Contributed by David Smith. This is his opinion and not necessarily that of STV Action.
On Newsnight on Wednesday 23rd October, following the announcement that Russell Brand would guest edit an issue of the New Statesman, Jeremy Paxman challenged him on why anyone should respect his opinions if he couldn’t be bothered to vote. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YR4CseY9pk#t=15). Russell claimed that voting was useless but did not explain why. At one level the answer is obvious, governments and opposition front beaches simply do not listen to the people. The question is why not. They have many other pressures:
- Attracting party funding
- Coping with corporate led media
- Lack of access to reliable advice independent of corporate lobbyists – if you have ever worked in the Westminster bubble as I have you will understand what a strange isolated world it is. Ministers and many other MPs come to see the world as the money men see it.
- The current operation of the money markets
Set against these pressures, votes cast under first past the post system simply don’t count. Would proportional representation (PR) counter this? PR simply means fair shares for parties, and since all three major parties in parliament have been pressured and brainwashed into thinking in much the same way it is almost irrelevant.
So what about Alternative Vote where you vote for people not parties? This was of course defeated by a brilliant and misleading negative campaign on behalf of the powers that be. But it is used in Australia under the name PV (preference voting). Regrettably it does not make that much difference because parties have virtually no incentive to field more than one candidate in each constituency. The answer is preference voting in multi-member constituencies, i.e. STV. In that system parties would at least have an incentive to field more candidates than they expected to get elected. Voters could choose; MPs would have to start listening.
So what Russell Brand could have said is, “Maybe if we had STV there would be some point in voting, but sure as heck THEY would rather risk a revolution rather than allow that.”