On Thursday, the British people will get an opportunity to vote on whether or not to change the voting system used to elect Members of Parliament.
David Cameron and the Conservative Party are relying on lies and misinformation to try and frighten people into submission in attempt to avoid change. The Conservatives are scared to death of AV because it is much more fair and would put an end to ‘safe’ seats which enable MPs to stay in Parliament for 40 years.
This is the first referendum on the voting system and the first chance to change from the present “First Past the Post” (FPP) and its predecessors for 200 years. Whatever you think, whichever way you choose to vote, this referendum is the first and only chance to change politics in Britain.
So what is AV? It is probably best described thus:
AV is short for Alternative Voting. When the Conservatives and Lib Dems won the election in 2010 they drafted up the proposal for Parliament to hold a referendum. Amazingly, it will be only the second time we have held a referendum in this country; the first being in 1975 about us remaining in the EEC (we voted in favour).
Prior to the General Election, in February 2010, the then Labour Government, who had been in power since 1997, used their majority to pass an amendment to their Constitutional Reform Bill to include a referendum on the introduction of AV to be held in the next Parliament, citing a desire to restore trust in Parliament in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal.
There was insufficient time in the 2005-2010 Parliament for the Bill to be able to become law before Parliament was dissolved and, as such, the move to introduce AV was dismissed by several Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs as a political manoeuvre.
AV has been debated in Parliament several times, between 1917 and 1931 and came close to being adopted. Both the Liberals and Labour were in support at various times of a change from non-transferable voting in one-, two- and three-member constituencies.
Since 1951 our voting system has been single vote and non-transferable. This means that the ‘first past the post’ wins. I’ll explain how it works.
“YourHome” and ‘first past the post’ voting
Imagine a country called “YourHome” are having an election. There are four candidates in this election, Jim, Diane, Bob and Danielle. On polling day, people vote by putting an ‘X’ on the ballot paper next to the person they want to win. Votes are cast as follows;
- Jim – 33%
- Diane – 31%
- Bob – 20%
- Danielle – 16%
Jim wins because he was ‘first past the post’. Your vote only counts for the person you put an ‘X’ next to on your ballot paper.
However – and this is the thing that is so unfair and undemocratic – even though 67% of the people who voted in Glenand didn’t vote for Jim, Jim still wins. That cannot be right.
YourHome’s Alternative Voting or AV system
The inhabitants of YourHome begin to think that there might be a fairer way of voting and so they ask people to vote again. This time, they ask people to vote differently, using AV. Instead of putting an ‘X’ next to the person they wanted, they had to ‘score’ them 1,2,3 or 4 in order of preference.
When using AV, it’s about getting 50% of the votes. If Jim got over 50% of the votes he would still win.
However, as Jim didn’t get 50% of the votes this is where it gets complicated. Danielle, who came last, only got 16% of the votes and so she is out. However, her supporters SECOND preferences are then shared out among the rest of the candidates.
At this point, Jim still doesn’t have a majority and so Bob, who was in third place is ‘out’ and all HIS voters preferences are shared out between the two remaining candidates Jim and Diane.
Because more people’s second choices were for Diane, and Jim didn’t have a majority, Diane wins the election.
It is worth remembering that this is the very system that Cameron used in order to get elected as Conservative leader, yet he now says it’s no good!
Here’s a useful diagram that explains it.
As you can see, AV better represents the preferences of the majority of people by considering people’s preferences for all of the candidates, rather than forcing them to choose a single one.
There you have it. AV is more fair, it is not more expensive as has been suggested and it better represents the true opinion of voters.
It also ensures that there are no ‘safe’ seats in Parliament. Get rid of safe seats and MPs will have to listen more to their voters, work harder and be more accountable. AV will put an end to the ridiculous situation where there are some MPs who have been in the Commons and living off the tax payer for 40 years!
MPs would no longer be bound by the threats from tabloid newspapers like the Sun or from those with vested interests. Public opinion would have to be canvassed by politicians rather than be assumed by the media. Minority groups and those with ‘unpopular’ views and opinions, like many subscribers to TheOpinionSite.org would be better placed to make their local MP stand up for their views rather than just following the trend as happens at present.
Perhaps the most important benefit of AV is that it will put an end to the two party politics that we have suffered for so long. It will put an end to the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair remaining in power for 10 years on less than 25% of the popular vote.
The Conservative party are terrified of AV because it would put an end to the Conservative Party’s domination of British politics that has been forced on the population for nearly 200 years with very few breaks in between.
The existing system almost guarantees Conservative domination of our political system as well as definitely guaranteeing that the views of many minorities will be completely ignored. AV enables us to get rid of that unfair situation.
TheOpinionSite.org would urge everyone to vote in favour of AV, if only because it will give more people a greater say in who gets to make our laws and a greater say in what kind of laws we have, rather than simply putting up with a centre-right Labour party or an extreme right-wing Conservative party with the Liberal Democrats somewhere in the middle.
Forget the ridiculous arguments that AV is more expensive and disregard the argument that it is less fair. The truth is that nothing could be more unfair than the present ‘first past the post’ system which, for over 150 years has allowed the likes of Thatcher and Blair to win election after election, often on less than 25% of the popular vote.
If you need proof of just how bad the present system really is, just look at the people trying to defend it. Most are fat, old, greedy, out of touch with real life and have been in Parliament for years and years peddling the same outdated views that they had 40 years ago. It is little wonder that they want to keep the present system!
Whichever way you decide to vote, be aware that this chance to change things will not come again. When AV was debated previously it had no chance of being adopted. Now, that chance exists in a very real and present form.
Take the chance while you can to change British politics for ever and, maybe for the first time ever, introduce an element of real democracy into our legislative system. Stick with the present system and you will inevitably get more measures like IPP sentences, CRB checks and other, politically driven draconian laws.
It’s your choice – but I shall be voting for change and supporting AV because I know that I will never get this chance again and the maths show that it is a fairer system. This really is the only opportunity you’re going to get to improve our voting system, make it more democratic and get rid of these Parliamentary blood-suckers.