Thursday 14 April 2011

The AV Referendum

Whilst the main focus of debate and comment up here in Scotland just now is the forthcoming Parliamentary election, there is another vote taking place on the same day.  This is the UK wide referendum on the Alternative Vote - AV to one and all.   When you look at the reasons for having this referendum you have to say it is one of the most unusual referendums in the whole history of referendums, to put it mildly.  For this change in the voting system for UK elections from First Past the Post (FPTP) to AV is something that neither party in our nasty Coalition government actually wants.  The Tories don’t want any change at all and are actively campaigning for a No vote.  While the LibDems really want to change our electoral system to Proportional Representation (PR).  Their preferred system is the Single Transferable Vote (STV).  Yet the LibDems have ended up campaigning for a system that is not PR in any way whatsoever.  All to get into coalition with the Tories.  You couldn’t make it up.  The LibDems, one of the UK’s major parties with a decades old commitment to PR, gives up on this in order to get into government with the nasty old Tories.  And all for the measly promise of a referendum on a system the LibDems really abhor.  Just shows how corrupt and unprincipled the LidDems have become.
AV is only a minor change to the current system and most research has shown that it will lead to only minor changes in the overall result of UK elections.  Nevertheless it has generated a lot of fire and brimstone, though not much in the way of enlightenment.  Certainly, judging by the No campaign’s TV broadcast, their arguments are a mixture of the misleading and the downright lie.  Not very edifying!  I don’t suppose the Yes campaign will be much better.  Any electoral system based on single member constituencies is bound to be unfair and undemocratic.  A bit of tinkering here and there makes no real difference.  First Past the Post dates from the Middle Ages and should be returned there.
I find it very hard to drum up any enthusiasm for this referendum.  The only positive reason for voting Yes is that AV is at least a change, however minor.  As such it may make it slightly easier to win support for a change to a genuine PR system in the future.  Another very good reason for voting Yes is that anything that gets the mass support of the Tory party and the rightwing press has pretty much got to be bad.

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