Monday, March 14, 2011

No2AV = Yes2PR?

I was reading the opinion column from David Owen in the Independent on Sunday with some amusement. From the title you can guess the subject matter - I support a PR system, but I will be voting ‘no’ in the AV referendum. In it he makes the No2AV crowd dance in joy as he explains why the reader shouldn't vote for AV basically because it's not Proportional Representation.

Stating that voting Yes

will replace a bad system with a worse one

He then presents evidence for this assertion - He states that AV is a system

where the second preferences of the least popular candidates have the most influence. Because the first candidate to get eliminated under AV – typically a fringe or extremist candidate – gets their votes redistributed first, they have the best chance of determining the final result.
This is something that keeps cropping up in anti-AV material - the tactical voting that a fringe group have extra influence by getting their membership to second-place a particular candidate. Except this is in no way different from any candidate withdrawing from the election and telling their members to vote for this person in a First Past the Place election. Except said candidate can't enforce that vote in either case and that AV allows people to vote how they want to without having to make these overt tactical decisions. Call it the same, but it's not worse.
Also, AV can make election results even more disproportional.
Viewed as a country - possibly; but you can't have disproportional representation when each constituency can only vote for one person. If any disproportion exists it does so because of the set-up of the constituencies and is not a fault of the system running on top of it. The only way you could have a totally proportional system would be to declare the entire UK as one voting bloc or split everything up into exactly equal voting areas.

Any other arguments oh yes The Electoral Reform Society says that AV is "not suitable for the election of a representative body" and if you visit their website or do a search for it you can find the complete quote um nowhere. This is supposed a direct quote yet it doesn't show up on their own website search; doesn't show up on a general Google search (other than someone else using it as a quote); nor a site-specific Google search; nor in their own research papers. Can we get some context with that please?

The other arguments he uses are rather telling. He argues that unlike some of the propaganda a Yes vote for AV won't allow further consideration of a new PR system. If it proves unpopular there will be a clamour to return to FPTP; if it proves popular there will be no further reform. But the reason this has come about is because it seems we're dissatisfied with FPTP. If we introduce a system we don't like what on earth would possess us to just return to the previous one without looking around at what else is on offer; and if it turns out we quite like it who the hell are you to say we should change it? Either you think we're stupid or don't know what's best for us; thanks for the insult.

The true stupidity of "No to AV, Yes to PR" is that you can't do that. You can vote Yes you can vote No and that's it. With the government currently in charge, which let's face it are the Conservative Party, wanting a No vote should they get one they're not going to present it as "The people have rejected AV" they're going to proclaim it as "The people want to stay with FPTP" which will set any type of vote reform back.

In this instance a vote Yes for AV is a vote No to FPTP. But as I've always said make up your own minds.