Friday, 6 May 2011

The Scottish elections, an example of where AV benefits

As I write this I believe the SNP have a majority in government (65 seats, still counting) in the Scottish Parliament. The interesting part of it is that in terms of vote share the Liberal Democrats are nose diving as people leave the Lib Dems to vote SNP. Labour on the other hand aren't doing terribly, they're losing some share as are the Tories, a natural effect of a general swing to the SNP. Yet Labour are also losing a lot of seats, more than their reduction in share might suggest. Why?

Despite Scotland having a semi-proportional system, these seats are being won on our FPTP system. What these results show, very clearly, is that those who have voted Lib Dem in the past are only ever thinking to vote SNP in their second preference. Through truly being swayed to vote SNP as their true first choice, or realising that their chance of a united majority against Labour can only come about with the SNP getting their votes, Labour are losing out because they appear to be the party that have gained in the past due to votes being split between SNP and Lib Dems.

This is about as pure an example of why AV is so beneficial, how many Scottish seats at the last election may have fell to the SNP under the FPTP stage of the elections using AV instead because of the system's inherent property for stopping parties that don't have direct competition getting a foothold in areas that they're not wanted.

As a final example, look at East Lothian, seat to the Labour Scottish leader.

Iain Cumming Gray Labour - 39%
David Berry SNP - 38.5%
Derek Scott Brownlee Conservative - 16.6%
Ettie Spencer Liberal Democrat - 5.9%

Is that a seat that it looks like Labour deserve? Sure, Tory Scots are unlikely to pass their preferences on to the independence loving SNP, but nor are they likely to pass votes to their arch-rivals Labour. This election has shown that Lib Dems are much more likely to desert to the SNP.

It may be unlikely, but I still hope deep down the public has not been duped by the lies of the No campaign, and that we in the UK elections...unable to temper a bad system with some form of proportionality as the Scottish can...move to a fairer system that does not penalise voters that have a choice between similar candidates.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

What happens if No wins?

With a poll out that shows something like a 20 point lead for the No campaign there is a part of me that has to prepare for the possibility of people voting against a fairer voting system, and for a continuation of the terrible topsy-turvy system we've currently got. But what will the No campaign have achieved if they win?


One argument being peddled is that a No vote will enable a much quicker move to a PR system for the commons. This is despite all reality that the Tories and Labour do not want a PR system. The Tories will never vote for anything other than FPTP, and Labour will stretch at most to AV+, which isn't PR but addresses a small part of the problem of single member constituencies.

How we will get to the PR system that most want, STV, when both of the biggest parties in the country do not want it and consistently talk it down (after all, why would they want a system where they both have to give up seats for MPs that people really want?), after a result which is a resounding "No reform" statement, I will never know.

No more coalitions?

Polling is all over the place, and it may well be that we move away from the three party system that we currently reside under. However if this did happen it would also mean no coalitions under AV as well as FPTP. However if the Lib Dems turn things around (as they appear to be doing in some local election polling) then we're still looking at another coalition (or at least Hung Parliament) in 2015.

Given Labour and the Tories don't want to work together, this only leaves the Lib Dems to prop one or the other up. So voting no doesn't stop coalitions, and it actually makes it harder and slower to get out of the hung parliament territory we're in right now (AV is much better for making large changes where the public wants it).

Fair winners?

The main reason I've supporter AV is because of this one fact... FPTP does not deliver fair winners in seats where opinion is split. FPTP, in fact, PENALISES popular opinion if more than one candidate falls under that area of support. If your constituency is heavily environmentally minded, with a Lib Dem and a Green being the two "greenest" in the constituency, people that want a Green focus actually can cause themselves to lose out.

It's ridiculous, but a No vote helps to ensure that someone who is TRULY "third place" in the local area wins ahead of one of two candidates that are pushing policy the majority of the constituency want.

Money saved?

I've written here before, but we'll be spending near to £50-60mil on this referendum even if it is lost. And after that, we barely save any money as the cost of counting extra rounds is miniscule compared to the costs that are already incurred for an election.


So when it comes down to it, if we do vote No tomorrow then the only thing we've proved is that as a nation we'd rather cut off our nose to spite our face, that short term personal politics is actually more important than meaningful reform (and thus politicians will be enthused to know that focusing on talking down their opponents rather than talking up their own policy is the way forward in the future), that we'd rather that vocal minorities win against loose majorities every time, and that reform of the house of commons is not something that we're interested in.

The only thing that keeps me positive about the possibility of a No win tomorrow, given that my faith in the public to not shoot themselves in the foot will be destroyed, is that the possibility of a parliament only evolution of how the Lords is formed can mitigate all of the terrible elements of our democracy this referendum will have enforced, and ensure that even if we're too stupid to vote for it, we still have an opportunity to have our voices better represented.