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Blog Archive

PR can provide single-party government

Submitted by editor on Sat, 07/05/2011 – 14:17

Many electoral reformers welcome coalition government to represent a true majority by consent and compromise. At least, they don’t object if coalition results democratically because fewer than half the voters supported any one party. However, one of the objections to electoral reform is the fear of the alleged fudge and indecision of coalition government.

Curiously, the present UK coalition government is criticized less for indecision than for being over-decisive in its financial reforms.

Be that as it may, first past the post X-voting produced a coalition UK Government last year, while PR produced a single-party Scottish Government with an overall majority yesterday. Also, PR came within one seat yesterday of producing a single-party Welsh Government with an overall majority.

Save for reform

Submitted by Anthony Tuffin on Sat, 07/05/2011 – 13:50

We lost the battle for AV but the war for a fairer and, indeed, more efficient voting system continues.

We can blame our defeat on our opponents’ dirty campaign and other factors, but I believe it would be more constructive to consider mainly elements within our own control and learn from mistakes. I, for one, would welcome your views on how we could do better another time.

There is one element which is largely, although not entirely, under my personal control now. When I became Hon. Treasurer of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) in December 2008, the Society had virtually no reserves and it was impossible to create them in time for the referendum this year. Mainly because of this, Yes to Fairer Votes lacked funds.

This must never be allowed to happen again. So long as I remain Treasurer and subject to the support of fellow ERS Council members, I shall do my best to build up a substantial war chest of funds for the next major campaign whenever it comes. This may mean making very difficult decisions to economize in some areas of the ERS’s activities, but we must keep our eye on the ultimate goal of STV for all public elections.

In the meantime, you could help, at least a little, to build up ERS funds by sending a donation to the Electoral Reform Society, Thomas Hare House, 6 Chancel St, London EC1 0UU.

ERS members want to save for reform

Submitted by editor on Mon, 05/09/2011 – 16:46.

In the advisory ballots, ERS members voted 415 – 99 for a resolution that called for such saving, while those at the meeting on 3 September voted 30 – 23 in favour.

Get more folk used to using 1-2-3

Submitted by editor on Sat, 07/05/2011 – 12:08

This blog was contributed by Michael Hodge:

I am saddened at the result of the Referendum, I was heartened by the words of Polly Toynbee (this morning) who said something like this, “The AV Referendum is gone; bring on the PR Referendum”.

My initial reaction is to blame the media. Every effort of mine to get on radio or to get a letter in the press was defeated. Why? Because I made it plain that I was not, and never have been, a member of any political party. The media turned the debate into one that was political, and that changed the question from “How do voters want to elect their MP?” to “How do MPs want to be elected?” or “How do parties want their MPs to be elected?” And that meant “what method is in the best interests of the party?”, NOT “what method is in the best interests of the voters?” Those who were not party members were excluded.

I did get one short email on to Radio 5Live, only to get it dismissed without reason by the NO spokesman. He clearly wanted to get on to something more of his liking.

The media focused, not on the best method of electing an MP, but on how AV might decrease the chances of getting a “strong” government – what I call a “minority” government.

As it turned out, the Referendum seems to have more about Nick Clegg, and Lib Dem’s role in the coalition government, rather than about the method of voting.

What do I suggest, however tentatively, within 24 hours of the result? I think that we want to get more Societies, Clubs, Unions, Organisations, etc, to use STV in electing their Officers and Committees. In this way, more and more folk will get so used to using 1-2-3 that when they are asked to vote with an “X”, they see it for what it is – a relic of the days when illiteracy was very high.

Promoting STV in civil society

Submitted by editor on Mon, 05/09/2011 – 09:35.

There is practical advice on this site to help with this. Click on “Resources” at the top of the screen and then on “Getting an organisation …”

Do It Yourself

Submitted by Anthony Tuffin on Sat, 07/05/2011 – 12:23.

I fully agree with Michael that electoral reformers should encourage all voluntary organizations – clubs, trades unions, professional institutes etc – to elect their ruling bodies by PR and, of course in a non-party situation, STV is the only viable form of PR.

This does not require action by the Electoral Reform Society, other than to provide information and support. On the contrary, it would be done better by individual electoral reformers within the organizations of which they are members. Dear readers – it’s up to you!

Cameron’s hypocrisy?

Submitted by editor on Tue, 03/05/2011 – 17:40


The “No” campaign claims that AV turns losers into winners so what does that make David Cameron, who was elected by a form of AV?

If David Cameron prefers First Past The Post (FPTP) so much to AV, why doesn’t he resign in favour of David Davis who won the first round of the Conservative leadership election and would have won under FPTP?

Did I hear a reader say “Hypocrisy”?

“It isn’t about parties, it is about people.”

Submitted by editor on Thu, 28/04/2011 – 22:12

“There used to be just a single sound argument for first past the post. Whatever its faults it delivered a decisive result. Well, guess what happened a year ago? It didn’t. Its defenders have been left not even trying to justify it, but peddling falsehoods about the alternative on offer.

“They say AV is complicated: it isn’t. They say it is expensive: it isn’t. They say it is undemocratic: but what could be more democratic than requiring an MP to aim for support of more than half the voters? They say it would benefit extremists: it would disadvantage them.

“Enough with the spin, we’re making a simple case for a simple system. AV expresses the popular will in a way that the present arthritic system does not. It isn’t about parties, it is about people.”

(Martin Bell, anti-sleaze campaigner and former MP for Tatton)

More simple explanations of AV

Submitted by editor on Thu, 28/04/2011 – 21:08

AV really is easy and better for voters than FPTP –

Dan Snow:

Tim Longman:

“A crude anachronism”

Submitted by editor on Tue, 26/04/2011 – 10:34

“On AV, he [Nick Clegg] happens to be right. The current electoral system was just about fit for the Fifties, when Conservatives and Labour commanded 96 per cent of the vote and 99 per cent of the seats. In a three-party system, with the big two attracting 65 per cent of the vote, it is a crude anachronism.”

(Mary Ridell, Daily Telegraph 26.4.2011.)

Myths about AV

Submitted by editor on Wed, 20/04/2011 – 22:37


The defenders of the status quo don’t want you to know what the change to AV really means.

They will say anything to stop giving voters more of a say, and defending the old ‘jobs for life’ culture at Westminster.   They will say anything to defend a system that means:

MPs can win seats with only 1 in 3 voters voting for them;

MPs can have safe seats for life even though the majority of their constituents haven’t voted for them;

MPs don’t have to reach out to secure over 50% of the vote in their constituencies.

But the truth is that the AV system is a small change that will make a big difference – making MPs work harder to get and stay elected, and giving you more of a say.  No wonder the old political establishment will say anything to stop it happening.

So let’s separate the fact from the fiction….

Myth 1) AV will cost us £250 million

The only piece of equipment you need to vote with AV is a pencil.

The No camp’s sums, like their arguments, simply don’t add up. Electronic counting machines aren’t an issue in this referendum.

Australia has hand counted its elections for 8 decades. The £130 million of make-believe machines don’t exist in Australia and won’t exist in the UK.

AV will keep what is best about our current system – the link between an MP serving their local constituency – but strengthens it by making MPs work harder to get elected and giving voters more of a say.

Short on arguments the No campaign are trying to claim we can’t afford change. After the expenses crisis we can’t afford not to.

Myth 2) AV is too confusing

Few people would be confused by this. Voters put a ‘1’ by their first choice, a ‘2’ by their second choice, a ‘3’ by their third choice and so on. The logic’s familiar enough to anyone who’s ever asked a friend to pop down to the shops for a coke and said, “If they’re out of that I’ll have a lemonade.”

Some people have a very low estimation of the British public.

Myth 3) AV helps the BNP

The BNP have already called on their supporters to back a ‘No’ vote. Currently because MPs can get elected with support from less than 1 in 3 voters, there is always a risk that extremist parties can get in.

The BNP have learnt this lesson, and have used it to scrape wins in town halls across Britain. With AV, no-one can get elected unless most people back them. Therefore the risk of extremist parties getting in by the back door is eliminated.

Myth 4) No one uses AV

AV is a tried and tested system. In Britain millions of people in businesses, charities, and trade unions already use it. Political parties use it to elect their leaders. MPs themselves use it to elect their Speaker and their officials.

When politicians are the voters – when they are electing their own leaders – AV is the system they choose. When you need a real winner who needs to speak for the majority AV is the go-to system.

Myth 5) AV means some people get two votes

No.  With AV everyone gets one vote. The difference is that AV gives you a vote that really counts and more of a say on who your local MP is. If your first choice gets knocked out your vote is transferred to your second preference.  Whether you just vote 1 for your favourite candidate or list a preference for every candidate on the ballot only one vote will be counted.

If you go to the chip shop, and order cod and chips but they are out of cod, and you choose pie and chips instead, you have still only had one meal.

Myth 6) AV means more hung parliaments

No. Hung parliaments are no more likely with AV. And as you might have noticed First Past the Post has not given Britain any special immunity to hung parliaments.

Britain has experienced hung parliaments in the 1920s, 1970s and in 2010, and had periods in the 1950s, 1960s and 1990s where a single party was unable to effectively govern alone. Canada, which uses First Past the Post, has permanent hung parliaments. Australia uses AV, and has returned its first hung parliament in 38 elections.
Hung parliaments occur if enough voters support a third party. AV gives voters a greater say over candidates in their constituency. How they vote is up to them.

Myth 7) AV means more tactical voting

No. AV simply eliminates the need for it. Why should we have to abandon the party we actually support, to prevent the party we least support getting in? The dilemma facing millions of voters is often characterised as the choice between “voting with your head or your heart”. AV allows people to do both.

AV offers an honest vote. It gives everyone a chance to vote sincerely for the candidates they really want knowing their vote can go further.

Myth 8) AV weakens the constituency link

No. AV keeps the link and makes it stronger. Politicians like to talk about their constituency link. And a lot of them seem to enjoy it a lot more than the voters.

Many of our MPs currently have a pretty dodgy link to their constituents. Barely a third of MPs can speak for the majority of their voters. AV strengthens the link by giving people the MPs they actually voted for. AV forces complacent MPs to take heed of the interests of their constituents because their jobs depend on it.

Myth 9) AV forces you to give a second preference

No. You can vote for as few or as many candidates as you like. AV gives you the freedom to vote sincerely for any number of candidates you feel are up to the job.

You aren’t forced to vote for any candidate you don’t want. If you only want to support one candidate you can. Just mark an ‘X’ as you did before.

Myth 10) AV means you end up with the least worst candidate

No. First Past the Post just lets in winners that most of voters didn’t want. AV ensures a winning candidate has to work harder and go further to secure support from a majority. That’s what’s needed to be ‘best’, and may explain why politicians are so keen on AV when electing their own…

When Hollywood recently dumped First Past the Post for AV, they didn’t change the wording on the statuette to Academy Award for Least Worst Picture. They wanted a ‘Best Picture’ winner that could deliver on that promise.

Myth 11) But First Past the Post is a British tradition…
Our parliament is not a museum. There has always been
evolution in our politics, and today AV is the logical next step – an ‘upgrade’ to First Past the Post.
The secret ballot, votes for women, and votes for working people were all innovations once, and met with opposition. These changes didn’t rip up the rule book, but they were necessary to improve the way we do politics.

Voters aren’t looking for a revolution. They’re looking for a simple change that preserves and improves on what’s come before.

( Copied from )

AV produces real winners

Submitted by editor on Wed, 20/04/2011 – 21:59

As mentioned before, an AV election is like a series of elections rolled into one to find the overall winner.

To use the sporting analogy that our opponents like so much, each round of counting, except the final one, is like a heat and, of course, the final round is the final race. It’s perfectly possible for a runner or candidate to come 2nd or 3rd in all or some of the heats and then win the final.

The one who survives all the heats and eventually wins the final is a real winner.

Shortest explanation yet of AV

Submitted by editor on Sat, 16/04/2011 – 21:45


To clarify how AV works: under the current “First Past the Post” voting system, it doesn’t matter how many people vote against you, if you have more votes than any of your rivals you’re elected. But with AV, the winning candidate has to achieve more than 50 per cent of all the votes.

If no one gets 50 per cent of the votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated.

Then voters who backed the eliminated candidate have their second choice put forward instead. (But it’s worth pointing out that voters whose candidates are still in the race also have their votes counted again – for that same No1 preference). This process carries on until someone gets 50 per cent.

(Channel Four Factcheck)



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