Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

April 2, 2011

AV or not AV, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind etc…

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 12:13 pm

There are some pretty sutpid arguments against electoral reform in the direction of the Alternative Vote. They range from liberal concern trolling to this piece of nonsense from the Prime Minister:

Cameron continued to make his claim that AV is unBritish, undemocratic and likely to favour extremists. He said yesterday: “It is a system so undemocratic that your vote for a mainstream party counts once, while someone can support a fringe party like the BNP and get their vote counted several times.

“It’s a system so obscure that it is only used by three countries in the whole world: Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. I’m not making it up, three countries in the whole world. Our system is used by half of the world.”

Ugh. Look, I don’t suffer from Cameron derangement syndrome, and think he’s some proto-fascist aristocratic Thatcherite clone who hates poor women or whatever the Guardian comment pages accuse him of this week. He’s a mainstream politician, who’s pretty posh and went to Oxford. This type of individual has been running the country on and off for about two centuries, and for a Tory, he’s pretty moderate all considered. 

But both of those arguments are at best stupid, at worst deceptive. Let’s tackle the second one shall we? 

“It’s a system so obscure that it is only used by three countries in the whole world: Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. I’m not making it up, three countries in the whole world. Our system is used by half of the world.”

The reason First Past The Post is used in half the world is historical, it being the simplest way of counting votes of people when voting became a thing. Just because of ubiquity by virtue of antiquity does not make it a necessarily good system. It’s kind of like a doctor in 1840 espousing the virtues of phrenology because it was widely accepted at the time. 

A form of AV, the Supplementary Vote is used to elect the Mayor of London. The Irish President is elected this way, and the House of Lords used the method to elect the retained hereditary peers. Get that? The only voting system to have touched the House of Lords was this supposedly UnBritish one.    

Also, “our system” is a constitutional monarchy with an unelected upper house and a legislative-executive fusion that canr esult in unmitigated power for a party with a dominant majority. Half the countries in the world do not use “our system”. For fucks sake.

What about this then:

Cameron continued to make his claim that AV is unBritish, undemocratic and likely to favour extremists. He said yesterday: “It is a system so undemocratic that your vote for a mainstream party counts once, while someone can support a fringe party like the BNP and get their vote counted several times.

Words fail. Again – so what? If their vote for the BNP was getting counted several times then yes, we’d have an outrage on our hands. But the only reason their vote gets counted more than once is because their vote for the extremist party gets discounted at the outset. The extremist party has no real chance of being elected by virtue of the AV system. The objection must then be that because this person chose to vote for the BNP, their franchise must necessarily be discounted. What if we substitute BNP for Green? Does their vote become less objectionable? Eitherway, their first choice doesn’t get in (except in Brighton). 

This argument is deceptive because it subtly implies that AV will advantage extremist parties, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. If it means that some people with objectionable opinions get their way on their third vote, it’ll be because that third vote probably was for a mainstream party. The value of the mainstream vote is in no way prejudiced by this anymore than a Labour voter already does in a Tory safe seat, or a Lib Dem does pretty much everywhere out of their core support areas with FPTP.

But the worst thing about this argument is that it seeks to use the outcome that will happen the least often to instruct us about the entire system. Which is such a bullshit method of rhetoric it’s unbelieveable. 

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: