Friday, 4 February 2011

Re: From Meh to No...

A fisking of @kilburnmat's post.

Ultimately I don't care what Matt does, I assume that in reality he was already leaning to "No" for some of the reasons he says below (like his irrational linking of Lib Dems to this referendum) and his personal bias allowed him to move easily from the "not caring" camp. But still, there are propogations of lies here, misunderstandings that need correcting, and subjective opinions and unknowable supposition as fact...and they need responding to.

"This May the British electorate face a choice as to whether they want to keep FPTP or adopt the AV system of elections for members of the lower chamber. Overall this as exciting a decision as helping Ken Barlow choose a tie, but the campaign has become a bit heated lately and wherever I sense an argument I’m straight in, as regular readers will well know (all one of you – hello mum)."

Hopefully this kind of article has increased his readership, but it's always nice when No campaigners place their personal opinion of how exciting something is as being a universal truth. Some people recognise the real benefits AV can bring, and are definitely excited about it being a possibility, myself one of them. It's only natural we all care about this subject in different amounts.

"The whole premise of the debate is being framed by ‘Yessers’, they will to you that AV represents a ‘fairer’ vote. They will tell you that AV is fairer, it is more democratic and as we get closer to the vote in May, that you’ll be more attractive to the opposite sex (probably)."

Remember this now, this is a a guy that is going to slam "hyperbole" later on in his comments, yet his style is dripping with it.

"In 2011, after a year of abuse the word ‘fair’ has about as much meaning as the word ‘progressive’ and an apology from Richard Keys. ‘Fairness’ as a concept is bloodied, bruised and begging to be left left alone, but still Yessers can sometimes talk like they have a monopoly on fairness."

Because fairness, despite any misuse of the term, still means something. Fair, ultimately, means best...but not just best in one context, best with all in consideration. A dictator having an easy life is best for him, but at the expense of a national infrastructure for healthcare, it's clearly not "fair". AV campaigners use the word fair because they recognise that AV isn't the best system, but it is a fairer one...a system that on balance gives more benefits in each of it's contexts than FPTP does.

"However, let’s look at it this way, if you give everyone of voting age one vote each, with the candidate that gets the most votes winning, that sounds like a pretty fair type of democracy to me."

This is the trouble, the "bloodied and bruised" word fair has already infiltrated your brain...you no longer understands what it means. Fair doesn't mean "equal". Everyone having the same vote (though we, on the AV side, dispute that every vote is actually equal under FPTP) may be described as "equal" in principle, but it is not necessarily fair.

If everyone in this country who was working had to pay exactly £10000 in taxes, by the same definition that Matt uses, it would be "fair", regardless of what they earned and what they could afford. This is why progressive (yes, dictionary definition here again) taxation is "fair", while not being "equal".

"Some people live in areas that have large populations of voters for a single party, but that is democracy."

It's pot luck.

"It does not mean a vote has less value"

It does, though I guess it depends on how you define "value". If you are looking at it as if everyone should get a gold star for having voting, then yes they are all counted the same and everyone who took part had an equal opportunity to have a say.

But if value is measured, as those supporting AV look at it, as how much you voting actually allows you to affect the result, then it's clear that anyone voting for someone other than the top 2 candidates might as well not have bothered turning up.

Say Tories win 40% vs Labour at 35% vs everyone else at 25%. If those 40% of Tories don't turn up they have lost their party an MP, if only 6% of them don't turn up, in fact...it's a big deal that can change their party's fortunes. Labour on the other hand...they can have almost 10% not turn up and it won't make any difference...even if up to 5% extra turn out it doesn't change anything, though I would argue that all have still taken part and by turning up have avoided being one of that 10% that could lose them their second placing.

And of course, those 25% could not turn up at all and it wouldn't change the result, nor really any future result. Turn up, don't turn up...what's it matter, your vote doesn't do shit under FPTP in that situation.

So don't pretend that under FPTP all votes have the same value to the result, it's an absolute and objectively measurable fallacy.

"it just means that in democratic terms that constituency/region should return a candidate for that party. In fact, if we want fairness shouldn’t we be giving candidates with bigger majorities a larger vote in parliament? (No, of course we shouldn’t)"

No, but not for the reasons you're angling towards, but more because along with votes not being equal, they're not given equally either. Just because an MP is voted in with 60% of the vote doesn't mean the electorate there care more for him than an MP elected in with 40% of the vote. We don't measure level of feeling on an individual level, and nothing about the AV or FPTP debate changes that (nor should it).

"It’s simply not the case that AV is fairer"

It is... I should say at this stage I'm fisking this as I go, so I'm hoping I'll have the opportunity to see some examples of why it is claimed that AV is less fair (or just as fair) as FPTP that I can counter...

"as there is no set definition of fairness."

Dictionaries would like to have a word with you about that slur against their name. For clarity...from Oxford...

"1. treating people equally without favouritism or discrimination:
- the group has achieved fair and equal representation for all its members
- a fairer distribution of wealth"

AV achieves greater representation across the board, without favouring a minority because they're the largest grouping, than FPTP. Dictionary definition. AV is fairer than FPTP.

"What AV is, is an attempt by those who don’t like the results they get to change the system in their favour. If voters are too bunched up do something about boundaries (more on that later), do not chuck away a perfectly democratic system."

Ignoring boundaries (until later), AV voters may well be trying to change things in their favour, it's true.

Me, personally, I know that my MP is likely to still be a Tory even with AV...but I also know my vote will have meant more, and been involved more. Others will be doing it for altruistic reasons. Everyone's reasons are different, though to claim here that those voting against AV are doing so purely out of some kind of objective holiness is, of course, laughable.

"We need also to think about the potential results that we could have. We could end up (indeed we will end up) in a situation where a candidate who has the most votes is beaten by candidate who has mopped up second & third choices etc. How is it fair that the candidate who is wanted by the most constituents does not win the seat to someone who is no.2?"

What a conflation of terms here. "Candidate who has the most votes", though clearly not a majority of the public's support. "candidate who has mopped up second & third choices etc", someone who has then gone on to achieve a greater amount of votes when just they and the previously mentioned candidate are compared directly to one another. "candidate who is wanted by the most constituents" actually refers to being wanted by the largest minority grouping, not "the most".

So how is it fair(er than FPTP)? Simple. Assume that there are three candidates. People vote, the top two candidates (X and Y) are the most popular two. The least popular one (Z) is eliminated. Rather than those voters being in a situation where they might as well not have turned up, they are told very clearly this:

The two candidates remaining are the winners of the last round, your candidate was the loser...given your candidate cannot be allowed to win the seat, how would you vote out of these two remaining? Their opinion on who is better out of the two people that remain is used, their vote still means something to the election. The result is more representative, as a result, of real local opinion.

Lets say people generally moved their vote from candidate Z to Y, resulting in Y winning under AV rather than X under FPTP, in this example.

The question to ask yourself is this...if it were a FPTP election instead of AV, the third placed candidate (Z) hadn't run, and those that would have voted for candidate Z just voted for their otherwise second preference (Y) as if they were their firs instead...would you be saying it is unfair that the candidate Y won? If Z was there X would have won, but he's not, so people voted for Y instead and made Y the winner. Is this an unfair and unacceptable FPTP result?

"This is the real reason the Lib Dems want AV, it is not for fairer votes or to be more democratic, it is because they know they will benefit the most from 2nd options at a national level."

Except they don't know this any more, though they may have thought tactically it's something that they can rely on. The reality is that if we look at the polls now (Lib Dems languishing around 10%), and at the change in boundaries (which is likely to benefit the bigger parties more than the Lib Dems due to the Lib Dems geographical dispersion), I believe that Lib Dems would actually be all but wiped out at the next election. This assumes a great many things...but then so does assuming that the Lib Dems are going to benefit the most.

Of course, the funny thing is "benefiting the most" is still only meaning gaining a more proportional level of seats than under FPTP, though not actually representatively so. Is a Lib Dem "benefit" at the expense of the other parties "unfair" if they are still not achieving a proportional amount of seats to their national vote share? Which is it you're arguing for here Matt, fairness for all, or unfairness for partisan ends?

"A Tory is unlikely to put Labour as their 2nd option, they are likely to put a Lib Dem, a Labourite is unlikely to put a Tory as their 2nd option, they are likely to put a Lib Dem (bit less now I assume). The Lib Dems will campaign hard for AV because they believe it is they who will benefit most by mopping up 2nd options and this must be prevented."

Why must it be prevented? What exactly is your problem with a population who's majority want either a Labour or Lib Dem (left type) MP and not a Tory, actually getting their wish? What, in your mind, is democratic about a Tory winning a seat where the majority of the population want a left-leaning MP? And vice versa?

"If it were about democracy, do we believe they’d be going for AV in the lower chamber? Like it or not, the lower chamber IS democratic. If the Lib Dems cared so much about democracy, if they cared about reform would they not have held out when they were in a massively strong position during the coalition negotiations to have forced through real reform?"

Who knows. What relevance does it have to whether or not AV is better than FPTP as a voting system, for the public, is what I say?

"Why tinker with the lower democratically elected chamber whilst we still have the House of Lords?"

And then why tinker with the House of Lords while we still have Global Warming? And then why bother with Global Warming while we still have wars and terrorism? Thankfully we humans are intelligent creatures and we can deal with multiple things at the same time!

"Much as Yessers will tell you that anyone against AV is a dinosaur, I want real reform to our parliament."

Good for you!

"I want a fully elected upper house"

Me too, and we're getting it (or at least significant stepping stones to it)! Who's getting it for us? Ah yes, those Lib Dems you hate so much, thanks also to a much more progressive Tory leader than we would usually have.

"I’d also like to see the monarchy replaced, or at least having all political power (even ceremonial) stripped away (the latter is unlikely I know)"

Sure, good...and?

"We live in a society where many of those who make our laws are unelected"

Those who make our laws are, ultimately, those in the House of Commons. Very few bills are started in the Lords, and even then they have to be passed and scrutinised by the elected layer of the House of Commons. At every stage of our law making system, there is the "safety catch" of our elected officials being the ones that can amend, vote down, and ascend our laws. In short, every law made is done so, ultimately, through an elected body, the House of Commons.

"but we want to mess around with the elected lower house?"

And the upper house too, they can be done concurrently...multi-tasking, we love it!

"Someone’s taking the piss."

And others have trouble rubbing their belly while patting their head, metaphorically speaking.

"This is a fop to reform, designed basically to somehow draw a line under the expenses scandal, designed to essentially keep everything the same in Westminster"

Except that MPs will have a greater mandate from their local area. AV is, after all, an improvement for constituencies first, and by proxy...subtly...westminster after. The outcomes of this reform are to do much more for local voices than to maintain a status quo.

"keep the Lords sitting, keep the whole thing ticking along much as it was before, when in the electorate there is a real hunger for change."

Except when the Lords becomes an elected chamber, as the coalition agreement states. You do understand that reform is happening, right? I hope that your whole stance isn't based on your annoyance at the House of Lords situation, given you don't seem to have yet accepted reality on what is happening with it.

"I’d go so far as to say that not only is AV no fairer, it’s actually an insult to the electorate to offer up such a miserly reform, to waste tax-payer’s money like this. AV is a clever distraction from the real problems of Westminster politics. A no vote is the only possible answer to such an insult."

Yes! You've "wasted our money" so let's TRULY waste it by doing NOTHING and changing NOTHING! Ha! Have at that you nasty politicians, TAKE THAT!

Excuse me if I prefer the option of not *actually* wasting this money and taking the opportunity to instigate the changes that are indeed fairer and more democratic and representative on a local level, rather than just pissing it up against the wall out of spite.

'‘But if you vote no there’ll not be any future reform’ the yessers will tell you.'

Well that's an opinion of ours, strongly held because of two things. 1) The No camp is largely lead by people and organisations that see no benefit in losing FPTP, the main body that is associated with "no" by the media are the Tories who in their own manifestos state that First Past the Post is the right system for Westminster. And 2) Any opportunity that "no" supporting MP has had to offer up a true reform of the House of Commons, by supporting an amendment to put PR on the list of options in a referendum, almost all of them have voted against it.

'Real reform is already dead, for a parliament at least. Real reform died when it was allowed off the negotiating table when the coalition was being formed, it was so easily put to one side one has to wonder if it was ever a real objective for those negotiating.'

For a whole parliament you say!? Not a long time then. I think you should be more realistic and say "a generation". Although, House of Lords reform is happening this parliament. Is that not real reform?

"Does anyone believe after what looks set to be a spiteful campaign about something that the electorate simply don’t care about"

I always love this crystal ball gazing. What constitutes "don't care about"? I wish there was a definition for this political phrase, which people utter when they want to play down other people's passions without actually having taken some kind of evidence to back up their claim that "no-one cares".

"that the same electorate will have any stomach for another referendum? When the press go to town on what a huge waste of money the referendum has been will there be any politician who will stand up and say ‘encore’?"

Again, are the media going to talk about "waste of money" more or less when we make zero change because of a successful no vote?

"No, reform, for this parliament, has been killed stone dead,"

Gosh. You're like a political Emo.

"it’s in the ashes of the purple ‘revolution’ of the election and it makes me angry that we’ll have yet another few years of unelected cronies being given jobs for the boys and having a say on our lives."

Yada yada yada, remember Lords reform is underway, etc, etc.

"(Obviously, the real reform many yessers want is full PR,"

Obviously, you've done an empirical study and everything to back this supposition up. Oh? Oh sorry... Well let's just assume you're right and most "yessers" want PR in some form.

"the fact that FPTP has worked relatively well for hundreds of years"

We've only had FPTP as we have it now for 60ish years.

"is democratic"

Everyone stating a party name and the party that gets the most votes (in the FPTP sense) running the country regardless is also democratic. Democracy isn't, unfortunately, a word that immediately denotes quality of representation.

"and has never returned some God-awful extremist government"

Define extremist, and then explain how on earth AV will deliver said government.

"and by and large keeps extremist candidates out of parliament"

Even though FPTP can elect an extremist on as little as 1% of the vote, in impractical theory, and in more practical terms could return an extremist on as little as 25-30%. Would you describe Greens as extreme? They're certainly niche, and Lucas won on only 31% of the vote. This isn't to say she wouldn't have won under AV as well, but...like all niche parties and extremists, AV means people have much more of an opportunity to state their preference against those extremists/niche parties getting a seat if they so wish.

FPTP keeping extremists out of parliament isn't an argument against AV when AV does it BETTER!

"is to be ignored."

Quite rightly, given the lack of fact and reason in the description you've given for why it shouldn't be ignored.

"No, yessers want full PR"

Show us that study again please, as I assure you I don't know of any single person I've spoke to who wants "full PR" and all the issues that can bring, as simple as it is to count and define in to a result. I'd love to know how you can demographically categorise us all as wanting full PR.

"because many yessers are Lib Dems and Lib Dems like PR"

So you're NOT talking about full PR then, but rather STV, which is what the Lib Dems really want?

" because it would give them the constant balance of power."

Let me rephrase that as well, because I want to see if you understand how stupid it sounds, what you just said...

Many yessers are Lib Dems, and Lib Dems like STV because it would give them the actual number of seats in the House of Commons that relates to their share of the votes nationally, instead of under-representing them or over-representing other parties.

You've harped on for however long now about "democracy" and real "fairness" and the injustice of people making our laws without mandate and THEN you stand here and say that achieving a share of the seats that makes you as representative of that section of the public as can be is a problem because it's the Lib Dems who will sit in the middle ground? Give us a break and just say the real reason you're against this referendum...you hate the Lib Dems and anything they like!

"PR isn’t being discussed but I raise it because it’s part of the debate."

It's not though, the debate is AV or FPTP, PR won't come without another referendum after this, either way the debate now is not about PR, even if the debate *then* may be.

"One day I’ll write a fuller blog on it, one day, maybe…)"

Hopefully it'll be less full of shit.

"Let’s not forget that AV,"

Back on subject finally"

"this vast step forward in democracy has been bundled in with a direct and unhidden attack on democracy."

DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN.


"The bill for the referendum has been bundled up with a guillotine of 50-odd MPs from parliament, the reason is vague, ‘we need to level out boundaries’ (why? Different constituencies are very different, even the geography can impact on the MP’s role) ‘we need to save money’ is the other one you’ll hear, whilst exactly 50 new unelected Lords were sworn into the other chamber"

50 Lords cost considerably less than 50 MPs, unfortunately. If you saw an extra 150 Lords come in to being you would have a perfect point. The thing is the extra 50 Lords increases the representativeness of the house, so in a way it's a good spend (rather than not spending the money and remaining unrepresentative of public opinion).

But I do get your point here (breaking the duck!)

"(this is actually amazing in its breath-taking arrogance)"

Or, despite such "arrogance" is there to make sure the Lords remains representative in comparison to the Commons. I assume you'd rather the Lords was still majority Labour while the public voted for mostly Conservative + Lib Dem, thus remaining unrepresentative completely, rather than someone other than the public doing the task of rebalancing that representation.

Again, I question whether you truly care about representativeness of our house or not, otherwise out of all the things you could level at the Lords you wouldn't pitch an attack at pretty much the ONLY thing done in the last 5 years to ensure it is in tune with public opinion on party levels of power.

"I may be stupid but more representation feels more democratic to me."

As long as it's that half representation that FPTP provides, not actual full representation...because that's what the Lib Dems want and wanting what the Lib Dems want makes you feel dirty...right?


"It stinks doesn’t it?"

It does, but it has nothing to do with the Referendum aside from being in the same Bill. Different aspects of things falling under the same categories go in to Bills all the time, it never means they're related.

"What else stinks has been the nasty, spiteful Yes2AV campaign"

Rar.

"which has not only had to fire people for making islamophobic jokes in support of AV (I shit you not)"

It's true! One person that associated with and helped the Yes official campaign was indeed fired for being politically inept and making an offensive joke. This makes all of the yes campaign spiteful and nasty?

"but the campaign has so far been a consistent barrage of abuse"

Fuck off.

"making out that anyone who is against AV is against democracy, against fairness, against reform, is stuck in the past"

You need to get in the now.

"is a dinosaur"

Why are you out of the museum?

"even linking no2av with such shits as Nick Griffin (again, I’m not joking)"

Well that'll be because the BNP actually have come out as No2AV.

"The vote isn’t until May and the yessers have got to this phase already."

It's hard to phrase this properly, but in all serious I couldn't care less. I'm seeing some of the No people insulted, and they are liars, they are deceitful, and they are trying to dupe people in to thinking something that isn't reality. When faced with the constant claims of "Lib Dem king makers" to "Multiple votes for some not all" and so on, repeatedly, despite being shown to be strictly wrong...people lose their patience and get sweary.

Yes (and myself) need to try and reel it back, of course...it is probably a No tactic to try and get us in that state to portray us in the light you're doing so now...solely as insulting political fixers rather than the people shedding light on the truths and reality of the situation such as we do. But at the same time, if you want to keep on saying something patently false then you're a conniving arsehole that would hopefully be exposed as such.

"The effect of this negative campaigning has been very real, it has changed me from being a simple no to AV with a big ‘meh’ to the whole thing, to a firm campaigner for the no camp."

At least we know you're more swayed by naughty words than truly negative but subtle undermining, character assassination and deception that the other side carry out. We all know it's better to be told something untrue than to hear something we might not like, after all.

"One of my other major problems with AV is that for many Westminster is already too consensual, many don’t feel they have any real options. AV will help make Westminster even more one-dimensional. It will mean that candidates will spend too much time playing to second option voters more than their core vote, whose votes they will feel they can count on."

Currently MPs don't have to "play" to any second option voters except swing voters, as well as their core vote. If MPs don't keep their core vote happy under AV they will lose them...potentially more easily given that the core vote can much more easily protest vote while still giving their party the second preference to ensure their more loathed party doesn't get in.

I'm not saying here that you're wrong entirely, that some MPs won't forget their core vote (foolishly in my opinion), but the logic says this... in FPTP core voters remain core because they fear that voting for someone else may let a much worse MP represent them, someone that may help to ruin their lives (or, of course, that they love their MP and would never think of leaving them...the MP never knows this fully).

In AV core voters have more freedom to be more vocal about their party. "I want to vote Labour, but this MP just doesn't get it..." so votes for an independent with Labour as second choice. No fear of a Tory getting in, but also gives the Labour MP a bloody nose to say "buck your ideas up".

This is what happened in London with Livingston, if the Mayoral election when he went independent was under FPTP, would he have won? More importantly would Labour have still won? Livingstone was a protest vote against Labour's handling of selection of candidates, who knows if under a different system he may have lost despite being wanted, or perhaps even let the Tories win through vote splitting?

So this premise that the core vote will be ignored doesn't ring true with me. And then, of course, you understand that the second and third choices are important under AV, and more so than FPTP. It seems to me it's clear that there is an incentive to cover both Core and non-core but friendly votes under AV, but only swing voters under FPTP (depending on majority size).

"It’ll be the bland leading the bland (well, only leading once you’ve factored in 2nd and 3rd votes)."

Or the representative leading the represented, but then your comfort zone on when that is acceptable is still something I can't get my head around.

"This is the exact opposite of what we want right now."

Yeah! We want reform! With more representation! But not *actual* representation! More like hyper-representation of a minority set of views in order to secure 30-40% of the vote! That's REAL representation!

"The major parties have to be able to display their differences or we are at real risk of seeing swathes of voters move to the fringes."

Is there any proof you can offer that parties will "homogenise", as you go on to claim? Surely PR, where EVERY vote matters is the perfect time to be "bland" and get the votes in...would you say countries like Italy and Germany lack the diversity of political outlook that would constitute "blandness" to pull in all those votes?

"AV could well lead to those extremists doing well in the longer term as mainstream candidates become more homogenised, more like eachother, more bland to avoid dropping 2nd votes. I think that’s pretty bad for democracy myself, and it’s another reason I’ll be voting no."

I'm not sure if you're really thinking this through, it's some pretty fantastic kind of supposition you've got going, but logical it is not.

First you're complaining parties will homogenise to APPEAL to voters, in essence doing what voters want to get the votes.

You then claim voters will hate this so much, having so many choices of parties all doing what they actually want the parties to do (and thus be representative to them) that they'll instead vote for an extremist party that (I have to assume, as they're not part of the homogenised mass) DOESN'T offer what they want.

Does that make any sense, really?

"The final consideration is more of a happy accident really, voting no will give Clegg a bloody nose"

As if it wasn't obvious enough already that most of your anti-AV stance comes from a deep and disturbing loathing of the Lib Dems...

"it will take us closer to a world we once again have a socially liberal Lib Dem party and much as it’s no reason to vote against AV, it’s an enjoyable extra benefit."

Or not, who knows. It may well just take them further in the direction of the Tories, and reduce (as you fear) the number of options on the table outside of the extremists. Either way, what happens to the Lib Dems isn't the concern of people who actually give a shit about reform, as reform is about the voters and how their opinions are accounted for.

"Let’s not get too hysterical because the electorate frankly don’t care"

Again, let's wait until the referendum to see just how much they "don't care" and then haggle over that definition. I mean...a turn out of 70% is "very much caring" in elections, so not caring must be a turn out of less than 35%, right? Let's wait and see.

"but join me in May in voting No 2 AV. Join me in giving those who would insult the electorate with this fop, this sorry little compromise, a slow clap for throwing away the chance for real reform. But mostly join me in holding the whole thing in the disdain it deserves."

But without any actual basis in reality and fact, and built on a foundation of misunderstanding and lies. How proud it must be, to be No 2 AV.