Sunday, 3 April 2011

A month to go before the AV Referendum

So we're almost a month away from the Referendum vote, as well as local elections widely expected to see the country stand against the cuts that are being foisted upon them by electing a landslide victory of Labour council seats nationally.

I wanted to reiterate why it is I'm voting for AV:

1) I believe in the constituency link between voters and their MPs

We don't need to go for PR in our House of Commons, a strong constituency link is a positive factor for MPs to do what local people want...but only where they feel those local people can get rid of them. FPTP fails the second part of that sentence, as too many MPs know they need not consider as wide a range of voters as possible. Only around 1-2% of all voters mattered in 2010.

2) Proportionality can now be delivered more quickly, and more fairly, by reforming the House of Lords

But I do want proportionality in our politics...yet this referendum has screwed that consideration up for the House of Commons.

The House of Lords is our answer. If AV is lost in May, then the Daily Mail, the Tories, Labour...it'll all be swung as a victory for FPTP. None of them want a more proportional system than FPTP or AV. If AV is won then we'll have to bed it in and test it for several elections. Either way PR in the House of Commons is off the table for at least a generation.

House of Lords reform, however, should happen by the end of the current parliament if the coalition agreement is to be believed. We can have a house that scrutinises our laws, and even introduces laws of it's own, that is proportional to our national wishes.

To me this is a perfect system, a national government elected via run-off popularity in each constuency, and a representative chamber that ensures all law passed has to have been agreed by a group of politicians with political views proportional to our nation as a whole.

Yet listen to most in the Yes or No debate and you'd think that this option never existed. *sigh*.

3) AV is a more equal, and therefore more fair, voting system for voters

FPTP doesn't treat everyone equally. It gives everyone the same voting opportunity (as does AV, for the record), but it gives more influence to those who choose to vote with the crowds. If you want a minority candidate, but choose to vote for Labour, Tories, or the Lib Dems...your vote will be worth more in the system than those that vote with their hearts.

AV lets everyone vote the same way, and ensures that everyones voice is equal in the results. This is fairer for all involved, allowing people to vote how they want for the reasons they want...not forced to either vote against their wishes, or to vote in a way that means they might as well not have turned up to vote at all, as it would be under FPTP.

4) AV increases marginality through greater chance to change MPs, this is linked to increase in turnout.

Take a look, studies show that AV allows seats the change hands more frequently than under FPTP. This chance has, in research, been linked to increase in turnout.

People simply turn up more the more they think their vote will matter. So along with AV actually meaning that 25% of the country that really don't count may actually make a difference, the act of them making a difference may encourage more to turn up as well.

This only helps to enhance the legitimacy of the government that is eventually formed.

5) AV stops extremism from getting a foot in the door

FPTP is the system that lets extremist parties have a chance at winning with a tiny share of the vote. To illustrate, though they themselves aren't extremist, the Lib Dems won a seat in 2010 on 29% of the vote, less than a third of those voting!

This could have been any party that could generate a swell of minority support, Lib Dems, Labour, or even the BNP. AV ensures that the only parties that win are those who actually have the endorsement of local voters, and thus cannot be extremists in that area.

6) AV enables greater transparency

If a Labour MP wins right now, they only have some idea of why they won. Was it national politics, was it an overwhelming case for their manifesto, was it the lack of a local candidate that would split their vote?

With AV that Labour MP will be able to see who transferred votes to them. Was it Liberal Democrats and Greens, or was it the BNP and local candidates? By having this information that MP knows much better how to serve their constituency. It's a level of transparency that simply doesn't exist under FPTP.

This, of course, doesn't mean that all of a sudden Labour MPs are going to singing from the BNP hymn-sheet...right now those like Phil Woolas make educated guesses as to how many BNP supporter votes they can poach and act accordingly.

Let's have a system where candidates have more freedom to be who they really want to be, without having to pledge to being more racist/liberal/green than they necessarily want to be, or even potentially need to be.

7) AV is opposed by the Daily Mail, most Conservatives, the worst of Labour's past, and the BNP.

When the people most involved in restriction of our liberties, and the promotion of so much hatred and fear, are the people saying we shouldn't vote for AV...well I just instinctively feel I'm on the ethically correct side of this debate. Petty? Perhaps, but petty based on preferring people to have equal rights and access to the political system...unlike those currently saying "Vote No to give Clegg a bloody nose" and other such short-termist anti-democratic nonsense.