The AV campaign is in full swing but strangely, I’ve only received campaign literature from the No campaign so far. As a Yes supporter, I find this amusing but disheartening: with only a week to go, where is the Yes literature? It is really squeaky-bum time now.
In any case, they’re going full frontal on the Nick Clegg attack angle, after seeing no joy in the BNP argument. As the new Private Eye so eruditely summarises: Yes to AV’s arguments are about cleaner or fairer politics. The No campaign’s argument is a picture of Nick Clegg. And they list so many discredited arguments.
Let’s go through the list, shall we?
- AV would lead to more hung parliaments, backroom deals, and broken promises: Wrong. Electoral mathematics will lead to this. It’s inevitable that with third parties amassing 35% of the vote between them, that Labour and the Conservatives will fail to reach majorities over first past the post. And AV allows something that FPTP cannot: it shows the true government the people want. If the majority of Lib Dems are returned by Labour second preferences, then it’s clear the voters want the two parties to work together. Clegg couldn’t make that distinction under FPTP. And asserting that backroom deals and broken promises don’t happen under FPTP is stupid. How about Labour breaking their promises on tuition fees twice with 400 MPs? Or the backroom deals reached to make ornery members happy? It already happens. If anything, AV makes it clear the ideological outlook of a government.
- More coalitions: A similar point to the above. This implies coalitions are bad, when in fact they are good; they stop see-saw tribal politics, as John Cleese once argued. And Clegg did not really decide to make Cameron Prime Minister; he pretty much had to to not cast the progressive movement into the wilderness (see: Betrayal or Pragmatism?). And under AV, with those second preferences, people will have already decided their prime minister by indicating the general ideology of the government.
- The Fiji argument: At least this time, they’ve said Australia want to get rid of it. But speaking to actual Australians, they don’t mind voting. The only bad thing, they say, is the compulsory voting requiring, in some cases, numbering into the twenties. Especially for Senate elections. But let’s look at this on the flip-side: since 1945, no country has chosen to stick with first past the post. Most countries actually use PR, with some notable exceptions. And AV is used, after all, for the Irish presidency, lest we all forget.
- But the winner won’t win!: Because obviously, in the perfect No2AV world, the winner is the most popular candidate in the constituency. But they have all sorts of tactical votes inflating their support, and some times, a split opposition. Under FPTP, however, for the Calderdale council ward of Mixenden, the BNP candidate won on 29% of the vote, despite all the others campaigning against him. It’s undemocratic for 71% to vote against something yet it wins. This is the major flaw in FPTP: it fails the Condorcet loser criterion: that is, the most unpopular candidate may win. What may happen in most cases is that the top two candidates will jostle for positions; in thousands of elections in Australia, third place candidates have come first in a handful. In one of those cases, it was where a Country candidate beat a Labor candidate, but, as ABC’s election commentator Antony Green notes, it was a pure split opposition, with transfers from conservative to conservative accounting for 95% of transfers. Those people wanted a conservative legislator.
- The £250million Question: Yes, they’re still going on this angle. But, as has been demonstrated, £130m of the spending doesn’t exist, and £90m will be spent anyway. This leaves £30million for voter education. But really, the cost of AV is pencils. They’re trying for an anti-cuts dig at the same time, which, given that the No campaign’s backers include the Taxpayer’s Alliance, is laughable.
- The fifth preference could decide the election: But rarely. To have your fifth preference count, in say, a Lib-Lab marginal, you’d seriously have to vote Independent-BNP-UKIP-Conservative-Lib Dem. Those odds are very slim indeed.
- Pandering to the BNP: The small BNP footnote says that BNP preferences may decide elections, so that parties will pander to them. The fact BNP voters actually have a say is good for democracy: it stops revolution-by-violence by the ultra-right. But even this is a myth; Channel 4’s Fact Check showed that AV would hurt the BNP: for one, they wouldn’t be able to be elected on 30% of the vote, and for two, attract preferences. There are some overtones about “fringe” parties, but it won’t hurt a party to appeal to the Greens. And in 300 constituencies, either Labour or the Conservatives came third. You could get away with calling the Lib Dems a fringe party, but not the Big Two.
And the leaflet finishes off by asserting fairness in FPTP, where in fact AV is fairer in nearly every metric. In any case, No2AV’s leaflet is a collection of terrible lies. But, unfortunately, it is those lies that are winning the campaign. Such a shame.