6 July 2010

A Mountain out of the AV Molehill

I am trying ever so hard to be enthusiastic about the possible change to AV. But I'm struggling.

I can see some small advantages. The biggest is the end of tactical voting. The voters can truly vote for who they want to see elected, rather than need to second-guess the behaviour of others. Never again will a leaflet need to talk of two-horse races, or X can't win here.

I can also see how AV is Step 1 of getting to the holy grail of STV. Once the ballots are preferential, moving from single- to multi-member constituencies so that elections are proportional would implement STV. Yet Step 2 is so much bigger than Step 1.

Making such a fuss about climbing the molehill when there is still a huge mountain to climb feels like wasted energy. AV is such a minor tweak to the status quo that I fear that holding this referendum will put genuine electoral reform off the agenda for a generation, whatever the outcome. Hung parliaments are becoming increasingly likely. I can't help wonder if it would have been better to wait for the ideal moment to get full STV in one shot.

I simply don't buy the argument that gaining the favour of over 50% of their electorate gives genuine legitimency to an MP, as that 50% is made up of second, third and maybe even lower preferences. The whole point of multi-member constituencies is to acknowledge that one person can't adequately represent the views of tens of thousands of people. AV goes directly against this principle.

But we are where we are. I'll campaign for AV. But my soul won't be in it.


NoetiCat said...

You can wait for that ideal moment all you like, neither Labour nor the Tories on their own were going to implement even AV - as was shown in the coalition negotiations, where Labour negotiators were forced to admit they can't get their MPs to back something that was in their manifesto.

Lee Griffin said...

Oh come on.

Game theory time.

Two outcomes, either reform keeps moving (A), or reform stops (B)

Two actions, you move to AV as a public opinion (1), or stick with FPTP (2)

If you follow 1 but end up with B, that's really rubbish, but you've gained some minimal benefits. If you follow 1 and end up with A you've got what you want.

*if you follow 2 you CANNOT get to scenario A*

Yes, it might be hard to be enthusiastic about it, but to be honest the opposite situation is something to get extremely animated against.

I think people like yourself all hand-wringing over this situation, saying your "soul won't be in it" perhaps need to look at it from a different perspective and truly understand what a public endorsement of FPTP will do to the reform agenda and see if that motivates you ;)

Anonymous said...

I have had much the same internal debate over this. As far as I'm concerned, AV is a scam, and I do believe there's more than half a chance that it will put true reform off for decades.

However, I believe this referendum is the best damn chance we've got. These are the cards we've been dealt, these are the cards we need to play as best we can. So I fully intend to ruin several good pairs of shoes campaigning for AV - and beginning to make the argument for further reform in the process.

Lee Griffin said...

"I simply don't buy the argument that gaining the favour of over 50% of their electorate gives genuine legitimency to an MP, as that 50% is made up of second, third and maybe even lower preferences."

To be more constructive.... this isn't really an argument either way under the AV/FPTP question. People self moderate under FPTP and choose "first preferences" that are actually their second preferences. They, in essence, conduct their own AV vote based on past information and vote accordingly.

The AV situation is just to extend this in to not being such a tactical and risky choice...to just put down what you really feel.

Even if reform *did* die after next May, I wouldn't be unhappy that we'd made at least those small steps towards a fairer and more transparent election process.