Tuesday, 19 October 2010

AV is not the answer Kirsty and you know it.

Subordinate Central reports Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader, Kirsty Williams (La Pasionaria) has written to the First Minister seeking his agreement to setting up a cross-party campaign to fight for a ‘yes’ vote in Wales’ second referendum next year, on fair voting.

She does this in an effort to get support for a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV).

Before we look at la Pasionaria’s argument in favor of AV let us look at one result that shows the absurdity of the First past the post system . That of Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber 1n the 1992 election

The Winning candidate Russel Johnson received only 26% of the vote  and the fourth place candidate was only 3.4% behind. If AV had been used would the result have been any "fairer". Would the electorate have been happy if the fourth pace candidate had eventually won I doubt it.

La Pasionaria claims in her letter to Carwyn Jones

• All MPs would have the support of a majority of their voters. Following the 2010 election 2/3 of MPs lacked majority support, the highest figure in British political history.

Not entirely trueI.In reality MP’s can at least claim that MP’s have the half hearted support of most of the electorate. However AV would not in reality have given anyone in the Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber elected under this system any more legitimacy.

It penalises extremist parties, who are unlikely to gain many second-preference votes.
Yes but it will obviously penalise progressive parties such as the Greens and Meybyon Kernow and anyway where does fairness come in if in is the case it excludes a Party with a sizable vote.

It eliminates the need for tactical voting. Electors can vote for their first-choice candidate without fear of wasting their vote.
Actually it just makes tactical voting more complex, as people have to work out who is likely to finish First ,Second or Third. In Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber  it would have been a nightmare  as people try and work out the possible result and how to vote,and of course it would mean the Lib-Dems still using thier little bar charts to convince people they were in a chance of winning a seat no matter how misleading.

It encourages candidates to chase second- and third-preferences, which lessens the tendency for negative campaigning.
I doubt very much this will be the case it might be more subtle but if it were true it will lead to bland conservatism with candidates playing it safe and even more pandering to "Middle England".

What La Pasionaria is trying to do is to cover her Party tracks and hoping that if the referendum rejects AV then she can blame other Parties.

She knows full well that her Party should be supporting the Single Transferable Vote and AV is a Blind Alley that if it accepted or rejected would put back a fairer voting system back decades. Those Parties who truly support fairer votes should not endorse a Yes campaign but fight for a write in vote on the referendum ballot paper in order to give they support for a true affair system of voting not some piss poor Lib-Dem face saver.


  1. I have to say that I disagree with you on this, Glyn. Although I much prefer STV in multimember constituencies, we simply aren't going to be given that choice. So the questions to answer are:

    1. Whether AV is better than FPTP
    2. Whether changing to AV now makes it more or less likely that we will eventually get STV

    To answer the first, let's look at your example from 1992. The question is fairly simple. If the Green candidate (who was fifth) had not stood, who would those who voted Green have voted for instead? Then, if the Tory (who would fairly obviously still be fourth) had not stood, who would those who voted Tory have voted for instead? This is inherently fair.

    But another way of looking at it would be to ask: How many of those who would have preferred to vote Green, voted for another candidate instead because they knew it would be a "wasted vote"? With AV no vote is "wasted". This has two big advantages for democracy: first it gives us a truer picture of what people really want; and second it means that more candidates, holding a wider range of views, will stand. This will increase political involvement and turnout.


    But the second question, about whether it makes an eventual move to STV more likely, is more important. Again there are two ways of looking at it.

    If we vote No to AV, then we are left with FPTP. In other words, the voting system for Westminster will not have changed at all. It is surely better to make some progress than no progress at all. We must not look at this simply from out own point of view. From the perspective of someone who is convinced of the merits of STV, anything less than STV is a disappointment; but from the point of view of those who favour the status quo, what seems like one little step to us will look like a huge leap to them. Put more bluntly, if we move the boulder an inch, we can get it to move further. If we don't move the boulder at all, Westminster might be stuck where it is for the next hundred years.

    But the second way of looking at it is this: AV is exactly the same as STV ... except that only one person is elected per constituency. If the next Westminster election is held using AV, it will be possible for us to look at the results of clusters of individual constituencies and get a very clear picture of what STV would look like if it were to be introduced later.

    The biggest impediment to any change is uncertainty about the consequences. Shifting to AV now will mean that we will be able to see the consequences of taking that next step to combine individual constituencies into larger constituencies. If we see that it is fairer (which I'm sure we will) the pressure to take that next step will grow.


    So please don't get too hung up about whether the LibDems save face or not. They sold out on STV by not even putting it on the table when they were negotiating their coalition with the Tories, as I showed in this post back in May.

    The LibDems will get what they deserve at the next election. They will be rejected both for having sold out their principles, and because they have shown us that they are just as Tory on economic matters and the place of proper public services in society as the Tories themselves. But I hope that no one votes against AV simply to spite the LibDems. Electoral reform is bigger than the LibDems.

  2. 'What La Pasionaria is trying to do is to cover her Party tracks and hoping that if the referendum rejects AV then she can blame other Parties.'

    Exactly. Hit the nail on the head. Very good tactic. It's called politics fine sir.

  3. M.H..

    Yes I’m afraid we are not going to agree. I believe that the adoption of AV will have little significance when it comes to having a fairer voting system as it is far from being truly proportional, and together with the proposed “equalisation” of constituencies means that we are being led down the wrong path and the Lib-Dems are complient in this.

    Baring that in mind I believe we should continue fighting foe STV . This means continuing arguing the case up to the referendum and with this in mind unless we are given the option of another preference for promotional representation.We should consider the option of promoting a campaign of mass spoiling of votes.