Wednesday, 20 September 2017

AV vote – Turkey’s don’t vote for Christmas!

Most politically interested people in the country believe there is something ‘rotten in the state of’ our electoral system that elect representatives to our Parliament. The majority of us would like to see reform. The referendum campaign to introduce (or not) the Alternative Vote (AV) as the system to elect MPs has thrown up as many questions as answers.

The NO campaign, independent of but closely linked to the Conservative party, has largely been negative by promoting ‘scare stories’ about what horrors await us if the voters be so ‘foolish’ in voting YES e.g. it will be costly to administer, it will confuse the voter, it will allow ‘losers’ to win and even saddle us permanently with Nick Clegg! They probably don’t believe most of it but they hope the average (non-political) voter will.

The YES campaign, independent of but closely linked to the Liberal Democrats, have been caught on the hop. They had kept their campaign largely ‘politician free’ and vague, hoping to rally ALL reformers to the poll. They were not prepared for the NO’s ‘dirty tricks’. Their annoyance has even spread into the Cabinet as the Junior partners expressed hurt and shock at the dirty tricks they believed their Conservative colleagues were promoting/supporting.

Why not PR?

Surprisingly, the fissures within electoral reformers has begun to (re) appear, between those who actually support AV (the minority) and those who want some form of Proportional Representation (the majority including the National Liberals). The arguments over AV versus PR have begun to reemerge. There is even a NO to AV YES to PR group. For those not following matters too closely there is concern as to why we are not getting a vote on introducing PR?

Of course, what we should focus on is how we even got a vote on AV? The arithmetic that produced (on paper) a ‘hung’ Parliament, the price for the LD’s cooperation and the desire for Government Office of the Con-Dems all combined to give us a Referendum. The vast majority of MP’s do not and have NEVER supported a change of the electoral system that elects them. Conservative MP’s (and most Labour) are almost all against AV let alone PR. After all, AV (and especially PR) may mean they lose their seats and since ‘Turkey’s don’t vote (if they could) for Christmas’ we cannot expect to get a vote on PR anytime soon!

We believe however that once we break the status quo it is possible that we will see: an increase in political awareness (by having to think more about how to vote), a rise in support for small parties (by increasing voting options) and calls for more democratic reform (whether AV is well received or not!). It is of course a judgement call i.e. will AV lead to more reform or will the status quo lead to the reform we want?

The National Liberals believe, on balance, that if the YES vote carries the day (likely with a low turnout i.e. the YES voter is more motivated?) it MAY lead to a more proportional system. The genie will be out of the bottle for good. If the NO vote wins we fear that the anti-reformers will put reform back into the bottle and hide it away as long as possible. Since only MP’s can deliver a change of system (or a referendum), the odds of the ‘perfect storm’ occurring again any time soon is remote. So we say cross your fingers (for further reform) and vote YES on Thursday!

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