Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Don’t vote for the AV turkey

In a recent blogpost covering the launch of Labour Yes, the Next Left blog invited Fabians from any side of the electoral reform argument to continue the debate about next year's referendum on the Alternative Vote. In this guest post, Fabian Executive member Austin Mitchell, MP for Great Grimsby, sets out why he disagrees with those supporters of proportional representation who think AV would be an advance on the status quo.

***

Ever since I’ve been an MP I’ve supported Proportional Representation. It’s the only fair system, relating seats to votes. It weakens the elective dictatorship and stops parties winning disproportionate majorities by effectively disenfranchising everyone who votes for minor political parties or for the opposition in seats the majority wins. It forces the parties to run national campaigns and mobilise support in safe seats rather than concentrating everything on a few score marginals. It allows us to cope with the emerging multi-party system in which ever smaller proportions vote for the two major parties.

For all these reasons I’ll be opposing the Alternative Vote (AV) and campaigning against my PR supporting friends who’re feeble mindedly supporting AV as a step along the road to reform, which it isn’t, or just for a change. When it’s a change for the worse.

We’re having a referendum on AV because the LibDems didn’t have the guts to demand a referendum on PR which they’ve always wanted. They weakly opted for AV instead because it’s the one system which benefits the LibDems as everyone’s soft second preference. That can give them up to 20 seats. It’s also a means of cementing the coalition with their new friends by winning Tory second preferences.

Some in the Labour Party have supported AV in the past because they want to show themselves as reformers, but didn’t have the guts or the brains to go for PR. This makes no sense, AV will be damaging to Labour. We’ll be no one’s second preference, not even that of the Scottish Nationalists, having been in bitter conflict for years. It constitutes a block on any party which can be projected as dangerously radical (as the Tory Press will portray us). In Australia, the Catholic Democratic Labour Party kept the Australian Labour Party out of power for nearly two decades after 1955 by giving their second preference to the Liberal Coalition.

I’m hoping that in the referendum we defeat AV. Referenda are conservative devices which tend to favour the status quo, particularly when the proposers are as unpopular as the coalition will be next May. In that case what’s the use of Labour associating itself with failure? Even if it wins, we lose through AV, and what’s also clear is that this is a massive dirty deal.

The redistribution required by a reduction in the number of MPs to 600 will benefit the Tories by up to twenty seats. Do we seriously want to double that by adding AV's benefit of twenty seats to the LibDems?

We’d be as soft in the head as we have always been in the heart to vote for such a double gerrymander. So I say to Ed Miliband and my PR supporting friends “think before you vote and even more before you campaign for this squalid system.”

Austin Mitchell is MP for Great Grimsby and a member of the Fabian Executive. All Fabian outputs represent the view of their authors, not the collective view of the Society. The Fabian Society will not take a collective view on the referendum, but we do want to encourage members to engage with the issues and campaigns engaged in this first national referendum for 35 years. The Next Left blog would welcome offers of further contributions from members on this topic.

8 comments:

James said...

The only argument against AV in this post seems to be that it would give the Lib Dems 20 more seats. This is an odd complaint for a supporter of PR to make - in any truly proportional system the Lib Dems would gain even more seats: at the last election they won 23% of the vote, so with 650 constituencies in a proportional system they could have won around 150 seats, a gain of 93 on their current position!

Ben said...

I have two things to say to this.

1) A no to AV outcome will be interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as a popular endorsement of First Past The Post, nothing more, nothing less. Those who want to keep the current system, who stand to lose from fairer votes, will use the referendum's outcome to say that the people have spoken and do not want change. That will be the end of PR and of any voting reform for generations. Say Yes to AV and you take power away from them, and give it to the people who want change, many of whom want PR. Then we'll be in a much better position to push for further change.

2) This whole article is steeped in Party Politics. It seems to be about what's best for one party and who benefits and loses out directly from each voting system. It misses the point. The people who should benefit from a voting system are the voters. Parties will change with different leaders, policies and their reactions to new circumstances. Voters views will also change. You can't guarantee that what suits voters of certain parties will remain constant. But if you choose the voting system that gives voters the most say, and makes the politicians do the chasing and the accommodating of their views, then you will always have the right systemfor British democracy. And of the two systems on offer AV is clearly the one that allows voters to represent their views most fully.

Mili said...

If you truly support PR, then you should vote for AV. There are two options on the ballot: AV and FPTP. A "no" vote *will* be spun as "The people want FPTP", not as "Maybe we should look at other options". If you want to see reform of any kind in your lifetime, vote Yes to AV. If you want your grandchildren to still vote under FPTP, then vote no to AV. Simple as that.

giroscoper said...

How do we know that Labour won't pick up any second preferences? I would imagine that for left-leaning Lib Dem voters Labour would be a natural second choice, even if Clegg is telling them to put the Tories as second preference. If there are any left-leaning voters left by 2015, of course... but if there aren't, presumably that means more Labour first preference votes at the expense of the Lib Dems.

Also, if Austin thinks AV could be used by the Coalition to lock Labour out of power in the long run, surely the same applies to PR, which he (rightly) supports. The reasoning in the article seems illogical.

Old Politics said...

I'd love to write something, but I'm not sure it would be anything more than a rewrite of what I have already said elsewhere:

http://theoldpolitics.blogspot.com/2010/08/against-av-and-especially-against-nick.html

Hymn with Spade said...

I personally believe that both of these voting systems on offer to the voters in a referendum are not representative of the electorate.

We need to find a better system all together and the system I believe would be much fairer that could work and work well would be that each political party first conducts an in house vote to elect it's candidates who represent their party in every consituency and is put onto a list with the candidate with the most votes being at the top of each and working down with the candidate with the least number of votes at the bottom of the list.

Each Party then chooses it's leader who will be the future prime minister if there party gets the most votes on Election Day.

It then draws up it's manifesto on which it fights in it's national campaign which the parties candidates tries to win it's voters over to voting for their Party.

Then come the day of the General Election the public are then invited to go to the Polling Stations to vote.

Once the voting is over and all the votes are counted, the highest number of votes for a political party with the most votes in percentage terms becomes the future prime minister.

Know comes the next part, based on the total number of votes cast for each political party, each party member represented at the top of each list then becomes a cabinet member of the future government, this is so that every party is represented in government.

And finally, comes the remaining elected MP's ... if for example 10 million votes in total are cast and the Labour Party wins 20% of those votes then from there list from 1 to 600 candidates, the top 20% (that's the top 120 candidates in it's party list of favourites) become elected as an MP and if elected, serve as the MP in which consituency they represented when choosen to serve their party, however if working down the list a Conservative was higher up on their list, they automactical become the elected MP for that consituency in which they represent. This would mean that the Labour candidate would serve instead in one of the vacant consituency seats.

With this voting system, the voter has an MP/MP's representing them in Parliament is based on each of the individual party manifesto's which they ideally wanted and voted, thus for example UKIP got almost a million votes and therefore would has a % of MP's representing them as their choice.

This to me seems to be a much fairer voting system and makes every candidate that represents a political party work harder for your vote at the elections.

Simple really, but effective.

However, with only two voting systems on offer to the voter and very little time left to educate the voters, I fear that many will not vote in this very important referendum and that we will all end up without a much better fairer voting system. Yet another missed opportunity to put our house in order.

This to me seems like it's all rush, rush, rush. I believe more time needs to be taken in order to offer more choice to the voter and to educate all of us to the pro's & con's of each of the voting systems we need to vote upon.

Please don't be in such a rush to push this through ...

says, Robert H. Brown

Ralli said...

In my constituency at the last election the winner got 16,000+ votes, but add up all the votes for the losing candidates, and you find 24,000+ people /didn't/ vote for the winner.

With more than two candidates on the ballot paper, how can we say we don't want to ask a bigger question, and at least go /some/ way toward finding out who /really/ has the endorsement of the people of each constituency? In a democracy, we shouldn't be afraid of that.

CornwallNews said...

The proposed AV v FPTP UK Referendum consists of a contrived, fabricated and simplistic bipolar choice of only two inadequate options set against unfit UK Electoral Law, unfit UK Electoral Registers and unfit UK Election Returning Officer negligible powers of cross-constituency scrutiny. Election Returning Officers will be unable to guarantee 'One Person-One Vote' nor to sign off ANY part of such a referendum as 'true', 'democratic', 'free' or 'fair'.

Here are fundamental AV v FPTP BOGUS REFERENDUM flaws:

1. UK Electoral Law - NOT 'fit for purpose'.
2. UK Electoral Registers - NOT 'fit for purpose'.
3. UK CERO powers - NOT 'fit for purpose'.

A UK REFERENDUM MUST, ON PRINCIPLE, BE GUARANTEED TO BE VERIFIABLY AND GENUINELY 'ONE PERSON-ONE VOTE'.

IF THIS AV v FPTP BOGUS REFERENDUM IS ATTEMPTED IT WILL NOT BE.

BOGUS UK ELECTORAL REGISTERS = BOGUS REFERENDUM:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/second_home_voters_1.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/secret_ballots_and_second_home.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/worried_about_second_home_vote.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/kevins_too_busy_to_probe_secon.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/game_on.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/a_letter_to_the_chief.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2011/04/some_second_home_voters_purged.html

In the face of such corrupt and non-democratic electoral foundations, these may be the only rational responses to the RUBBISH REFERENDUM:

BOYCOTT THE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT CONSERVATIVE PARTY CAMERON CLEGG COALITION BOGUS AV v FPTP REFERENDUM.

OR

SPOIL YOUR BALLOT PAPER WITH A SUITABLY CONSTRUCTIVE COMMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE BOGUS AV v FPTP UK REFERENDUM - A LIBDEMCON COALITION CON.

NOTE: ALL SPOILED BALLOT PAPERS HAVE TO BE RECORDED AND NUMBERS PUBLISHED.

ANYONE WHO VALUES GENUINE DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES AND WISHES TO SEE GENUINE 'ONE PERSON-ONE VOTE' DEMOCRACY IN THE UK WILL NOT ENDORSE THIS ABSURD, INFANTILE, UNSOUND, NON-CREDIBLE, SHALLOW, RESTRICTED AND INSULTING BOGUS REFERENDUM WITH THEIR VALUABLE VOTE.

With our compliments
The Editors
CN