Straying into an alternative territory

OK, I don’t normally blog about political issues because frankly there are many people who know an awful lot more than me in that area and I’d be opening myself up to a barrage of criticism. Then again, I figured that to get a barrage of criticism would mean that lots of people would have to read this and there is no danger of that, so here goes

Tomorrow is the big referendum on the new AV (Alternative vote) system and the media have today finally decided to try to explain to people what they are voting for.

Today,the Independent printed a list of the arguments for and against the Alternative Vote. This article in itself was quite interesting. By presenting both sides of the argument, the newspaper was trying to live up to its name however, when you got into the meat of the article (seen here) then it is difficult to not conclude that the Independent are firmly in favour of reform as they proceed to debunk all of the “No” arguments and support all but the least convincing of the “Yes” arguments.

I’m happy to state that I will be voting “Yes” tomorrow because I agree with the simple argument that “It is a step in the right direction” and that the “If it aint broke don’t fix it” attitude is fundamentally flawed as the current system is “broke” and I’m also pretty sure that the same argument was used against the suffragettes 100 years ago.

However, there is one argument that I think is missing from the “Yes” vote and this is the main reason that I will be voting:

A great deal of commentary has suggested that AV would have produced very similar results in the last few elections as to the result that we actually got. It would have exaggerated the Labour swing in 1997 even further and we would still have a Coalition government today. However, that analysis assumes that people would have kept their same first preference vote if they were able to record a 2nd, 3rd and 4th preference vote. But I simply don’t believe that would be the case. A lot of younger voters vote for Labour or Conservative, not because they believe they are the best party to represent their interests, but because they believe that they only really have a choice of two. If you have to place up to 4 preferences then people will have to start to consider the relative merits of more than just two parties and so might start to consider the realistic possibility that it doesn’t have to be a two party system any more.

If I have an alternative vote, I will be liberated to place my first vote where my true convictions lie rather than just place a vote in order to keep my most hated party out.

All too often in FPTP elections I have voted for Labour, not because I approved of their policies, but because I couldn’t stomach the Tory ones and a vote for anyone else was completely wasted. Under AV I could vote for the independent candidate or the Green candidate or the Liberal candidate and use my vote as a statement of my true beliefs and at the same time I can place 2nd, 3rd or 4th preference vote which might also affect the final result. The big question is, how many other people would have done the same, how many people have in the past voted for their 2nd or even 3rd preference because it was the only party with a chance of winning?

AV might not show a huge change in voting patterns in the next election, because a lot of people will justify their previous voting behaviour and continue to vote according to habits, not beliefs, but I believe that in 3 or 4 elections time as new generations of voter arrive without the baggage of their parents we could start to see a shift towards a wider spectrum of voting habits that more accurately reflects the nations attitudes.

I know that AV won’t solve the problem of getting a truly representative government, but in my idealised world I would hope that as people start to value their vote more highly they will start to see the benefits of a truly proportionate and representative system and there will be enough minority representatives in our government, that maybe, just maybe, we can make it happen.

Well, fingers crossed for a miracle, all the bookies are suggesting that my hope is forlorn, but stranger things have happened.


2 thoughts on “Straying into an alternative territory

  1. On the money. It’s impossible to say how people would have behaved under an AV system. The only thing that we can say is that people would have been more free to express their genuine preference than they are at present. I really hope the polls are wrong.

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