Monday, 18 April 2011

U.K. A.V. - P.A. Vs G.O.

Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, and perennial campaigner for electoral reform, is in full flight in the Guardian, fulminating furiously (though with perhaps more respect to metophors than I am showing) over Chancellor George Osborne's intervention in the campaign against the Alternative Vote.

As Ashdown points out, the 'No' campaign is almost entirely negative. Rather than making a case for retaining First Past The Post, the No Camp prefer to spread scare stories and disinformation about AV.

Perhaps there is a reason for that:
In the 1950s more than 90% of us voted either Labour or Tory. The vast majority of MPs were elected with more than 50% of the vote in their constituencies.

Now that total is down to just 65%. Even when you add in my party, the three big UK parties combined achieved their lowest share of the vote ever in the last general election. One in 10 of us now vote for parties outside the big three.

But the system doesn't reflect the change in people's voting preferences. Now fewer than a third of MPs are elected with a majority of the votes in their constituencies. Some get in on fewer than three out of 10 votes cast.

Most of us are now represented by an MP that most of us voted against. (1)
Great man, Paddy. Though he must feel like he's swallowing rats every time he has to support AV.

Contrast his forthright argument with the mealy mouthed dishonesty of the strange bedfellows involved in the No campaign:
Cameron has not shared an anti-AV platform with a Labour politician before and he will insist that he and Reid "don't agree on much". Reid is expected to reciprocate the sentiment, but will say "some issues are so important that they transcend party politics" and that he and Cameron are opposed to AV because they are "united in believing that politicians are the servants of the people". (2)
Reid's statement is bizarre. A voting system is more important than the fundamental economic principles guiding the country? it shows, pretty clearly, that this is really about Labour and the Conservatives maintaining their my turn/your turn hegemony.

Elsewhere in the article, Cameron mumbles something about how FPTP allows the electorate to "kick the rascals out." Only, it doesn't. You get suspiciously similar rascals wearing different coloured rosettes, but equally dishonest, self serving and confident in their unalienable right to be in charge. It's false to claim you're clearing out the rascals when all you get is more rascals in their place.
1 - "The AV vote matters – the no campaign's scaremongering shows it," by Paddy Ashdown. Published in The Guardian, 16th of April, 2011. (
2 - "Cameron and Miliband to lock horns over AV as debate divides coalition," by Andrew Sparrow. Published in The Guardian, 18th of April, 2011. (

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