April 26/27/28 – ‘Nose to the grindstone’ and AV…

Back to business this week with mainly office work and a rehearsal on Thursday.

Thursday also marks one week from the referendum on whether Britain is going to bring their electoral system wheezing in to the early twentieth century (that is not a typo!). It seems to me a pretty obvious improvement if you assume that the electorate can count up to the number of candidates on the polling paper.

The Alternative Vote (AV) system has been used in Australia for the lower house of the Federal parliament for many years and if the Aussie’s can understand it then I can’t see why the English couldn’t get a handle on it. I assume that the Welsh and Scots would be OK as they have a more modern voting system for their regional assemblies.

One argument against AV is that it is more likely to produce a ‘hung’ parliament – unlike the ‘First Past The Post’ (FPTP). Funnily enough both systems have done just that in both the UK and Australia. I would argue that a hung parliament is a message from the electorate for the political parties – a sort of a ‘none of the above’ vote.

It’s also pretty breathtaking that the Tories are opposing AV when they use it themselves for internal elections. I guess they have done pretty well out of the FPTP system over the years, so why change? I suppose that if anyone is going to oppose AV then the tories are the perfect candidates for the job. Being the party of reaction and hankering after the ‘good old days’ – i.e. sending children down mines, slavery, entrenched privilege and so on.

I’m more surprised by the stance of some Labour MPs, the argument being that a fair distribution of preferences might reduce the number of Labour seats. I would have thought that anything that makes the electoral process more transparent and democratic would be more important than clinging onto to seats unfairly. Either you subscribe to the philosophy of democracy or you try to achieve power by other means.

However the best thing about AV is it will mean that one travesty of the UK system will be put to rest – the ‘Tactical Vote’. You could argue that the fact that the Labour landslide in 1997 was in part due to a lot of Lib-Dem supporters voting tactically means that Labour have already benefited from an unofficial form of AV, so any MP who benefited from this is hypocritical if they oppose AV.

This is not just my opinion. In a paper published by Geoffrey Evans (Nuffield College, Oxford), John Curtice (University of Strathclyde) and Pippa Norris (Harvard University)  they state “in 1997 more people voted tactically in order to try to defeat their local Conservative candidate than did so in 1992.” The fact that voters feel that they have to vote tactically surely means the current system is ‘broken’. Anyway I could go on for hours about this. If you are interested then I guess that you will have pretty much made up you mind by now.

Anyway, their have been some fun videos supporting AV doing the rounds – my favourite at the moment takes a cat perspective…

I guess the main thing is to get out there and vote. If you want a reminder why we need AV, here’s a message from Show of Hands…

About Brian Heywood

Brian Heywood is a free range musician who specialises in edgy roots / country / celtic fusion music. Previous work has received comments such as "... aggressive, top notch fiddling set off by periodic guitar explosions." - Tom Nelligan, Dirty Linen Magazine (USA), "Just when it seemed as if newer electric British roots bands were getting thinner on the ground - Very welcome and very good." - fROOTS Magazine (UK) and Steve Barnes Fairbridge Festival Artistic Director (Australia) - "... a rocking band - I was delighted with the audience response."
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