’t it better to be fucked by the nice smelling guy who still talks to you after, rather than the grinning monster covered in his own faeces with razorblades taped to his cock?

Voting is a right and not exercising it is unconscionable. We’re just over twenty years past the events at Tiananmen Square (excellent reminder here), these turnout figures so close to the anniversary of this event feel like a slap in the face. You are lucky enough to have the right to chose your political leaders; sure you don’t have the final choice and it seems like your vote doesn’t count, but that doesn’t matter. You have been given a voice, please use it.

UPDATE: See Warren Ellis’ site for more. For those wanting to maintain the political momentum I suggest reading his Transmetropolitan books, drawn by Darick Robertson (who is also bloody brilliant).

M.I.A. vs the world

Timely news for some, but it makes a nice change for up and coming ‘popstars’ to give a damn about things that aren’t Jimmy Choos or Kompressors, let alone use their influence to bring attention to things people like to ignore, but that’s just what M.I.A. has been upto drawing praise and criticism alike.

M.I.A. is the daughter of a ‘Tamil Tiger’, although she has never lived with him and hasn’t seen him since 1995, and has been using her music to try to draw attention to the ongoing civil war in Sri Lanka. Although she never openly gives her support to the ‘Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’ she has been attacked by many, most notably Sri Lankan hip-hop artist DeLon for using the image of a tiger in her videos.

The conflict is an extremely complex issue and one that’s summed up definitively here but in a nutshell the minority Tamil Hindus are fighting for an independant state in the North and East of the island and have been labelled a terrorist organisation by many world governments.

In a recent blog she questions why she is also labelled a terorist because she wants the conflict to end. Clearly it will take more than this but hopefully it will open a lot of eyes to the bloodshed going on in Sri Lanka.