Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The People Said No Thank YOU!

So here in the UK we had a vote last week. We had a vote to decide how we should vote. Before that, we had a vote to decide how to vote about how to vote. No, not really.

In the old days, we had two political parties. Labour and Conservative. You voted for one if you were a miner and the other if your Daddy worked in the City. Now the lines have become blurred, to the extent that we now have dozens of parties, some fitting in the gaps between and around the original two, and some independent candidates who stand on a single issue, such as the need for more dog poo pins in the park, or subsidies for ice cream in the summer.

And of course, we have the Monster Raving Looney Party, who you vote for when there isn't a box for 'none of the above'.

So the voting system was apparently too complicated for us lesser citizens. The concept that we have one vote each, and whoever gets the most votes wins, was too much. So the Liberal Democrats have harped on for years about a new, fairer system called AV or Alternative Vote.

Fair for who?

Well, if you look closely, you'll see that the only people AV benefits are... the Lib Dems of course!!

Here's how...

With the old system, when there were two parties, one was pretty much guaranteed to get more than 50% - a majority. As more and more parties, single issue candidates and practical jokers joined the fray, the percentage of the vote had to be spread thinner. A party could win, but not have an overall majority. This means that a party could not push through an unpopular policy, such as Labour's national security laws, without going through that rather inconvenient and obstructive process that we call 'democracy'. A party could technically be in power, but be powerless.

Hold on... Did we vote for them? Or are they in charge? All this talk about 'power' suggests that they think they're running the country. Wrong. We pay them to administer it for us. The whole purpose of the parliamentary system is that MPS represent us. They don't dictate to us. And they damn well shouldn't be voting according to party policy. They should be voting to represent the will of their constituents.

Anyway, so what about AV?

Under AV, the voters don't vote for just one candidate, they vote for some or all of them, ranking them in order of preference. Votes from losing candidates are redistributed according to that rank.

Imagine that you're going out for dinner with friends. Some of you want Indian, some want Chinese. You all go to the Harvester. It's not what anyone actually wants, it's just the least offensive option to the most people. It's a socialist's dream. Everybody's equally miserable.

Well, let's say you're the third biggest party. You have a few Guardian reading, smock wearing, home wine making, nettle tea drinking, bearded supporters, but you know there is no way you will ever get into power. Never ever. People vote for you because they feel they're making some kind of personal stand against the two major parties, but you'll always be a minority. They vote for you for the same reason that they buy organic cheese and weave their own armpit hair into scarves. The men too.

Wouldn't it be handy if you could, behind the scenes, offer that minority vote to a potential ally, in return for them giving you a bit of fame and fortune? Maybe even the promise of a top job? And all you have to do is say a few Labour friendly, or Tory friendly sound-bites on the news, and, under AV, your supporters rank you first, and your ally second so that your ally gets all your votes which would actually be wasted on you.

So AV is a way for the Lib Dems to increase their power in a very un-democratic, manipulative, underhanded way. What a surprise.

Thank goodness the British people voted to keep the good old system.

Or, on the other hand, thank goodness the British people hadn't got a clue what AV was about, why we needed to change a perfectly good voting system and what all the fuss was about. Let's face it, all we care about is scratch cards, diamond white and Jeremy Kyle.

Rule Brittania!

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