Sunday, 6 March 2011

Why hypotheticals matter

This recent poll shows a danger of First Past the Post. With just 23% of the first preference support, the far-right extremist presidential hopeful could win under a First Past the Post system.

Thankfully for France, they don't use FPTP, they use two round run-off that ensures that while the far-right candidate might be the most popular first preference, in a head to head situation the people can truly decide who's the best President out of the two most popular. It's like a cut down, less representative AV.

Of course post this on Twitter and cue the usual nonsense replies. "People could vote differently if they wanted to", "it's called democracy!", etc, etc. As if making these statements make it any better that the whole set up of an electoral system could deliver (if it were used) a far-right extremist president that over three quarters, 77% ,of the population would not want.

"@Niaccurshi @YesInMay Right, so you're talking of hypotheticals, the like of which have never occurred in our entire history of using FPTP?!"
from @Boris_backer

Yes, I am talking about hypotheticals. Why? Because they matter when what you're talking about is constructing a system that is meant to safeguard democracy. The fact that hypothetically, if enough people ran as candidates in a constituency, a BNP candidate could win a seat with 30% or even 20% of the vote while 70-80% actively hated them is a problem. A real, anti-democratic problem!

So what if it's never happened, so what if it's unlikely...it COULD happen, and to have a system that allows that and be happy is the same logic as building on top of a dormant volcano because it almost never erupts.

EDIT: BTW, Norwich South was won by a Lib Dem on 29% of the vote in 2010. Hardly *too* hypothetical now, is it?

Back in 2009 I had to make a similar argument about a similar way of thinking...Labour were trying to change our Data Protection Act laws in a sly and hidden manner (along with changing coroners inquests, etc). Their intention was to allow any minister to allow anyone that they liked to completely ignore the data protection act, and for those people to then be able to continue to disregard the act (i.e. to sell our personal information) for any purposes that "secured a relevant policy objective"

When pushed on it by Lib Dems then in opposition the claim was "well it'd never be abused, don't worry about it". I mean seriously...are we honestly living in a world where what we want to do is make laws and systems with inherent flaws in them because we probably won't ever see that flaw come in to practice?

Call me old fashioned maybe, but how about we just GET RID OF THE FLAW and make sure it doesn't happen. Instead of allowing ALL ministers to abandon the DPA on a whim for any policy objective (that can be made up at a moment's notice), how about we not let any minister do it for any reason other than for national security reasons, for example?

Thankfully parliament saw sense in 2009, Labour cut out the parts about abandoning the safeguards to our private and personal data in order to get the rest of it's massive bill through. Now, in 2011 we should do the same...it's time to cut all of the hypothetical flaws out of our system that we can, because waiting until the flaws actually get shown up in practice is leaving it too late.

Edit: The same guy has now come back with an amazing lack of understanding of the problem, with this analogy that doesn't fit...

"@Niaccurshi @YesInMay Should I throw my phone away because although it's always worked fine, I can't guarantee it won't explode one day?"

If the phone is our voting system, then the probability of it exploding is the chances of undemocratic results being made. So, essentially...if there's another phone out there that can guarantee that the chance of it exploding is reduced, then yes...we should throw our phone away and get the new, safer one. The manafacturer should indeed recall that phone to help protect the consumers using it by providing the safer "less explody" version.

Isn't that just common sense?