It amazes me how some people get so caught up in their own political views and world that they don’t see how what they say will be perceived by the wider public. People on Twitter are now saying ‘Yes to AV’ and using the theory that Neil Kinnock would have formed a coalition with Paddy Ashdown in 1992 and become Prime Minister as the reason why!
Now, maybe that might help sway some Labour party members, but many of the wider public will surely not think that’s a good reason to vote yes to AV!
OK, I’m being partially tongue in cheek, but the tedious partisanship in trying to convince people to vote one way or another in the referendum is becoming increasingly annoying. Labour MPs post reasons on Labourlist explaining how AV is bad for democracy, most of which seemed to be not remotely factually related.
Meanwhile, other sites say it’s a ‘no brainer’ for Labour to support AV because it benefits us electorally, meanwhile we strongly opposed Tory attempts to ‘gerrymander’ the system against us!
What no one seems to realise, is if we had AV in 1992 it would have altered the behaviour of the political parties and voters and therefore it is impossible to predict what the result would have been. We can see now with a Liberal-Conservative Coalition that it’s not written in stone people will automatically choose a centre-left government rather than a coalition of the centre and the right. A selective view of the past and the situation in other countries won’t help any argument on either side.
Switching to AV will probably – in my opinion – hasten the move to a multi-party system in the UK, which has been developing over the last thirty years anyway. In some ways this was inevitable, not least once New Labour got into power and a lot of idealistic (dare I say naive) people started voting for other parties once Labour got their hands dirty in government.
Naturally these people are now also disappointed with the Lib Dems, the beneficiaries of such unrealistic hand-wringing piety who are now also getting their own hands dirty in government. Whether we switch to AV or not more people will vote for other parties as the main parties share the power and the horrible decisions no one likes to take but everyone in government has to take.
The main worry here is that the right will stay relatively uniform while the left splinters (as it so often does) and we have a generation of right-wing governments.
However, the rise of UKIP and the prominence of the disgruntled Thatcherite rump of the Tory party suggests to me that under an AV system these MPs and activists could be encouraged to go it alone in the knowledge that they can still form a coalition with a centre-right Tory party and maybe even, ironically, hold more power with them as they do currently as ignored backbenchers in the party.
But like it or not under First Past The Post we now have a coalition government, which FPTP was meant to avoid, yet we still have a strong government, which coalitions were meant to be unable to provide.
Those who constantly moan about coalitions being lots of deals in smoky (or smokeless as we have now) rooms are either wilfully misrepresenting party politics or are woefully naive.
Put simply: all political parties are coalitions.
I know loads of people in the Labour Party who, if I were to form a select group of like-minded individuals, wouldn’t be invited! And vice-versa! However we are broadly united by a broad and shared set of values and beliefs. Likewise in the Tory party. John Bercow and Philip Davies identify themselves both as Tory through and through even though the former is in many respects more New Labour and the latter is in many respects more like UKIP. However, they both stay in the Tory party to work within it rather than outside of it.
This is what party politics is all about. It’s not ideal but it is the least worst system we have.
Those who criticism AV for encouraging ‘deals’ between parties are wilfully ignoring the fact that deals within their own parties have been going on since the parties existed, think about the horse-trading that went on over 42-day detention under Gordon Brown.
To end this rant, I’ll summarise by saying I’ll be voting – and maybe campaigning – for a YES vote in the AV referendum, because I believe electing an MP with 50% of the public preferring him or her to their opponent will strengthen, not weaken the constituency link between an MP and their constituents and because I believe AV will remove at a stroke the tiring process many people have to go through at an election where they sometimes have to vote for a party or candidate they don’t like purely to stop a more disliked candidate or party winning. The amount of times I had to have this conversation with people during the last election was ridiculous, people who didn’t like the Tories but weren’t sure about voting Labour. Under AV they would be allowed to express themselves properly (and for Tories they could vote Liberal or UKIP if it better reflected them while still voting Tory as a second preference to keep Labour out) It allows people to express their preference properly in a clear order.
Those who say it means fringe voters have their vote counted numerous times compared to someone voting for a mainstream party are missing the point – if you voted for one of the top two parties under AV then your vote doesn’t need to count any more times as your candidate is already in the final run-off. If you voted for a fringe candidate it’s not necessarily that your vote is counting numerous times but that it didn’t count in the earlier stages, as the chosen candidate didn’t acquire enough support to merit inclusion in the later run-off.
So I’ll be voting Yes to AV but frankly reading some of the arguments for and against part of me is wishing the whole thing would just go away, especially seeing people who were anti-AV before the election (and pro-PR) now campaigning vociferously for AV, the campaigns aren’t covering anyone in glory and looks like tribalistic politics at its most tedious.