A famous commentator from the BBC was contemptuous when I recently told him I would be voting against A.V, the alternative vote, in the referendum on May 5th.
“If you’re against AV, you’re an enemy of progress,” he said. “An enemy of progress.”
What arrogant nonsense!
This referendum was forced on Cameron by Nick Clegg as the price of the LibDems entering coalition with the Conservatives.
The Lib Dems have been trying for decades to get our first past the post electoral system abolished.
They want elections to be indecisive so they can make backroom deals which will keep them perpetually in power in coalitions.
Even if only 10% of the electorate turn out on May 5 and if only one more than half of them vote for AV, then we will be stuck with it. A huge change to our constitution, voted in by a tiny number of people, impossible to change again.
Would that be so bad? Yes.
Churchill famously said that democracy is only the least worst system of government that men and women have devised. First Past the Post voting is imperfect. For example, voters for the second party in safe seats feel short changed. But it has huge strengths.
It is tried and tested and, above all, it is simple. It has given this country governments that are strong enough and representative enough to see us through many crises – two world wars, depression, and huge social and ethnic changes. In all that time extremist parties of right and left have got nowhere.
First past the post produces clear results which everyone understands and allows serious governments to govern seriously.
Only three countries, Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea have AV. Of these, Fiji is abandoning it and the polls show that most Australians would like to do the same.
In Oz it is mandatory to mark your order of choice against every single candidate. Almost no one can list six different parties in a logical order. You just have to make it up.
Recently, it took two weeks to work out the final result of the election in New South Wales. In Balmain the seat was finally won by the Green Party candidate who had been third in the first round.
Here’s what happens under AV.
You’re in a fiercely marginal seat. The conservatives get 30,000 votes, Labour 29,000 and the others, including Lib-Dems, 14,000 between them. Bottom is the BNP . So it is eliminated and the second choices of its voters are distributed. Still no party over the magic 50% mark.
Then UKIP is eliminated and the BNP’s 3rd preferences go forward. Then the Greens go down and the BNP’s 4th choices go up. Then the Lib Dems are eliminated and by now the Conservatives and Labour are running equal with 33, 000 votes each. There are still 200 BNP 5th preferences to be distributed and they will decide who wins.
If that’s democracy, I’m fish and chips.
No wonder Churchill described AV as ”worthless votes being given to the most worthless candidates”.
The LibDems agree - before the last election Clegg called AV “a miserable little compromise”. But they are completely cynical. They see AV as a first step towards full proportional representation. Then they really will be able to control both main parties’ agenda. More power to the E.U., more windfarms, more taxes, more overpaid council officials telling us what to do.
Sorry - More “progress” as the man from the BBC would say.
Vote with Churchill not with Clegg. Vote No on May 5th.