Home > Coalition government, Democracy, General Election 2010 > Why I’m backing AV – well kind of

Why I’m backing AV – well kind of

I personally think the alternative vote system is as bad as the first past the post system. I also think that the referendum that the UK is having on Proportional Representation is about as interesting as a 5 year old repeat of Countryfile or Songs of Praise.

I have found it impossibly hard to get excited about this referendum.

The debates have not interested me. The advertising has not interested me. The polling has not interested me.

I am not alone. No one knows who is going to win, not because of the Don’t Knows but the Don’t Cares. The only people who will vote on this referendum are the people who bother to vote because they were handed an extra ballot paper when they go and vote for their local Councillor.

If as had been asked for by Labour this referendum been separate from the Local Government elections, the constituency of those voting would have been less than the Orange Bookers of the Lib Dems.

AV is a shitty little compromise. It was an awful proposal when proposed by Gordon Brown and it remains a bad proposal now.

Despite this, I am fully aware that voting no is more than a vote against the Alternative Vote. A no vote will close the door on electoral reform for years.

A no vote will produce headlines that the voters rejected electoral reform and that will become the accepted position. Politicians will for years refer to the referendum on electoral reform. If you do not believe me, look to Scotland, look across the pond to our American cousins.

In 1979, Scottish voters were asked do they want a devolved Parliament. The legislation was on the table and it would have been implemented if Scotland voted yes.

Purists who wanted full independence were against it. Unionists were also against it. Despite this the Yes campaign won the referendum. They did not however win with sufficient number. The Scotland Act 1978 would only be implemented if more than 40% of the population voted for it. Turnout was 63%. Very high for a non General Election vote. The Yes campaign secured 51.6% of the vote. It meant that the total voting yes fell far short of the required 40%.

That failure was reported as a loss for the Yes campaign. For 18 years it was “accepted wisdom” that the No campaign won and that Scotland neither wanted devolution or independence. The Scottish electors had spoken.

In the United States President Obama pushed through a health care plan for poor and middle America that is remarkably similar to the plan being pushed by Paul Ryan for Seniors. Subsidised health care insurance for poor and working Americans. Republicans were deeply opposed to helping poor people and want them to just die quickly.

Getting healthcare reform through Congress was a massive battle. It was nearly lost and it has become known as Obamacare. Bill Clinton lost his fight to get health care reform through in 1993. It was not until 2009/10 that the battle was fought again. Suposedly the American people just did not want health care reform. If “Oamacare” had failed it would have been another rejection of all healthcare reform, from single payer to “Tort Reform”.

It is often said pick your own battles. That is not always possible.

Someone else can involve you in a fight not of your own making and this is what the referendum for AV is. It is a de-facto referendum on PR whether you like it or not.

No AV is not going to get the BNP elected. First Past the Post already does that. If people vote for NAZIs more fool them.

No it is not going to cost billions upon billions. It will not be responsible for a single closed hospital bed or for equipment not being supplied to a soldier in Afghanistan.

No it is not a referendum on Nick Clegg.

No it will not produce a proportional Parliament and indeed the Party in front may get more seat than under first past the post.

It is however far better than voting for the status quo, especially if you are a supporter of PR because if you are a PR purist this will be your first and last opportunity to get voting reform for generations.

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