Sunday, February 20, 2011

Are you smarter than David Cameron (thinks you are)?

I’m still undecided about voting systems, but I am starting to think that the FPTP campaign (or, more accurately, the anti-AV campaign) is arguing in a marginally more annoying way than the AV campaign (or, more accurately, the anti-FPTP campaign). I’ll try not to let this bias me.

One thing FPTP certainly has going for it is that it’s simpler: simpler to vote and simpler to count. But I don’t think the difference is really all that big, and I’d treat this as a small factor that would only come into play if I couldn’t decide otherwise.

But David Cameron thinks AV is far too complicated to understand:

Here's a passage from a book detailing how the Alternative Vote system works:
"As the process continues the preferences allocated to the remaining candidates may not be the second choices of those electors whose first-choice candidates have been eliminated. It may be that after three candidates have been eliminated, say, when a fourth candidate is removed from the contest one of the electors who gave her first preference to him gave her second, third and fourth preferences to the three other candidates who have already been eliminated, so her fifth preference is then allocated to one of the remaining candidates."
Do you understand that? I didn't. And I've read it many times.

I understood it straight away. Now, Cameron has a first in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford, so unless he’s been in mental decline since his Bullingdon days, he really should be able to get it. Or, as I suspect, he gets it perfectly well and is just playing dumb because he thinks everyone else is.

That said, the passage is much, much longer than it needs to be. But that’s bad writing, not inherent complexity. Here’s my shorter version:

When a candidate is eliminated, each of their votes is allocated to that voter’s highest preference among the remaining candidates. Preferences for candidates that have already been eliminated are skipped over.

And you could cut the second sentence; it’s implicit in the first.


jams o donnell said...

You missed the LBW rule from your graph. That surely dwarfs rocket science and brain surgery!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it remind you of Humphrey Lyttleton/Jack Dee telling us the rules of 'One tune to the words of another' ?

Tom Freeman said...

"Now, I know what you're thinking, teams: isn't this a disgraceful racket in which the least popular players have far more influence than they deserve? At the piano is Colin Sell."

tim f said...

This is shameful plugging, which I normally get annoyed at, but I'm the one doing it this time so I find it less annoying.

I've just written a lengthy article for Though Cowards Flinch on why Labour supporters should oppose AV (on the basis of our principles, not for narrow party advantage).

Neil Harding said...

I think the Yes Campaign has been very positive. It has argued for AV whereas the No Campaign has tried to avoid talking about electoral systems at all.

If you just compare and contrast AV and FPTP I think it becomes quite clear which is better. Forget all this made up guff about hijacking royal weddings, unconstitutional to have a referendum at same time as local elections, cost or AV being too complicated - so we are thicker than Australians? Or the people of Chicago? Or countless other US cities?

The Labour party has used AV for decades, so too trade unions and countless other bodies. The Tories have used AV or a close cousin also for decades, David Cameron would have lost if FPTP had been used to elect their leader. Politicians use it to elect their own because they know it is more representative, yet they want to deny us the same voting system they use.

The No campaign claim it will cost millions for new machines, but neglect to mention the millions that will be saved in less counting clerks. If Ireland can afford a 1,2,3 system I think anywhere can.

Also because the system of AV being proposed doesn't require you to rank all the candidates, you can just vote for one candidate as at present. So this is all about denying people the 'choice' or 'opportunity' to use AV, they don't have to. They can just carry on voting as at present and having it count the same way as at present even when AV is introduced.

At the end of the day, the majority of people now want a choice of more than just 2 old parties, and AV gives them the chance to at least show who their first preferences are, if nothing else. No more negative campaigning and leaflets saying 'don't vote for your first choice because it might let in your most hated choice'. This adds nothing to our political debate. David Cameron used examples of BNP or Monster Raving Loony voters being able to influence the result with their further preferences, but imagine being a Tory in Margaret Hodge's constituency and having to give your first and ONLY preference to Labour because you want to stop the BNP. AV gets rid of this nonsense. Basically everybody gets a chance for their vote to be counted and for their ONE vote to have an influence on the result rather than just being wasted and ignored under FPTP.

David Cameron mentions 1997 and possibly 1983 as examples where big majorities might have been bigger under AV, but doesn't mention that EVERY other election probably would have given a more proportional result!

In short, every negative argument the No Campaign have come up with can be countered easily.

With the polls neck and neck if you ask the question actually on the ballot paper or the Noes 10% or 20% ahead if you believe their polls published regularly in the rightwing press which start with a leading question that slags AV off (see they can't even be honest about their polling), then not enough people are hearing the real debate about which system is more democratic.

If people do get to hear the arguments I have no doubt the YES campaign would win easily. It is time to get out there and argue our case, otherwise this chance at change I have waited all my life for will be lost until the next generation.

Win AV and the next logical step is to change local elections, with each ward electing 2-3 councillors, AV is impossible it would have to be the more proportional STV.

Win STV for local government and....Now you can see how AV will bring us step by step closer to a much more proportional and representative parliament, and all the extra benefits that brings to long term planning and equality (See Scandanavia, Germany etc.)