How I learned to love AV

Okay, I don’t love the Alternative Vote, or AV, as it’s a poor relation to full proportional representation. Up until yesterday I was happy to keep First Past the Post as AV seemed a half-hearted PR, but over the last couple of days I’ve changed my mind.

Our Parliament decided not to treat us British citizens as adults so they only gave us a binary choice between FPTP and AV, partly because AV was already slapped into the Parliamentary schedule by the last Labour government and the best the Lib Dems could squeeze out of the Tories to keep the wind in the sails of electoral reform was the AV compromise. It seems that AV is going to be the closest we’re going to get to a fairer voting system.

Support or opposition to AV seems to be crossing party boundaries. Here in South Tyneside we have a very odd coalition. Tory and Labour councillors standing shoulder to shoulder to pledge their support to the Tory Party’s No to AV campaign.

A South Shields Tory councillor, Jeff Milburn, has been trotting around the region supporting the Conservatives’ No to AV campaign.  If you want a reason to be suspicious of the No campaign, then  there’s the campaign’s spurious claims. Here’s what Coun Milburn said:

It complicates things and is more expensive.

‘It complicates things’.  You couldn’t get a better example of the patriarchal arrogance that some politicians adopt that assumes British people are too stupid to grasp AV.  More expensive? That’s open to huge question; Coun Milburn continues:

The cost of this referendum, the first for 37 years, is £250m.

Wrong. The cost of the referendum is going to be paid no matter what, and has been estimated at around £82m. That’s a huge difference, and anyway, what price a truly representative democracy?  Also, it shouldn’t be confused with the costs of an AV system. To try and misrepresent it as such is terribly misleading and, perhaps dishonest. The cost of a new AV electoral system, according to Treasury geezer Danny Alexander (who should know):

There’s no good reason to believe that even under a new voting system an election would need to be more expensive.

There’s been no good reason given by the No to AV campaign why a new electoral process would cost £250m either – it looks like it was completely pulled out of the air. Or somewhere darker and less fragrant.

When No to AV is blatantly misrepresenting facts and promoting their cause with a dodgy ad campaign playing on emotions, cynically using frontline troops as propaganda tools, you’ve got to wonder why they can’t fight a fair campaign instead of some kind of unethical Tea Party lite dirty war.

AV is the only alternative on offer, one which will to a certain extent recognise that everyone’s vote can have value, particularly in areas where the leading candidate can’t get a necessary majority. This ‘wild card’ option should hopefully encourage a lot of people to re-engage with politics and re-ignite political discourse – a one where people truly challenge candidates and even in the safe seats make the parachuted-in policy wonks, chums and intern monkeys actually sweat and work for a vote rather than rely on tribal voting.

But, if you just want a simple reason to vote for AV, you couldn’t really find a better one than to piss off the Tories and such stand-up Labour goons like Hazel Blears and Keith Vaz. After all, if the Tories don’t want it, you can be sure that it’s not for our benefit.

It’s looking like a vote against AV is a vote for the Tories – and if AV fails you can bet they’ll crow about it as such.

And next time South Tyneside Labour councillors have a go at Lib Dems for the coalition they should remember standing with the Tories, supporting a Conservative party campaign on a platform of keeping an outdated and unrepresentative electoral system.

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