Monday, 23 August 2010

Lessons from Down Under

As you know, the following question will be put to us via referendum on May 5th next year (same day as the Assembly elections):

"Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the 'alternative vote' system instead of the current 'first past the post' system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?"

It is interesting to note that only three other countries in the world use the Alternative Vote (AV) system: Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Accordingly we should all be especially interested in the results produced by the AV system in the Australian general election held just a couple of days ago - and not just because Wales-born Julia Gillard is standing as the leader of the Labor party.

As of the time of writing this, the Liberal/National Coalition, with 43.2 per cent of first-preference votes, has the same number of seats as Labor, with 38.5 per cent. The Greens, with 11.4 per cent, have just one seat. Are we sure we want the same system in this country? The argument put forward by the Lib Dems that it is 'fairer' than First Past The Post does not seem to hold true in this case.

22 comments:

The Great Councillini said...

The danger with AV is that it is not exactly the most comprehensible system so far as a generally apathetic public is concerned.

One would hope there will be a big press campaign to enlighten the public about the pros and cons. But it may be left to just general discussion in the media, leaving those with an interest in politics making an informed choice, and everyone else guessing that AV must somehow be better than FPTP.

AV is an insult to the true concept of democracy in my view. Proportional representation is my preference, and I think was also the Lib. Dems' ideal before they married the Tories. The very fact that government after government shy well away from PR shows, I think, how powerful, if itself not perfect a system it would be in British politics.

Prometheuswrites said...

Again I agree with TGC.

I note that last night's Australian result produced the first hung parliament there for 70 years, so the argument that PR tends to produce hung parliaments does not hold.

However as TGC alludes, Australian's have a legal obligation to vote, which in itself creates a different dynamic to that we have here. The question in this scenario for the UK is who the apathetic (non voters) would vote for, if it was a legal requirement to vote.

As I remember when 'New' Labour came to power they promised to hold a referendum on PR. The fact that they did not do so is more than a question of broken manifesto pledges. At the end of the day the question arises of 'In whose interest is it for there not to be a change'

As with many issues put to the people the crucial point is 'what is the question to be asked'?

If the options available on the referendum question do not include the one you would want, then I would advocate a 'non of the above' option, just as there should be when we vote in elections.

I remember seeing some graffiti once that said, 'If voting changed anything it would be made illegal'

doctorhuw said...

'As of the time of writing this, the Liberal/National Coalition, with 43.2 per cent of first-preference votes, has the same number of seats as Labor, with 38.5 per cent. The Greens, with 11.4 per cent, have just one seat. '

On the other hand, on the 'forced preference' question between a Labour or Liberal led government the result is pretty much in line - in a dead heat - which is part of the point of AV. Whether that's a good or bad thing is another question.

The Red Flag said...

The 'British' way is for us to remain constituency based and quite rightly so in my opinion. It is important people retain the ability to identify a specific person as 'their' representative. PR removes that so it's a non-starter.

FPTP is not in any way shape or form representative of people's voting patterns.

AV - although not perfect - is more reflective in the way people vote in that if no candiodate takes more than 50% of the vote then the second preference votes come into play. Coupled with a reduction of Constituencies from 650 to 600 and the boundaries moving so that they were more equally sized (which actually reduces the amount of MPs Wales and Scotland proposed with current in italics England 503/533, Scotland 50/59, Wales 29/40 and NI 18/18. - it will produce a more representative result I think. Not perfect, but better than currently.

Personally I would have gone futher and took this opportunity to scrap the Lords completely at the same time and had an Upper House of 500 seats allocated proportionally on region (so that minority parties such a Plaid, SNP and the Northern Ireland parties are not disadvantaged), elected on purely PR within those regions. ( it equates - for an Upper Chamber - as England 419 seats, Scotland 42 seats, Wales 24 seats and NI 15 seats.) with England further divided into regions so that regional parties have a chance of a voice.

But whatever, I think for the Lower House AV is a positive move and hopefully it will be rolled downwards to councils and after a few 'goes' at the polls enhanced further by moving to AV+ or SNTV or even two stage voting where after round one, everyone bar the top two candidates is eliminated.

Polling day should perhaps be made polling weekend with the polls open for 48 hours. The corrupt Postal Voting system scrapped and postal votes restricted to the disabled, HM Forces, merchant seamen etc etc - not just any charlie wily-nily.

I notice someone mentioned Australia and compulsory voting. It is not compulsory to vote in Australia. It is compulsory to attend a Polling Station - you don't have to vote if you don't want to.

Anonymous said...

An authoritative take on what would have happened under AV.

A Labour/Lib Demm coalition would have had much more legitimacy and therefore was more likely.

http://www.bes2009-10.org/

"Political Betting" is calling it neck and neck Yes/No on AV vote with a possible (likely?)scenario for No

Housebound said...

Red Flag-:

I would have agreed with you on the constituency based voting.

However my recent experiences with Mark Isherwood (PR representative (Tory) for North Wales and shadow minister for social justice at WAG) impressed me no end, as he listened to my concerns and more importantly took practical steps to help me address my problems.

I had raised the self-same issues with both my AM and MP but neither wanted to know.

My conclusion is that having a non-constituency based representative is very important where there may be conflicts of interest for the local representatives.

After my experiences I have to say I like the PR system we have got here in Wales.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you Blog Administrator.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

My pleasure.

The Red Flag said...

Housebound 23 August 2010 16:30
After my experiences I have to say I like the PR system we have got here in Wales.

We don't have PR as such. We have a mix of FPTP with listed area top-ups. The assembly is made up of 60 members. Forty are elected using the first-past-the-post system in constituencies identical to Wales's Westminster seats. A further 20 are elected from five electoral regions - such as "north Wales", "south Wales central", etc. - with four drawn from each region.

These additional assembly members are chosen from party lists, with numbers decided according to a complicated PR system designed to reward parties that get a large spread of votes which is not concentrated enough to win constituencies outright.

Voters therefore have two votes, which can be cast for different parties, but need not be.

(I cribbed that by the way)

Anonymous said...

Red Flag - Thank you for that. I can never remember how it works - till the next election anyway.

Anonymous said...

All sounds a bit like the idea of using the NZ Auckland Bridge's CLIP-ON. NIP-ON bridge decking for our Britannia Bridge. Almost as ridiculous as representing the North Wales Police, whilst on holiday there.

Anonymous said...

27th 20.52 This looks like a 'stand alone' comment, I am sure it is not. To what above does it relate?


Mr Bridges

Anonymous said...

27th 20.52 Anon.
Why not compare the ridiculous, your comments and the Auckland Bridge also the Tamar Bridge Plymouth-Cornwall. Both have clip-ons so why do you make your ill informed comment?

Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with the Bridges, more to do with the idiot behind the ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Hello 18.43 You have me very confused. You did seem to refer to the stupidity of having Clip-On Bridges but as I pointed out, the one in Auckland and indeed the one I cross regularly at Plymouth both seem to have, to some degree, overcome the same sort of problem we have with varying direction traffic volume. If you were not getting at the bridges what point were you actually trying to make?


Mr Bridges

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bridges do not be confused, I can think of one real idiot who crosses the bridge every day he is probably scared that a clip on would not be strong enough

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