Saturday, May 07, 2011

Democracy: Family and Debate (or Argument)

The UK elections this week and the referendum on whether to switch from our existing first past the post electoral system to the alternative vote electoral system, engendered much surprising argument mainly through emails by maytrees family members, relatives in-laws and outlaws, with extra interest arising from some of the latter or should I say in-laws being Scottish.

To protect the innocent names are omitted but here some quotes give the flavour:

1.  We're the only non-two party state in the world that still has first Past the post.
2. First past the post only works fairly with a two-party state.
3. Currently someone can easily become your MP with 70% of  your town voting for someone else.
4. Hardly any young people now vote because they see no point - AV, in all the surveys appeals to young voters (for example L and O both support it).
5. Many tories can see some sense in the UKIP position but can't currently vote UKIP as it would let a labour or Liberal candidate in. With second preference
   UKIP will possibly become a major influence in UK politics. UKIP potentially can do for England/Wales what the SNP has done for Scotland - eg make us all 
  slightly richer.
6. If you are left leaning then AV will also help Green's - its definately a second choice of many many many "caring" types - but also "RESPECT" might pick up a seat 
   or two (and why not?).
7. The BNP are against AV as they are like marmite - you love or loath them - there is no in the middle so they will not pick up many second places (the second
    right wing places will nearly always be UKIP).
8. Vote AV as its what the next generation want.

That’s far too serious an e-mail to greet me on my return to work this morning.  Let’s lighten the tone.  I prefer this one :

Quick lunchtime reply...,
The only sensible  way to vote is 'NO'.
EG say you have a constituency which with first past the post gave 35% Lab 33% Con and 32% Lib:  Labour would win. However under AV the second choices of the Con and Lib votes would be counted which might result in a Lib win. That the last  ie Lib should then  come first and the first ie Lab, last, is not fair representation of the people's will but worse than that, those who voted originally for  the Lab winner would have their second preferences ignored altogether whereas those who voted for the losers have second bites at the cherry
The "Yes to AV"  politicians who I raised this with  yesterday had no satisfactory answer beyond decrying first past the post. - Better the devil you know applies imho so vote No.
LOL - ... you are being silly.
In your example MANY people will be voting  to keep the other side OUT!!!!
(eg people often vote Liberal to keep Labour or Tory out - this is the REAL WORLD of todays politics).
In such a close three horse race MANY people will make a mistake and vote for the wrong party!!!! (thinking that party would keep a third party out)...

Its way way way fairer to say to these people - " Look you no longer have to blindly guess which party is going to be the main opposition you can vote for your main party - eg - Tory, and if they are not top (heaven forbid) all your votes can be added to the Liberal candidate who then will knock the labour guy for six"....

In summary AV means people will more likely (at least more likely than they do now) vote for the party they really want to win and then vote the second party as the party they feel will defeat the "evil demon party they do not like". Its really commonsense. 

Now, yes I can see that the Torys might not like this as many votes will go to UKIP. But the Labour and Liberals have more to lose to Greens and Respect. 

Or put it another way...

Currently the Torys have ONE SINGLE MP in SCOTLAND.  However, with Scotlands PR/AV "parliament" they have 15% of the "MPs". 
If Scotland was AV the Torys would potentially get way way way  way more MPs.

I really can't see why the old guffer torys hate it so much. Perhaps UKIP is going to be bigger than we all think.

Thank you for your email However like the yes-men  politicians on ... yesterday you don't actually answer the queries raised.
Phrases like me being "silly the "real world" people making "mistakes" and "old guffer tories" provide no actual answers.
Also I surmise that many if not  most votes are  cast  not with a view simply  to keeping others out but with a view to securing the election of the best man or woman to respresent the consitituency.  AV means you are more likely to get second or third best whether or not a vote is being cast in favour of an individual or with a view to preventing someone else from being elected.
AV favours the mediocre or least worst;  FPtP favours the best or worst.
it does answer the question.

You pointed out the error in AV and wanted to know: "was it a real error with AV"

the answer clearly is YES  BUT the error in FPP is worse. MILLIONS & MILLIONS of voters are CURRENTLY voting for a party not because they like it best but simply because its the party most likely to keep another party out. Michael in Hull said "I'm voting Liberal because Torys don't have a chance".

 "All well and good" you might think. Unfortunately MILLIONS of voters CURRENTLY make a mistake  in the marginal seats - its pretty impossible to tell who is going to end up being the main opposition.  With FPP millions of voters votes do not count at all  - all down the drain.

In your example:  TYPICALLY this will happen (assuming Liberals come from both Tory and Labour backgrounds which does appear to be true - eg Mike in Hull or mum&Dad&Steph in Wallington).

Labour 35%
Tory    33%
Liberal 32%

Liberal votes split between Tory and Labour.  Almost certainly Labour will still win with Liberal votes.

Tory 35%
Labour 33%
Liberal 32%

Liberal votes split between Tory and Labour.  Almost certainly Tory will still win with Liberal votes.

Now its possible that all the Liberals might vote overwhelmingly in an area for Labour or Tory and put that party in power even though they came second not first.
Is this fair? On the whole this would be fair as in order for this to happen thousands of local people must have really hated the winning candidate something rotten!!!!

However "experts" have looked into AV and it appears that hardly any seats will be different - perhaps a few more liberal, green, respect -  a more interesting
parliament.  Looking at AV in Australia the Torys, Liberals and Labour are still the main parties - it does not really have that big affect (perhaps boosting "greens" and "liberals" very
slightly) .

To win at AV/PR you ideally need to be a tad more popularist (eg Regan or Thatcher or Boris Johnson or livingstone ) which actually is a good thing because it encourages more people
to vote.

AV does not make nations weak - Australia still went into Iraq WITH AV.

Say YES to FPTP and NO to AV!   Why?  your No. 1 says it all. “We are the only...etc”. Bearing in mind our size our system has contributed more
to the welfare of the world and to the good order and welfare of our own people than most other countries.That is why almost the rest of the world tries to settle here.  So why change it?
Under any other system it is possible that the UK including europe would by now be under the nazi  yoke.  Beyond doubt due to vacillation and delays occasioned by AV, the Falklands would now be the malvenas !

There is an argument in favour of Full proportional representation which says that with so many interests represented in the house government is so slow and ponderous that nothing is ever done, thus business  which when all is said and done produces the wealth of the country can get on with doing it. 

With FPP 40% of British people living in Scotland no longer want to be British.

  Bavaria has an independence party too but because of the German PR system they feel more included - I think only about 20% of Bavarians want independence.
Bavaria would be the 6th richest country in the world if it came independent - so its not the money.

There is no way we will get PR without voting for AV first.

I will of course be voting NO .

 the Torys make me rich and the Labour make me poor so I'm sticking with the rich nobs -  If Scotland goes independent I'll probably retire there and sponge off their oil fueled welfare state - I'm sure I could pass an accent test!

I was just trying to see if you lot could come up with a[****] good reason to vote NO - 
I'm not sure you have, but I'll vote NO anyway as the Torys say NO and you know the Torys can do no wrong. Touchwood!

Your argument appears to amount to "I'm right  so won't brook any other viewpoint." (or 'specious' comes to mind)
I doubt that young people are all holding back from voting  simply because we do not have  an AV system. They are probably more  involved in other  more interesting things or in reality  prefer to let others decide. ....
For me the proof of the pudding is in the eating - dad's pudding is tried tested and British! Mine is not  quite the same but gives the same outcome.
Dads argument (anti-nazi) does not take into account that Australia had a bigger percentage death rate from WW1 (galipoli)  and WW2 (SE Asia against Japanese) and they are now AV - so they can claim they fought the nazi's even harder.. Australia quickly went into Iraq (I think faster than the UK). I'm pretty certain more Brits try to emigrate to Australia then Australians try to immigrate here.

France has miles more immgrants then we do and Germany's manufacturing relies on vast numbers of Turks.

Two things about the Nazis:
a) If you bring nazi into an internet debate you automatically lose "Godwins" law of internet arguments:

b) Its impossible to draw conclusions about the parallels of Germany as they were the losers of WW1. Back then we had the general strike of 1926 and even communist MPs in some major cities. If we had lost WW1 is a different argument altogether and not related to AV (just think of 1926 and then double it or triple it - that was germany). We can say that FPP gave us WW1 which was by far the biggest  political error a country has ever made - which wiped out quarter of the UKs 20 year olds and destroyed the UK as a world power for ever.

The remaining 23% of 'Don't Knows' would be split 14% to keeping AV on 2nd choices and 9% to PR, thus preventing progression to full Proportional Representation by giving the people what they "really" wanted.....;)
As an aside, my apathy for voting in General Elections extends to this referendum. Not for any lack of interest in politics itself, but because I've yet to be convinced there will be any noticeable difference to the way things are. I'll probably vote if we go to true PR, although I won't vote in any referendum for us to get there....
P.S. ..., yes, I firmly believe that anyone that is willing to make the effort to vote 'Don't Know' would also have a second choice of either 'Yes' or 'No' - that's the wonderful world of democracy for you and allowing any fool to have a vote....

And so on - there were dozens more posts and repartees which in the end proved very interesting whatever the result.

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