Thursday, 28 April 2011

Would you like to go to the pub? Tough.

I'LL keep this as brief as I can.

I don't like to write about politics and I wholeheartedly believe that somebody's political allegiances are their business alone. But on May 5th we have an opportunity to have a say about the long-term future of how this country is run in a referendum on the voting system for parliamentary elections. I wish that everybody would take this seriously, so I'm making an exception and going to talk about what I think.

The question is, should we keep first past the post (FPTP), or switch to the alternative vote (AV), which is currently used in countries such as Australia, by our own political parties (for deciding leadership) and in our own House of Lords?

We have not had a national referendum since 1975. If we do not take this opportunity seriously, we may not have another one for another 36 years. If the public vote no, that'll be that and we will not have another chance to change the system, which would be a shame, because I think a switch to AV would make things fairer. AV is not perfect, but its a bit better than what we have now, and given that we may not have the opportunity to improve it again I say that this chance is worth taking.

At present, many, many people are unable to vote for who they want, rather they have to vote tactically. I say this from experience, because in my few opportunities to vote I have had to do so each time. AV allows you to vote for who you want as first preference; if, after that, that candidate is still beaten conclusively, your vote is not now tossed aside but put back into the pile according to your second preference. This does not give you an extra vote, because in round 2 those who voted for the current leader have their votes counted again too, for the same person. Such a system would not cost a fortune to run, and would not benefit the likes of the BNP* (see links).

The calculation once the votes have been cast is a little bit more complicated, yes, but if it is a fairer representation of public opinion, then so what? Something like parliament is worth taking a little bit more time over. So, too, is winning a seat, and AV means that an MP needs to win the majority of support in their constituency. This poster explains it nicely:

I believe that it is the fundamental right of each citizen of this country to truthfully vote for who they want, without having to sacrifice their vote for tactical reasons or because they have the misfortune of living in a safe seat constituency.

This referendum is an opportunity not to be wasted... my opinion.

Right then, as you were. I shall never write of politics again.

Here are some links that explain things nicely:

A series of explanations and images from my friend Phil:
Why electoral reform is needed (even if you don't think AV is the right step to take)
Beginner's Guide To "First Past The Post": An illustration of how much your opinion really matters
Nick Clegg's Bloody Nose
Sneak Preview! Those New Voting Machines The #No2AV Campaign Keep Banging On About
The False Economy of Insignificant Time Savings

Sixteen Lies On One Leaflet by Simon Varwell
An A-Z of rubbish arguments from No2AV by Cory Hazlehurst

*The BNP themselves are against the switch to AV. Besides, even if the BNP do make ground at the next election, it would not be the fault of the voting system but of the other parties for not doing enough to convince BNP voters to cast their vote elsewhere. I do not condone voting for the BNP, but it is the right of those that do that their votes should count.

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