Friday, 22 April 2011

If the No campaign is in the gutter, the Yes campaign has to go for the gut.

This has been a hugely frustrating campaign for me. I was passionately advocating for AV even before the election last year http://ewansliberalmusings.blogspot.com/2010/02/lib-dems-need-to-embrace-alternative.html and am sorry to say that the Yes campaign has been a great disappointment. The No campaign is trotting out outrageous lies about how much AV will cost, the end to one person one vote and the implication that in a two-person race the loser could win (amongst others. They really have no shame). In response to these false, but highly emotive claims, the Yes campaign has been trotting out wooly assertions that "AV will make your MP work harder" and "AV will mean an end to safe seats", without presenting any great evidence that this will be the case.

If I was to be leading the Yes campaign, I would be trying to engage the voters' guts, to evoke in them an outraged visceral response to injustice. But unlike the No campaign, I think I could do it with the truth.

So what is that truth? The truth is that after First Past the Post elections we don't actually know the population's true political opinion. In 2010, 16% of voters voted for a party or candidate that was not their favourite. How can we call ourselves a democracy if our citizens' votes are disproportionately represented and on top of that our citizens' votes do not even represent their opinions? FPTP encourages the electorate to second guess the behaviour of others and to LIE in the polling booth. If we want a properly functioning democracy, we have to have an electoral system which encourages the citizens to express their true opinions.

Perhaps the Yes campaign have rejected this argument as only 24% of people have ever voted tactically, but surely there is a deeper sense of justice in the country that can be tapped into. Surely people don't want representation born out of their neighbour's deception. It's time everyone came clean, put their political cards on the table and we found out what kind of country or constituency we all want to live in.

An auxiliary argument to this is the fact that FPTP prevents rapid change. The expenses scandal heralded a renewed disgust among the population at the behaviour of their politicians, but FPTP holds us rigidly in a two-party (or three-party) system. Maybe it is time we had new parties or independents with new ideas entering into politics and widening choice and diversity. Consider if, under FPTP, the most wonderful new party that was all things to all men (and women), had all the right policies to make Britain great, and was just plain perfect strode on to the scene. That party would find it extremely difficult to overcome the wasted vote, "they can't win here" effect.

AV allows people to vote honestly for the party of their choice, no matter their electoral history. It allows us to sweep out the old guard and usher in the new. Politics can be fast, and dynamic, and INTERESTING. Single issue parties can arrive on the scene and force politicians to take notice and respond to their concerns. Everyone knows where everyone stands, so politicians can be genuinely responsive to the needs of the people.

In short, AV is democracy. FPTP is not. If the No campaign is in the gutter, the Yes campaign has to go for the gut. If we don't, I fear we lose.

2 comments:

Anothernameinthewall said...

Are you being deliberately ironic?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cartoon/2011/apr/20/david-cameron-gut-feelings

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/21/westminster-digested-alternative-vote

HomeGrownOutlaw said...

Agreed Ewan, the NO leaflet was repugnant. Suggesting back-room deals and such.

I can't see AV going through now, BUT, ever the optimist, I wonder if this will ultimately be a good thing...

AV is, let's face it, the lamest attempt at reform. AV will not stand the test of time and would perhaps mean we will eventually revert back to FPTP - after the smoke has cleared on current party politics, this could grant clemency and put things back to a two party system.

If we keep FPTP heading into the next general election, we will undoubtedly see another round of broken politics with people voting on who they DON'T want to see in; I ponder if this will be the breaking point we need to get PR or STV.

Or not of course.