Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The "No" leaflet

... you know - the one that says "Keep One Person, One Vote"? Some reactions ...

"None of your taxes have been used to print this leaflet" - in other words, there are people who have such strong vested interests in not changing the system that they are prepared to fund a campaign that costs millions. Who are they? And why is it so important to them? I think we should be told.

"The cost of AV is £250 million." Assuming that these numbers are correct (which I doubt), democracy has a price - every election costs money - and that money could be spent on other things. But the idea of democracy is to hold politicians to account. I'd have happily had the country spending ten times that amount if through this it had been able to keep the previous Labour and Conservative governments in check. Better that than the financial hole we had fallen into once the Labour government had scorched the earth behind it. The government that we have now - a coalition, representing 60% of the votes, achieved against the odds under the FPTP system, is working together to fix the shambles of Conservative deregulation followed by Labour big government. If you think the cuts we are facing now are bad, they would be worse were the Conservatives going it alone. And Labour still have nothing coherent to offer. The existing system makes "strong" governments - "strong" meaning free to do what they like in accordance with their ideology and funding organisations. I don't want a strong government. The democratic ideal is that governments should be weak and dependent upon doing the will of the people.

The existing system also makes "strong" MPs. In most electoral constituencies, the MP needs to do hardly anything to secure your vote. At every election, politicians flood into the marginal seats which, we are told, will swing the parliamentary majority one way or the other. What that means is that if you're not in one of those seats, you are simply not important. Parties aren't concerned about broad electoral appeal, or what is best for the country as a whole - all they want at the moment is to win these marginal seats - because the existing system is flooded with "strong" MPs who are fundamentally not democratically accountable. That's why the system needs to be reformed.


That's what "MPs working harder" means - it's not about what happens after the election; it's about how they get elected in the first place.

"The second or third best can win under AV" From a critical thinking point of view, a bus fits through here. What does "best" mean? The leaflet suggests that "best" means "having the most first choice votes". But that's a very narrow definition of "best" - "most widely acceptable", "most competent", "most representative" are alternative definitions.

"Under our present system, the one who comes first is always the winner". But the one who comes first is not necessarily the most representative or the most competent - that's the whole point.

This leaflet makes me angry.

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