What they say

Stephen Archer is a speaker with great charisma. By using illustrations and personal experiences and not being afraid to share his own point of view of the current situation and who is to blame for it, he engages the whole audience, at the same time helping us all to understand the credit crunch a little better.

— Warwick Business School


The AV Referendum – The scruffy side of UK Politics

Referendums outside Switzerland are a rarity. Any number of topics could be put to the public but the UK referendum on the voting system was demanded by the Lib Dems as a condition of the coalition agreement in May 2010. The choice for the public is simple. First past the past as we have today or vote by ordered and scored preference – rather like ‘The X-Factor’ system on TV.

Neither system is perfect but let me declare my preference for AV. Generally the subject has been overshadowed by the royal wedding, sunny weather, Libya and the end of the soccer season.  Not to mention the UK habit of voter apathy.  Yet the subject in Westminster has been ramped up into some ugly exchanges with still 10 days to go. The ‘No camp’ has been especially aggressive and economical with the truth. It may yet make the outcome closer than expected – the ‘Yes to AV supporters’ are angered by the antics of the nay sayers. Let’s see why.

The No camp says that there are 5 good reasons to vote No to AV.

“It’s unfair. First past the post, our current system, gives everybody one vote. But under AV, supporters of extremist and minority parties would get their vote counted many times, while others’ votes would be counted only once.” Even my children see the flawed logic in this argument. No one can be favoured or disadvantaged under AV. Minority parties will get more votes and maybe even a few more seats. That’s the idea – it’s called democracy! Just because under AV one can now cast a secondary vote for an extreme minority does not mean that people will.

AV means that the perceived inevitability of a result no longer applies – ergo, voters will consider all candidates more seriously because the ‘wasted vote’ no longer exists.

“it doesn’t work. Rather than the candidate with the most votes winning, under AV the person who finishes third could be elected.” Yup, that will be a sign of popular support. Sounds like a good thing.

It’s expensive. Calculating the results would be a long, complicated process. It might even need special counting machines – and it would cost the taxpayer millions.” A figure of £100m has been cited. Even if true, this is tiny price for truer democracy.

“It’s discredited. Only 3 countries in the world use AV (Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea) – and two of those, Fiji and Australia, want to get rid of it.” This is simply not true. Australia does not want to get rid of it.

No-one really wants it. Even the “Yes” campaigners don’t want the AV system. They see it as a convenient stepping stone to yet more reforms. Really? Also not true.

AV would overturn the fundamental principle of British democracy, the principle that has inspired millions of people across the whole world – the idea that one person should get one vote and every vote should weigh the same.  In the words of Sir Winston Churchill, elections under AV ‘will be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates’. Things must be desperate if Churchill is being quoted – what next; ‘…fight them on the beaches?’

Since Churchill’s time we have seen more parties and more political bodies emerge. These vies can be represented by AV where they have no chance under the current system.

Finally, the ‘No camp’ (mainly Conservative and some Labour) tells us that it’s too complicated for people to understand.  How very patronizing! The public understand the X factor very well.

So Mr. Cameron, how did you get your job as leader of the conservative party? Let’s think…ah yes, it was the AV system was it not.

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  • Anonymous

    The AV referendum is the biggest change to the way we elect our politicians since the electoral reform act. So the biggest opportunity to effect changes to our own democracy for nearly 200 years. Naturally the establishment wants to maintain the status quo rather than give more power to the electorate. And what is in all the papers and on all the other media in the run up to the AV vote. The suddenly announced Royal Wedding. If that is not an example of ‘bread and circuses’ being used to distract the masses from something that can only benefit them I do not know what is.

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