On the 5th May we have a real chance to change our voting system for the better! The first past the post system is a hobbled version of democracy. If Party A gets 4001 votes, Party B gets 4000 votes and Party C gets 2000 votes and party D gets 1000 votes, party A wins even though they only have 36% of the vote and majority of 1! This is crazy. Under the current system a handful of voters in marginal seats dictate who wins elections, that is not democracy, it is a joke!
Under AV, the party that wins would have to have an actual majority, more than 50% of the vote. Half the people in a constituency would have to state a preference for the winning party. I know that people in the No camp think this is a stupid, undemocratic system but frankly it make perfect sense to me. How can we live with a system where just having a 1/3 of the votes lets you rule the country!
There are many blatant untruths fielded by the No campaign to scare people into not voting for AV (don't get me started on how babies and soldiers are apparently going to die if we vote for AV). I would go through them but Mr Gower has already gone through them all and shown how if you actually do the maths the No campaigns claims do not stand up. I urge to read his (admittedly long and detailed) blog post and come out still thinking our current system makes any sense:
Long detailed version: http://gowers.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/is-av-better-than-fptp/
Short(er) version: http://gowers.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/av-vs-fptp-the-shorter-version/
And here is the really short summary:
1. FPTP is unfair because it is very far from proportional.
2. AV is probably no more proportional than FPTP.
3. However, FPTP is also unfair because it puts pressure on large numbers of people not to vote for their favourite party. Under AV you don’t have to worry about wasting your vote. The right voting strategy is almost always to put the candidates you like in order of preference.
4. Under AV, everyone gets one ballot paper, just as under FPTP.
5. In each round of an AV count, everybody gets exactly one vote. It goes to their highest ranked candidate out of the candidates still left.
6. Under AV, if you vote for unpopular parties you don’t get more votes — you get more disappointments.
7. Under First Past The Post, there is no post. (FWIW, under AV there is.)
8. Under AV, the person who would have come second or third under FPTP sometimes wins.
9. Under FPTP, the person who would have come second or third under AV sometimes wins.
10. In so far as AV helps the BNP, it also helps everyone else. (The same could be said of women’s suffrage and votes for 18-year-olds.)
11. Anomalies can occur under AV.
12. There is no anomaly-free voting system.
13. Anomalies in a very small number of constituencies are very unlikely to affect who gets the power nationally.
14. AV doesn’t make your MP any more bland and inoffensive than FPTP.
15. AV won’t make your MP work harder.
16. AV wouldn’t have made any difference to the expenses scandal, which is in any case yesterday’s news.
17. AV might possibly lead to more coalitions but will not lead to a state of permanent coalition.
18. AV makes it easier to get rid of unpopular governments.
19. You think FPTP makes it easy to get rid of unpopular governments? Just look at the figures for 1987 and (especially) 2005.
20. Whatever system is in place, the Lib Dems will get a kicking at the next general election.
21. The Conservatives like FPTP so they can exploit the split on the left and often get a majority of seats with a minority of votes.
22. It is hard to predict what will happen in the future, but in the past AV would mostly have benefited the Lib Dems and Labour at the expense of the Tories.
23. It’s not true that bringing in AV would cost £250 million. The correct figure is more like £25 million (which is needed to explain to people that when the ballot paper asks them to put the candidates they like in order of preference, then they have nothing to gain by not doing so).
24. The outcome of the referendum will affect us for decades. Whichever way the vote goes, Nick Clegg will be forgotten about after five years. David Cameron and George Osborne want you to vote no and Ed Miliband wants you to vote yes.
AV may not be the perfect system, but it is better than the excuse for democracy we have now! I hope that if anyone reads this you will consider Mr Gowers' arguments and vote yes to AV to bring a real change to this country!
Now a final word from Uncle Stephen: