Update to article – 01/03/2011
It has been confirmed by the cabinet office and Channel 4’s FACT CHECK that the No to AV campaign has lied about the costs of the AV system of voting and the need to use counting machines! see http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/update-yes-to-av-at-what-cost/5817?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
So here we go. The start of a debate in the UK over which electoral system the public would like to use to elect our wonderful, undervalued and right honorable Members of Parliament.
Yesterday, the NO2AV campaign began it’s launch and rather than have a sensible debate over the facts and the pro’s and con’s of each system, we have a bunch of largely out of touch, over privileged dinosaurs ignoring the facts and talking a lot of hot air.
Now considering the amount of hot air that comes out of the House of Commons and House of Lords, you would think that talking about the very way we elect MP’s would bring a bit of humility to the proceedings. Unfortunately the NOo2AV campaign has decided to see if it can produce enough of it’s own methane to solve the UK’s energy needs while destroying our climate change targets all in one go.
Over the last few weeks we have had the NO2AV campaign getting all manor of facts wrong, even to the point that many of the campaigners on the Yes2AV campaign have found themselves on lists supposedly supporting NO2AV !
Lord Winston has been describing how calamitous it would be for the public to be able to vote for AV because it would be too expensive, too complicated and that some who advocate AV would prefer Proportional Representation.
Well lets look at the details. See the BBC article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12453774
Lord Winston claimed it will cost £250 million. Comprising of £130 million to install electronic voting machines; £26 million for educating the public in time for the next general election and £90 million to organise the referendum.
So lets break this down, first of all the £90 million will be spent anyway to have a referendum. As a society we either believe in democracy or we don’t. We cannot improve our democratic processes without asking the public. Whether we vote yes or no this amount will be spent.
Secondly, The £130 million quoted has absolutely no basis in evidence. No one has said that any voting machines will be used if AV is the system we use. Australia has used the AV system for 80 years and has never used electronic voting machines. Costs will also be reduced by having the referendum on the same day as the council elections.
The NO2AV campaign has even been circulating photo’s of babies in need of medical help trying to equate having the referendum with saving the life of a child. Sick to the last or funny?? See http://twitpic.com/4036gg
Other reasons not to vote for AV given by Lord Winston and others is that AV is a compromise between FPTP and Proportion Representation. The problem with this argument is that the No campaign are not arguing for PR either. It is completely disingenuous when these people basically do not want the general public to have a choice at all regardless of the choices given.
Another argument now being put froward is that looking at this coalition, it is an argument that if we had AV more coalitions would be likely and this would be bad. The evidence for this is that this government is bad.
Well I would agree that this coalition government has been poor for many reasons, but this is nothing to do with it being in a coalition. David Cameron has been dishonest with the electorate, not because he is in a coalition but because he has made choices as Prime Minister. Tony Blair also made dishonest decisions, and this was with FPTP.
The reality is that the FPTP system is built for a 2 party system, but we no longer have a 2 party system. In the 1950’s, 98% of people voted for either the Conservatives or Labour, now only about 65% of people do. The likely hood of there being coalitions in the future is high whether its under AV or the present FPTP system. See the document “Worst of both worlds: Why First past the post no longer works” can be found at http://www.ippr.org.uk/
The truth is we now have true pluralism in our politics but not in our political system. This is encouraging people not to vote at all as they are unable to vote for the political candidates they actually believe in because they are unlikely to win under the FPTP system. This is creating an ever decreasing level f democracy in our country.
Lord Winston is hardly the person to lead this NO campaign, representing a dinosaur of an institution in the House of Lords which is an undemocratic institution that still requires reform after a hundred years of campaigning and many political parties who have said they were committed to the reform yet not completing it. This include the political party he represents, namely the Labour Party.
The NO campaign has started with lies and inaccuracies that in themselves demean our democratic system.
The NO campaign appears broken before it has begun, yet what it shows us is how desperate those with a vested interest in power will fight to keep a broken undemocratic system in place.