Alternative Vote 56


I suppose I agree, rather weakly, with the proposition that it is better to elect someone with the acceptance of the majority in the constituency rather than the enthusiastic support of a minority.

But Bliar won the last general election with only 35% of the votes cast – a fact he conveniently forgets as he continually reminds us he won three elections. The AV system would probably have actually increased New Labour’s majority in parliament in 2005.

The logical contradiction of a system which at constituency level ensures majority acceptance, but at the national level would give an even bigger majority to a party supported by only 35% of those voting, is a fatal flaw in the argument.

Plainly the system needs to be changed so a dangerous fanatic like Blair cannot reach power when his party has only 35% voter support. The way to do that is by single transferable vote in multi member constituencies.

Any referendum which does not include the option for real change is pointless.


56 thoughts on “Alternative Vote

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  • Courteany Barnett

    Human systems – including human systems of government, are flawed:-

    1. Does it make sense in the “first past the post system” to disregard the final total popular vote? The majority want one party, but the individual excess constituency votes are discarded, so an actual popular vote on the global pool of votes can see a party with a majority of the constituents actually the elected the government.

    2. Put a proportional representational system in place. This makes for weak government (e.g. Italy) and invites the need for coalitions, which waters down effective government, causes a lot of untimely returns to a general election, and fails to provide a centralised opportunity to follow through on core policies based on a party’s philosophy.

    3. A criticism of a one party system is that there is but one set of political values and so no real choice. Contrast this observation with point 2 above, and if choice is to be based on real political differences placed before the electorate, then we arrive at point 4.

    4. There is in essence in the US and the UK, a two party system. However, as Eisenhower cautioned of what he termed the “military-industrial complex” ?” this has given rise to a power elite that controls the elected representatives with economic and/or military might. This is true whichever party is elected, whether from one party or the other. Now, we move to point 5.

    5. If in the UK, persons of conscience, such as George Galloway or a Craig Murray, seek to run, then what do we find:-

    i) Murray does not have enough of a political background in party politics to get traction in a contest in the two party system to be elected; and

    ii) Galloway, although as a man consistently re-elected – becomes one man with no party ( save in name alone ?” “Respect” ?” at least for his courage in standing up to warped political processes).

    Where next? Over to all for comments.

  • Polo

    I’m in favour of STV and multi-seat constituencies which is the system we have in Ireland. However, I would not like to see the system idealised as it does have its own disadvantages.There is really no perfect system. They all involve trade-offs and you have to choose from among alternatives depending on the prevailing culture, system, and desired results.

    It is important to take account of the fact that voting patterns could change under STV, assuming an intelligent electorate, so it is not legitimate to translate existing first past the post statistics into STV.

    While STV does give a more proportionate result, particularly the more seats there are in multi-seat constituencies, it gives rise to internal competition within parties and can lead to clientism which is very destructive for a national legislature. It also tends to lead to coalitions, for which read smaller parties holding a balance of power and possibly disenfranchising the majority of the electorate. On the other hand, coalitions have generally worked well in Ireland.

    You really can’t rely purely on a particular voting system. The prevailing political culture is also a major factor. People need to be encouraged to vote and take their vote seriously. The behaviour of currently serving politicians is very relevant to this. They need to be held accountable if the general public is to be expected to take its vote seriously.

  • Abe Rene

    Duncan: Without PR Hitler wouldn’t have got in, nor would extremists have the leverage they do, because they wouldn’t have been elected; nor would there be extremists in the European parliament. The main advantage of FPTP for me is making such contigencies much more unlikely.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    The STV approach does not resolve the fundamental difficulties of weak government, which by different routes will ultimately, and of necessity, result in various forms of alliances, to enable divided power wield enough power to make central government function.

  • Richard Robinson

    Hey, the system we’ve got at the moment let one Prime Minister take us into a demented, delusional invasion of another peoples’ country, without appearing to have to even wake the democratic accountability bits of government up at all. Maybe a little bit of weak divided government for a change wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’s not going to let Mr. Hitler come to power, he’s dead. We have other problems now.

  • Richard Robinson

    “But your point stands – need to do something with the civil service too. However I do believe that a random selection of 600 or so people would very likely be better than the those appointed by the present machinery, simply because we would have removed the mechanism of self-selection.”

    Couldn’t check the links, sorry. YouTube’s whingeing about not liking my Flash, again, and life’s too short.

    But. Can’t help noting that the civil servants would still be self-selected, having applied for the job … I like the idea of a bit of randomness, throw some grit into some of the established machineries. What mainly seems to strike me is the impression that ‘government’ is in a big bubble of listening only to its own, and expecting that to be all there is thanks to their advertising apparatus, some unexpected people from outside that would be all to the good. But, expertise … there should be some long-term thinking as well, which wouldn’t be encouraged by “Five years max. and that’s the end of it”.

    As to the relationships between civil servants and elected people, I really haven’t been close enough to it to have any idea of how it works.

    But it seems to me, one of the biggest problems we have is that peoples’ decision-making is only as good as their information, and that means The Media.

    “It must be possible to put a number on that probability, but I’m off for a beer.”

    Good idea, I’m not making much sense of this.

  • amk

    The best overview I know of methods systems is at:

    http://condorcet.org/emr/index.shtml

    Methods are judged by whether they meet various criteria; whether they do is mathematically provable. Disappointingly it is provable that no system is immune to tactical voting, although some are more susceptible than others.

    The fairest single winner methods are Condorcet methods, that will always elect the candidate that would have beaten each other candidate in a one on one runoff if such a candidate exists. Unfortunately these require much processing, so would need to be computerised, which is whole new kettle of fish. CPO-STV is a multi member method that will simplify to a Condorcet method in a one member case, as regular STV simplifies to AV.

  • Richard

    Abe you are talking garbage. Goebbels, who knew the Weimar political system better than you or I, said he wished Germany had the FPTP system, then the Nazis would have come to power two years sooner.

    Can I put in the positive word for multi-member constituencies? The “personal link” is very valued by many MPs; but the parliamentary system is not meant to be there to satisfy the MPs. I’ve never heard a local councillor say “I wish I had this ward all to myself, I could do a much better job if I felt a personal link to this area.” In single-member seats even with AV only about half the voters actually voted for their “representative;” and without AV it is on average much less than half. But with STV multi-members, nearly all the voters have at least one MP they cast a vote for, and often a choice to take an issue to a member who within the same party is more, not less sympathetic to that voter’s views. Multi-member constituencies can be drawn on permanent natural boundaries, entirely consistent with local government boundaries, which very few constituencies are now, so there would be genuine natural identification between the community, the voters, and the MPs. FPTP constituency boundaries have to be redawn into unnatural shapes to keep some proportion with the arithmetic of changing populations: even so, they fail dismally, since the ratio between the largest and smallest constituencies by population has sometimes gone as far wrong as 5:1. Population change in multi-member seats only need result in that seat losing or gaining a member, within existing boundaries, an adjustment that can be made at every election, not just every 10 years. The discrepancies in the ratio of electorate to MPs would never be worse than about 5:4.

  • Clark

    How about a “Gong Show” approach? Put’em into power by whatever means – doesn’t matter how, no system works. As the representitive pisses off the voters, they add votes to some cumulative repository to get rid of him. When some threshold is reached, the representitive gets replaced.

    There. The ultimate in negative voting!

  • paul

    My idea would be reverse elections ie. de-elections. You start with a group selected by whatever means and then every year you get to vote out the useless. No constituencies, everyone votes on everyones performance, 50%+1 say nay, youre gone. People who are good at it can then implement their long term plans (they could be at it for life).

  • mary

    Off topic but good news that Brown/Milipede have lost their appeal in the Binyam Mohammed case. Documents detailing his torture by the CIA with UK comlicityn have to be revealed.

  • Abe Rene

    Richard, a ‘proof’ based on an unsubstantiated quote from Goebbels, without context, with an ad hominem argument, is better described as ‘garbage’ tha what I wrote.

    The instability created by PR in Weimar Germany helped the Nazis get in. The present Germany has included a 5 percent clause precisely to counteract such instability. Multimember constituencies would weaken the link between constituents and their MP, so I’m not for that.

  • gremlins3

    Further to Mary @11.36am

    “Appeal judge watered down Binyam Mohamed torture ruling”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/10/binyam-mohamed-judge-deleted-ruling

    although the lawyer’s letter arguing for suppression of this material is quoted in full and makes it pretty clear what this material stated.

    NB Neuberger is quoted as saying he would give “parties who wished to object until 4pm on Friday to make representations, when he would decide whether to reinstate his judgement.”

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    It was unclear where to post this important point – a lateral mind would suggest a link to elections and the current governments relationship to the British secret service. We note in the case of Binyam Mohamed, torture allegations refuted by the government have proved to be false:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8507852.stm

    ( http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6192F520100210

    It is clear that pressure has been applied to the British courts to ‘dampen down’ their conclusions that a British man had been tortured with the knowledge of our secret services.

    Having previously made a public statement that our SIS has gentlemen with integrity and professionalism I feel rather foolish and dishonest.

    The SIS should and must now make a public statement concerning their acceptance of torture or having been compelled to assist America and the CIA under threat of intelligence sharing termination.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    It was unclear where to post this important point – a lateral mind would suggest a link to elections and the current governments relationship to the British secret service. We note in the case of Binyam Mohamed, torture allegations refuted by the government have proved to be false:

    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8507852.stm

    w+w+w.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6192F520100210

    It is clear that pressure has been applied to the British courts to ‘dampen down’ their conclusions that a British man had been tortured with the knowledge of our secret services.

    Having previously made a public statement that our SIS has gentlemen with integrity and professionalism I feel rather foolish and dishonest.

    The SIS should and must now make a public statement concerning their acceptance of torture or having been compelled to assist America and the CIA under threat of intelligence sharing termination.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    I is now very clear to me that the last bastion of honour, integrity and honesty rest with the British justice system and the circuit of Crown Court Judges. We owe our place in the world to these men and women and I salute them.

  • Vronsky

    STV has already been introduced for local authority elections in Scotland – this was the Lib Dems price for supporting Jack MacConnell (Labour) as First Minister. Labour thought that they could game the system by setting up two or at most three seat wards (whereupon the outcome would differ little if at all from FPTP) but were somehow thwarted in this. As a consequence Labour lost control of many councils.

    The ward/constituency tie is a fallacy – many people prefer to talk to a councillor other than their own, based on reputation for ‘getting things done’ or just personal acquaintance. Equally, Israel and Italy (or Weimar) are regularly trotted out as examples of the adverse effects of PR, but if I wanted to list all the states suffering the consequences of FPTP, I’d use up all the disk space on Craig’s server.

    The Additional Member System (AMS) used in Scotland has achieved an approximation to PR – certainly better than FPTP – but has the undesirable effect that parties choose the representatives, not the voters. The party produces a slate of ‘list’ candidates, and on the basis of second preference votes (for a party, not a person) candidates are called off the top of the list. First place on the list almost guarantees election, and consequently there is a rather ugly festival of rumour mongering and slander before the voting to position candidates on the list. In STV the voter can vote not just for a party, but for a specific name from that party. Under this system if Peter Mandelson (relax, it’s only an example) decided to renounce his numerous titles in order to become leader of Labour, he could not be parachuted into a safe seat – the voters might support Labour, but candidates other than poor Peter. Another attraction of the system.

  • Richard Robinson

    Surely, the instability of the Weimar setup was due to rather more than the technicalities of their voting system. To the extent that a party has honest intentions towards the current constitution, it’s not the job of an election to keep them out, and to the extent that is isn’t, ditto – it’s the job of some other system to catch that and deal with it.

    And what’s needed to deal with dictators, prime ministers, vice-presidents, etc, once they’re inside the system and running amok, is something else again.

    (Incidentally, for the avoidance of confusion, I’m the ‘Richard’ that uses a surname. Posts without that are from someone else.)

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Richard and Vronsky – excellent points – hadn’t thought of some of those.

    Abe – To me it seems more like the instability that brought Hitler to power was due to the combination of the Treaty of Versailles and laissez-faire economics leading to mass unemployment and poverty in inter-war Germany. We’ve seen the same on a smaller scale in Northern English towns which used to have textile factories. When they were moved abroad in the 1990s the levels of support for the BNP rocketed – and the BNP won council seats – in first-past-the-post elections.

    The cause of extremism and instability is generally economic systems that provide no stability of income, housing and food for a large proportion of the population – not electoral systems.

  • MarkU

    Alternative vote is at least a step in the right direction. For the first time ever, people in this country would be free to express their real preferences. At present, most people seem to feel that they have to vote for what they consider to be the least bad of the two main parties. Alternative vote would give new parties and independent candidates a fighting chance.

  • Abe Rene

    Duncan

    You’ve made a good point about economic instability as one of the factors contributing to the rise of Nazism. But my point is that PR creates political instability and makes matters worse. I’m not for measures that make it more likely that extreme parties get into law making bodies. PR enabled the BNP to get into the European parliament. I don’t want them getting into Westminster.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Abe i accept PR gives greater representation to minority viewpoints (whether good or bad, extreme or moderate, tolerant or intolerant) – that’s it’s strength though, as most people are really from minority viewpoints and just making do with the big party they dislike least.

    However not having PR won’t prevent neo-fascists getting more support – only reducing unemployment and poverty will do that. They got council seats in the 90s in Blackburn and Burnley under first past the post – and European parliament seats last year under PR.

    The common factor wasn’t the electoral system but high unemployment.

    MarkU – i agree that the Alternative Vote would be an improvement on first-past-the-post – just not nearly enough of an improvment – and i doubt it’d do more than increase the number of seats the Lib Dems got relative to Conservatives (though i could be wrong)

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Craig,

    My point is as follows:-

    A. You say: ” Plainly the system needs to be changed so a dangerous fanatic like Blair cannot reach power when his party has only 35% voter support”

    B. So, what if 55% or more for Blair?

    C. Then as with Hitler and the use of a democratic process – so – what is the big deal about the percentages?

    Blair would have been the same muderous person with 35% or 55%. But,to spin it a little – with proportional represnetation you are not going to get the solid 55% – and my point is that a weak central cannot govern effectively.

    Think about it.

    (www.globaljusticeonline.com)

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