Aren’t Labourites against the Alternative Vote being hypocritical?


9:45 am - April 10th 2011

by Rupert Read    


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If AV is a good enough system with which to elect the Labour Leader (and Ed M. wouldn’t have become Lab Leader without it), isn’t it a good enough system with which to select our MPs?

Here’s a real challenge for Labour NO supporters: Put your money where your mouth is, and if you are so against AV, then propose that future Lab Leadership elections take place by FPTP.

And what a bad joke that would be, were it to happen, if Labour members had to decide whether (to take the example of the Leadership election we have just had) to ‘tactically vote’ or not.

E.g. Diane Abbott supporters would have had to decide whether or not to abandon her and just vote straight for Ed, without being able to vote for who they really wanted, or whether to risk David winning…

I put it to you, everyone in Labour NO, that this thought experiment pretty thoroughly demolishes the case for a NO vote on May 5. It is clear that FPTP is a broken system, in multi-Party / multi-candidate contests. It really is quite hopeless, to try to defend it, outside of a 2-Party system context.

If you are so clear in your own minds that AV is a bad system, you need to draw the logical conclusion: you need to get rid of it for your own internal elections. That I hear no-one proposing to do so speaks volumes to me.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Rupert Read is a Green Party councillor and ran as a MEP candidate in Eastern region in 2009. He blogs at Rupert's Read and Comment is free
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Reader comments


Labour also elect their leader via an electoral college. So is Labour being hypocritical if it doesn’t insist that the British electorate also be split into TU members, MPs, etc., for purposes of a general election? For God’s sake. This is the most shrill and ridiculous article I have read in ages.

By your logic, Lib Dems shouldn’t stand because they don’t like the system. Moron.

What you’re missing is that different electoral systems have different strengths and weaknesses, and in different contexts, different strengths and weaknesses matter more than others.

For instance, for electing a party leader, the Condorcet voting system is likely to give a compromise candidate who can keep all wings of the party reasonably happy. On the other hand, it would also have given the Lib Dems an absolute parliamentary majority in 2010, which suggests that it’s not a great system for electing a parliament from parallel elections of single-seat constituency MPs.

Open List PR is a great system for electing parliaments, but a terrible system for electing a single party leader (it devolves to FPTP for a single place election)

Vote From Hat is a great system for electing raffle winners, but would be considered profoundly undemocratic for electing the Speaker of the House of Commons

Labour No should probably be willing to explain why they feel AV is suitable for leadership elections but not for MP elections, but they’re not automatically hypocritical for coming to different conclusions about the best electoral system for different types of election.

If it is accepted that the House of Commons has an under-representation of any type, then how is that corrected by the current AV proposals? Some of the methods used ( e.g. Scottish Parliament’s AV plus) does address this, as does the multi-member constituencies in Ireland.

The under representation of women was successfully countered by Labour’s all-women shortlists in winnable seats and the campaigning of Labour’s Black Section in the late 80s achieved the breakthrough to the exclusion of Black people from Parliament. Neither of the other right wing parties (Tories and LDs) have come up with any such initiatives that have yielded long-term changes.

Hardly any of Labour’s aspirations of a better-represented Parliament are achieveable under the proposed system. In fact, the propsals entrench the two-party constituency system even more rigidly.

Feeble argument – only one Labour leader, but many MPs. Proportionality possible for parliamentary election, not for leader of organisation. Where trade unions use STV for leadership elections always works out like AV for this reason. If you can’t come up. With more serious arguments against centre left rejection of AV, please just write about something else.

I think those who tell us “Don’t vote Clegg or you’ll get Cameron/Brown” and then campaign against a system which puts tactical voting in the hands of the electorate are more hypocritical.

Thanks Cim. I think it is pretty clear from the arguments that have been going on on Twitter in the past 36 hours that LabourNO have no effective way of rising to your/my challenge. There just isn’t any sound argument for why AV is a good system to use for electing a Leader but not for electing an MP.
Some people have tried to put forward the argument that Pinkerton makes, below: that there are many MPs but only one Leader. But this is clearly a hopeless argument, because in each seat there is only one MP. That is the whole point of a constituency system! At a General Election there isn’t really one contest – that only happens in a whole-country-PR election. There are 651 separate contests.
So the question remains: What possible good argument is there for having AV for the Leadership contest and FPTP for the seat-contests for the Commons?

8. Chaise Guevara

@ Rupert Read

“There just isn’t any sound argument for why AV is a good system to use for electing a Leader but not for electing an MP”

You probably shouldn’t say that when someone has given you a sound argument in this very thread. National elections under AV can lead to a coalition. Labour leader elections under AV can’t.

Your challenge is silly. FPTP and AV are so similar, and the general election and labour leadership election so different that such a simplistic attempt to equate the two isn’t very helpful.

10. Jonathan Phillips

namak –

“If it is accepted that the House of Commons has an under-representation of any type, then how is that corrected by the current AV proposals? ”

How about under-representation of the majority of voters in the majority of constituencies? Far too many of us are represented by MPs not of our choosing – and a lot of us by MPs whose politics we actually detest. See http://bit.ly/fgHxR0.

If I give my vote to a candidate who can’t hope to win (and in some cases that could be a Tory or Labour candidate) then it will simply go to waste and I shall have played no part in the election of my MP. Or I could put my X against the name of a candidate I don’t much like (which he/she will then claim as and indication of my support) to help defeat a candidate I like even less. Do I vote truthfully but ineffectively, or do I vote tactically and effectively but not truthfully? (So FPTP also implies the underrepresentation of truthful voters, but I wouldn’t want to press the point…) See http://bit.ly/eddJWZ.

Soho politico

“Labour also elect their leader via an electoral college. So is Labour being hypocritical if it doesn’t insist that the British electorate also be split into TU members, MPs, etc., for purposes of a general election?

Electoral colleges are irrelevant to the matter in hand. They grew out of the history of the party. Rupert’s point is that an insistence on FPTP for the rest of us by people who wouldn’t dream of using it for the election of their leader does show at the very least some inconsistency.

AV gives far more of us a say in choosing our MP, makes sure all MPs are backed by a genuine majority of voters, and allows us to vote honestly for the party of our choice (rather than tactically for someone we don’t much like to keep out someone we like even less). It really is the democratic choice!

“Some people have tried to put forward the argument that Pinkerton makes, below: that there are many MPs but only one Leader. But this is clearly a hopeless argument, because in each seat there is only one MP. That is the whole point of a constituency system! At a General Election there isn’t really one contest – that only happens in a whole-country-PR election. There are 651 separate contests.”

But we are, in fact, at a general election, electing a Parliament of 650. We might do it through individual local contests, but those aggreggate to give us an assembly and, thereafter, a Government. Therefore a good system needs to recognise that, in a way it doesn’t when it is genuinely just electing one persona s the sum total of the event.

As an example of why this matters, ask Electoral Calculus what would have happened under AV if the Liberal Democrats had received 40% of the vote. Their software predicts that this would have resulted in a Lib Dem majority of 392. Fair in each individual constituency? Perhaps. Fair overall, plainly not.

I look forward to Labour Yes and Fabians proposing that we change the electoral system for the Fabian Society Executive and the Shadow Cabinet, which are currently FPTP. Compass, at least, are consistent – much good it’s done them…

@ 10

“Electoral colleges are irrelevant to the matter in hand. They grew out of the history of the party. Rupert’s point is that an insistence on FPTP for the rest of us by people who wouldn’t dream of using it for the election of their leader does show at the very least some inconsistency.”

Ah, history. Of course, people defend FPTP on grounds of history.

Rupert’s point is that any party which proposes a system for its leadership elections that they wouldn’t countenance for a GE is guilty of hypocrisy. So my electoral college point stands. Besides, as oldpolitics points out, shadow cabinet elections are by FPTP.

“AV gives far more of us a say in choosing our MP”

Hard to see how. It doesn’t lead to there being a larger field of candidates. It *will* make some candidates win who otherwise would not. But that isn’t the same as giving everyone ‘more of a say’. If my candidate now loses, and yours wins, I didn’t get ‘more of a say’ over the outcome under AV.

“makes sure all MPs are backed by a genuine majority of voters”

That is false.

“and allows us to vote honestly for the party of our choice (rather than tactically for someone we don’t much like to keep out someone we like even less).”

That is also false. AV does not eliminate tactical voting, as anyone who worried about how to allocate their second and subsequent preferences in the Labour leadership election will tell you.

7/Rupert Read: What possible good argument is there for having AV for the Leadership contest and FPTP for the seat-contests for the Commons?

Okay… a couple of possibilities

1) AV is occasionally non-monotonic. For the leadership election, this is unlikely to actually be a problem – leadership elections are rare, and also rarely have the particular set of circumstances (at least three strong candidates, and a highly factionalised electorate so second preferences are very different between the three) that cause non-monotonicity, so it doesn’t matter, but in a general election it could quite easily affect up to five or six constituencies each time, and this would be unacceptably high.

2) AV is more centralising than FPTP, in terms of the results of individual elections. This is good for a single leadership election, but could lead to the rush to the middle of national politics becoming even more pronounced.

Now, personally, I think that 5 or 6 non-monotonic constituencies, if that, is also pretty rare and not worth worrying about, and that with the UK’s political party set up there would also be a strengthening of some decentralising effects under AV (because of the relatively high credibility of Greens and UKIP) – so I’d still think given how terrible FPTP is, AV would be better. But I’d certainly be unsurprised if anyone thought that the combination of the two made AV even worse than FPTP in the context of electing MPs.

10/Jonathan Philips: Of course, under AV you can vote effectively and truthfully, and the chances are that the candidate you don’t much like (but still prefer to the other front-runner) will claim your fourth preference vote for them as part of their “more than 50% support in this constituency”.

11/oldpolitics; 12/Soho Politico: shadow cabinet elections are by FPTP.

Strictly, “multi-member plurality”, which could be described as a version of FPTP, but could also be described as a version of SNTV or Approval, depending on how you change its rules.

12/Soho Politico: AV does not eliminate tactical voting

Depends how you define “tactical voting”. The conventional meaning is “expressing a vote that is not your actual preference(s) to make it more likely that a result closer to your actual preference will be achieved than would be with an ‘honest’ vote”.

In practice it’s rare that an AV election will give a tactical voting opportunity at all, and virtually impossible to recognise that this opportunity will exist far enough in advance to do anything about it. (And because AV tactical voting involves messing around with non-monotonicity, which has narrow windows of effectiveness, you then have to co-ordinate your tactical voting very carefully with other voters to make sure you don’t overdo it and lose its effect again)

Conversely, under FPTP, all elections have tactical voting opportunities for at least some voters, these opportunities can usually be identified reliably in advance, and there’s no need for co-ordination between voters to make them useful.

15. Matthew Bond

Hey Rupe

I’d be happy to back FPTP for Labour leader.

TTFN
tugsandtost

ps Chill out. You’ve got the AV sanctimony fever. It’s making you sound hysterical.

Aren’t all those Tories voting against AV being hypocritical? After all, wasn’t Cameron elected on a form of AV, where he lost the first preference votes of MPs to David Davis?

17. Paul Newman

No , John Prescott , for example thought PR was right for the regional assembly of the North East because FPTP would exclude Conservatives and also undermine any credibility for the abortive attempt to chop the Nation up
On the PR issue he was obviously right though whilst he detests AV. The system you need is dependent on the electorate . One of the obvious problems with AV is that it counts weak votes the same as strong ones which tends to mean ignorant ones the same as informed ones not to say nutty ones . Another is that it tends to a middle point and works best where there is very strong underlying consensus.
A small highly knowledgeable one Party election is ideal for AV then. It also initially suited Australia whose right wing was beset with geographical distance creating a vote splitting problem.
Now AV is blocking the end of the old firm hence its unpopularity there. In fact the main problem with AV here is the existence of a cohesive large second choice Party. Because of this it will tend to remove accountably to an unacceptable degree
AV is an atrocious idea for Britain and the fact it is being held on the same day as important elections on the Celtic fringe with a low turn out requirement reeks of conspiracy
Latest Polls show that New Labour would lose out from AV by about 25 seat. My question is this . Why should any Party tolerate members acrtively seeking to work against its interests and I`d have much the same question of Caroline Lucas

@cim

“For instance, for electing a party leader, the Condorcet voting system is likely to give a compromise candidate who can keep all wings of the party reasonably happy. On the other hand, it would also have given the Lib Dems an absolute parliamentary majority in 2010, which suggests that it’s not a great system for electing a parliament from parallel elections of single-seat constituency MPs.”

Bullshit.

The leader of the Labour party is in effect an election in a single member constituency – with the constituents being the members of the Labour party. A Condorcet system would only have produced a Lib Dem parliamentary majority in 2010 if we abandoned the whole concept of constituencies and just had one multi member constituency for the whole UK which returned 650 MPs.

If it had been used in parallel elections of single seat constituency MPs then it obviously wouldn’t have returned a Lib Dem majority. How exactly can you manage to conflate the two when they are clearly completely different?

@11

So AV has the potential to elect a slim-ish Lib Dem majority on a 40% national vote share? How is this any more unfair than an electoral system which a) delivered Blair a larger majority with only 35% of the vote and which b) fails to deliver fair representation for individual constituencies as well?

@17

So your argument is that it doesn’t matter what’s best for the voters as long as the Labour party doesn’t lose out? Why aren’t you campaigning to just abolish elections completely then?

You see, this is what I absolutely despise about No campaigners. They are vile, undemocratic, lying, underhanded, self-interested c**** who don’t give a shit about the rest of the country as long as they get what they want. I’d quite honestly rather french kiss Hitler than sully my soul by spending time around one of the No campaigners – they are filth who give democracy a bad name.

21. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 Soho Politico

“Hard to see how. It (AV) doesn’t lead to there being a larger field of candidates.”

It could, if people realised that they had a better chance of standing against the local Labourite or Tory and winning. But more to the point – even assuming no new candidates put themselves forward due to AV – it leads to a larger field of viable candidates.

I think that’s what people mean when they say that AV gives us more of a say – you can vote for the candidate you actually want without worrying about wasting your vote. At the moment everyone has to adjust around the entrenched interests of the two biggest parties. FPTP is quite evidently biased against smaller parties and new blood.

@ 18.

Haven’t you noticed that Rupert never bothers to read arguments that disagree with him yet?

He doesn’t put comments up on his blog that point out fundamental flaws in his arguments either.

What would Wittgenstein do?

23. Paul Newman

Well George right now New Labour would lose about 25 seats of their notional lead but in 97 the majority would have been increased to 243 which is quite a thought . Roy Jenkins commented that AV was disturbingly unreliable and it would have been less proportional than FPTP over recent years . Is that good ?
There is the clear logical absurdity of counting weak lower choices as counting as much as first preferences plus it will appear that undecided and /or moderate people are empowered over decided people . I `m not sure I like that
One thing AV definitely does do is ossify any cartel it throws up . Minor Parties can never break though as their votes are always dissipated that’s why Australia is the most rigid two Party Parliamentary Democracy on the planet. On the subject of political cynicism I think its worth pointing out that Lloyd George and the Liberals were implacably opposed to electoral reform unit they started coming third

Not sure what you are so cross about actually, I am unable to think of anything good about AV , no election with unlimited entrants can guarantee everyone gets what they want .

@19 “So AV has the potential to elect a slim-ish Lib Dem majority on a 40% national vote share?”

Slim-ish?! It would be over twice the size of the Labour landslide of 1997.

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 Paul

“One thing AV definitely does do is ossify any cartel it throws up . Minor Parties can never break though as their votes are always dissipated that’s why Australia is the most rigid two Party Parliamentary Democracy on the planet.”

That doesn’t make any sense, assuming you’re talking about AV as an alternative to FPTP. The problem with widespread votes comes from having a constituency-based system, which is the case regardless of whether you have AV or FPTP. At least AV ameliorates this problem by allowing people to vote for small parties without worrying about wasting their vote.

If you’re going to criticise AV, fair enough, but at least try to be accurate.

26. Mr S. Pill

Does anyone really think the LDs are going to ever get 40% of the vote though? They’d be lucky with 4%…

I agree. The same is true of Tory opponents of AV. Hypocrites one and all.

@11: As an example of why this matters, ask Electoral Calculus what would have happened under AV if the Liberal Democrats had received 40% of the vote. Their software predicts that this would have resulted in a Lib Dem majority of 392. Fair in each individual constituency? Perhaps. Fair overall, plainly not.

This would only be true if they picked up lots of second preferences. If that happened, it’d be because the voters as a whole were broadly content with them, so it’d be entirely reasonable for them to get a big majority.

@23

Actually Lloyd George’s Liberals supported STV – they and some tories felt that it would stop the rise of Labour and socialism. However, some others wanted AV and the end result was the end of multi-member seats and university seats and the introduction of FPTP in uniform seats across the country.

30. Paul Newman

Chaise -That is the assumption but it is not true . Take the Green Party , they polled about 1% at the last GE , a bit down and about half the BNP`s 1.9%. By concentrating their resources on their most promising seat they were able to get Caroline Lucas in in a four way marginal, Brighton . Under AV she will probably lose which , as I say , is a bit odd . I dare say being a workaday MP is not the way she sees her future
In Australia the Greens are making real breakthroughs and in the Senate they obtained 9 out of 76 seats ( That is on a PR STV system). Thats not a million miles away form what the Liberals would get (very roughly ) at current polling levels ( 10% or so ..v v roughly )
In 2010 and even more so in 1990 the ALP was able to avoid losing the house of reps by harvesting vast numbers of Green second choices and in a country with five independents the Greens got their first seat in 2010. That was actually the first seat obtained by a minor Party since 1919 when AV arrived . The two main Parties got 72 each out of 150. Thats real AV experience and as I say the Greens are big news in Oz . They have been locked out
There is only one reason for AV , Cameron needed the deal and Clegg wanted second choices counted . As we know at the last election under AV the Tories would have lost about 20 seats but gained about 20 on the boundary changes they are pushing though. Clegg gains Cameron gains ( and within his Party) Labour lose and lose again which is no surprise they were not at the table to deal

What is a surprise is that so many of Labour`s elite are ready to support what may be the end of the Party as a Party of government

What fucking terrible reasoning. There are multiple reasons why an electoral system for electing a party leader from a broad support base (not all of whom only cast one vote) has very different needs and virtues to one used to elect a government out of a constituency base.

Christ, do you really think the world – and everyone else – is so simple that no other mortal could see your obvious conclusions for themselves? If so, consider this proposal: what really going on here is that you have a terrible, superficial argument that most sensible people have got better things to do than bother with.

I was planning to vote for AV but as a DM supporter you’ve convinced me that would be hypocritical.

20. George W. Potter. What a load of invective. No doubt if you posted such a vile rant at ‘Liberal Democrat Voice’, your rubbish would be deleted, just as it would be on the forum I moderate:-
http://cuttingedgeuk.proboards.com/index.cgi

If you weren’t such a bigot, you might understand that there are perfectly good reasons for opposing AV – the “miserable little compromise” offered as a sop to Clegg to persuade the Lib Dems to hand the keys of power to the worst, most right-wing, and most ideologically-driven UK government in living memory.

George W Potter/18: Depends on the assumptions you make about preference orders, since the polling isn’t really up to it. Condorcet is really centralising, though. All the advantages of AV [1] for transfers to the Lib Dems, without the need to get lots of first preferences as well to make use of those transfers.

On highly favourable assumptions, it’s a majority (only just, but still a majority).
On moderate assumptions, the largest party by some distance.
On highly pessimistic assumptions, still around 125 seats.

Of course, the campaigning would have been different, so all hypothetical – but that would probably have helped the Lib Dems because they’d have looked like a winner from much earlier on.

I admit presenting highly favourable assumptions without detail was a mistake, but my point was that it is quite possible to favour one electoral system for one case and a different one for a different case, without being inconsistent, because a property (strong centralisation) desirable in one case can be undesirable in others.

(650 seats in a single repeated Condorcet election – a very strange thing to do, but okay – would have given the Lib Dems a ridiculously large majority, but that’s not what I was talking about)

[1] In 2010, these were quite good advantages. Not so much now, of course.

Hi Rupert..

Why are you changing the subject? How is Libya these days?

To be honest, I don’t know why we’re even having this debate. We could just quote the Yes campaign’s main donor, the Electoral Reform Society, who said “The Electoral Reform Society regards AV as the best voting system when a single position is being elected. However, as AV is not a proportional system, the Society does not regard it as suitable for the election of a representative body, e.g. a parliament, council, committees, etc”.

So clearly they think there’s a difference. Why don’t you?

One of the obvious problems with AV is that it counts weak votes the same as strong ones which tends to mean ignorant ones the same as informed ones not to say nutty ones

I’m fairly sure that’s untrue. Because I’m well-informed about politics, any preferences I have *for* a party are necessarily weak, because of the massive, obvious failings of the three main parties. On the other hand, if I were completely ignorant about politics but tribally rural-squirearchy Tory or Salford Labour by birth and class, then my voting preferences would be very strong based entirely on ignorance.

If 1) you’re politically aware 2) you’re not deluded by a candidate’s personal charm, then I don’t think it’s *possible* to be strongly in favour of a particular candidate (except “as opposed to the others”). See: everyone who thought Obama would be a liberal president, rather than merely not as right-wing as McCain/Palin.

So yes, AV turns the contest from “I really like X” to “X is the candidate I detest the least”. But if your attitude to voting isn’t the second anyway, you really shouldn’t’ be allowed to vote.

Oldpolitics: now re-read your comment, and note *why* the ERS doesn’t support AV as the best system for representative bodies (clue: their objection also applies to FPTP).

@36

And yet the ERS are still backing it because, despite the problems with AV, FPTP is a far worse system.

There is so much difference between selecting the government of a country to choosing an individual to a single vacancy. You could take the comparison even further and equate the general election to most student union officer positions which also use AV.

Even still I think the AV system in the Labour leadership is not great. Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman before him managed to appeal to the second preferences of other candidates who finished behind them, allowing them to pass the person who was ahead in all the previous rounds. When you had both of them chosen on the whim of third or fourth preferences ahead of the people who were more peoples first choice is far from perfect. Perhaps some kind of primary system or a run off would probably be a more fair system.

When it comes to a general election the potential to shift politics is scary. In lots of seats the BNP voters for instance are up for graps, as their party will not win the mainstream parties would have to tailor their message to get those second preferences. The most worthless votes marked 1st for the most worthless candidates.

41. Paul Newman

John B – I have always enjoyed you contempt for the working classes but I cannot share your view that a tribal vote is “ignorant” because the voter may not be well educated . Its just that the information is diffused on the local culture and whilst not available to each individual is a vote cast with a rich experience and history behind it.Loyalty is not stupid but I doubt we will agree there.
The further votes will be almost random . The result of this in Australia has been that negative campaigning predominates as well as elections conducted at a very low level indeed ( They have twice as many negative ads).( It is another AV problem that it shifts the emphasis decidedly in favour of the candidate who offends least and away from the one who is like most)
The problem I more had in mind was this. Half the country cannot be bothered and provided nothing insane emerges are happy to let those who like that sort of thing get on with it. Many more vote “stupidly” as you would say. That leaves a small ferbile group whose second choice is suddenly vital
They are neither tribal nor diffident and they consists of a small number of philosophers (very small) and a much larger number of extremists

In the past their vote was no more important than the”Can`t be bothereds ” Now they are elevated to crucial importance as in marginals they will be decisive .
Their qualification , remember is precisely that they vote for nutty Parties
That problem is even worse when said nutty Party may the small but represents a large constituency of sympathetic voters . This could be said of both Greens and BNP
So blandness battles with faddy in a race to the bottom of electoral systems . It truly is about the worst idea anyone ever had. This would be a special problem with the one in four who say they would consider a BNP vote .

I’m another Labour member who would prefer FPTP for internal leadership elections (and have said so here and elsewhere on previous occasions), although for the many reasons posted above, it isn’t hypocritical to to call for different voting systems for different elections with different types of constituency and different functions to the position elected.

By the way #20 is what I hate about Yes campaigners – their patronising and arrogant belief they, the forces of enlightenment, know what’s best for voters and there can’t possibly be any legitimate reasons for disagreeing with them so anyone who is voting No is either stupid or evil or both.

JohnB / George; My point there wasn’t about whether AV is better or worse than FPTP – I think it’s worse, you think it’s better. My point was that the ERS clearly believe you don’t have to use the same electoral system for every election in the world ever, and therefore the answer to the original question in this post is plainly “No”, even in the view of the main funder of the “Yes” campaign.

44. Chaise Guevara

@ 30 Paul

“Chaise -That is the assumption but it is not true . Take the Green Party , they polled about 1% at the last GE , a bit down and about half the BNP`s 1.9%. By concentrating their resources on their most promising seat they were able to get Caroline Lucas in in a four way marginal, Brighton . Under AV she will probably lose which , as I say , is a bit odd . I dare say being a workaday MP is not the way she sees her future”

They would be able to concentrate resources on single seat under AV as well. Once again, you’re presenting issues as if they’re specific to AV when they apply equally to FPTP. If we were debating the relative merits of AV vs PR, these points would be relevant. In this context, they’re dishonest.

What’s your basis for saying she’d probably lose?

“In 2010 and even more so in 1990 the ALP was able to avoid losing the house of reps by harvesting vast numbers of Green second choices and in a country with five independents the Greens got their first seat in 2010. ”

Fine – most voters were happy with them. I like AV because it should give smaller parties a fighting chance, but to my mind that’s just a happy extra to its main accomplishment of making elections considerably fairer.

45. Chaise Guevara

@ 42

“By the way #20 is what I hate about Yes campaigners – their patronising and arrogant belief they, the forces of enlightenment, know what’s best for voters and there can’t possibly be any legitimate reasons for disagreeing with them so anyone who is voting No is either stupid or evil or both.”

Hypocrisy much? “The problem with Yes campaigners is they’re all arrogant bastards who make unfair generalisations about people based on their politics! Unlike me!”

Exactly – ridiculous, isn’t it! Perhaps I could’ve mimicked #20’s style slightly more closely, to make my point better…

47. RupertRead

Jimmy @32: Errm, I think you will find that David Miliband would like you to vote Yes to AV.

ChaiseGuevara: “National elections under AV can lead to a coalition.”: Errm, I think you will find that national elections under FPTP can lead to a coalition too. The Coalition: that is, I think you will find, what they are calling the govt that called this referendum… Btw, Canada is a prominent example of a country where FPTP very frequently results in coalitions. With Britain’s political system becoming more multi-Party, we are likely to be heading in that direction too. Which makes FPTP more horrendously past its sell-by with every passing year.

John B – I have always enjoyed you contempt for the working classes but I cannot share your view that a tribal vote is “ignorant” because the voter may not be well educated . Its just that the information is diffused on the local culture and whilst not available to each individual is a vote cast with a rich experience and history behind it.Loyalty is not stupid but I doubt we will agree there.

What the hell has Hazel Blears ever done to the benefit of the people of Salford & Eccles? (choice of Salford/Blears isn’t accidental – I lived in her constituency for several years). Yes, there are *some* MPs who are elected in tribally Labour areas who genuinely identify with their constituents and fight for working class interests in the spirit of the history of the union movement – McDonnell, Corbyn and Cruddas are clearly among them.

But for every one of them, there are half a dozen identikit party-line-toers who might as well be donkeys wearing rosettes, who have about as much in common with working-class interests as Nick Clegg. And – as I said, but you cut – exactly the same thing’s true in the Tory heartlands (although you can substitute ‘rural conservatism’ for ‘working-class interests’).

The result of this in Australia has been that negative campaigning predominates as well as elections conducted at a very low level indeed ( They have twice as many negative ads).( It is another AV problem that it shifts the emphasis decidedly in favour of the candidate who offends least and away from the one who is like most)

I’d be interested to see the data on that one. I was in Aus for their GE2010, as well as just having experienced the NSW2011 state election, and although the campaigns were negative, they didn’t seem any more so than UK GE2010 (which was massively negative, although perhaps more by implication than specific statements of “David Cameron Will Fuck It Up”). I don’t recall a single hopey-changey vote-for-me-cos-we’re-aces UK GE2010 ad….

49. RupertRead

Mr.X (at @22): Wrong. I very frequently respond to comments. And the only things I don’t put up on my own blog are abuse and lies.
And in any case I don’t take lectures from anonymous cowards and liars.

Good point!

51. An Duine Gruamach

“It really is quite hopeless, to try to defend [FPTP], outside of a 2-Party system context.”

Precisely. Labour benefit from the 2-party system, and have no desire to compete for the left vote on an level playing-field with more credible leftist parties (Greens, SNP, Plaid etc.)

52. Chaise Guevara

@ 46 tim f

“Exactly – ridiculous, isn’t it! Perhaps I could’ve mimicked #20?s style slightly more closely, to make my point better…”

Ah. My sarcasm sensors failed. It’s a fair cop!

53. Chaise Guevara

@ 47 RupertRead

” Errm, I think you will find that national elections under FPTP can lead to a coalition too. The Coalition: that is, I think you will find, what they are calling the govt that called this referendum…”

When you’ve quite finished trying and failing to patronise me based on a straw man, perhaps you could go back to my post and try reading it? Ta. You’ll see that I wasn’t comparing AV and FPTP, I was comparing national elections and Labour party leadership elections.

You don’t need to convince me on the relative merits of AV over FPTP, by the way, I’ll be voting Yes next month anyway. But as far as convincing other people goes, perhaps you’d do better addressing what they say, rather than a weaker argument you make up in your head.

54. Paul Newman

Can`t find where I read the stat on negative campaigning but this article discusses it . Got it somewhere

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/14/alternative-vote-electoral-reform

I just don`t get the AV thing and especially I don`t get the attitude of the Yes men which is that those who disagree are somehow tainted . No matter isn`t it simply

1 Its less proportional – Blair with a 243 majority fcs …?
2 It encourages coalitions and thereby discourages accountably, in this country
3 MPs do not have over 50% . Obviously over 50% would prefer someone else or have not bothered voting at all . Its just gives second choices as much weight as first choices and that is self evidently not fair
4 It suppresses minor Parties – Australia has elected one single non main Party MP since 1919- what more do you want ?
Also its confusing tactically requiring crib sheets to get supporters to bring the right second choices in

There is no mandate for it , no-one wanted change especially

I could go on and what of the Liberal Party ? Yes they get a rough deal but thats just if you look at in terms of Parties

take these Policy areas
Criminal Justice
International Aid
Immigration
Europe
Socially progressive stuff

In all these areas the country is already far more Liberal than the people in it would prefer to judge by Polls . Perhaps that is a bad thing but you cannot just force Liberalism on people and it certainly does not need any more power

Paul Newman/54: I’m not sure all those arguments can be true at once.

1, 4 and 2: It’s less proportional, generating massive landslides, and harms third parties – but it makes coalitions more likely (which can only happen if it improves the third and fourth party vote:seat ratio, which would be more proportional). Either it’s bad because it’s less proportional or it’s bad because it’s more proportional – it can’t be both.

(In practice, I think on average AV is about as proportional as FPTP – some elections will be more, some will be less, but the general trend will be about the same)

3: Agreed with the 50% thing – MPs won’t have any more or less support than they have under FPTP, and the 50% magic number is misleading at best, though it will be a little more transparent who supports MPs under AV compared with FPTP.

However, second choices do not have as much weight as first choices (numerically, yes – practically, no): a candidate can win an AV election solely on first preferences, if they have enough of them. They cannot win an AV election without any first preferences, even if they have every voter’s second preferences. First preferences are far more important.

4 again: It doesn’t require crib sheets. Parties might suggest second preferences, but voters can and will ignore them. There’s probably no benefit to a party from doing so. (“give your second preference to X” is no different to the FPTPish “X can’t win here – vote Y”)

“no-one wanted change especially”

I think quite a lot of people wanted improvements to our democracy, which is really quite flawed in a lot of ways. This particular change, maybe not.

56. Paul Newman

Ha Cim you spotted that did you . Well so did I and the real picture is a lot more uncertain in this country where we have got no real second preferences to go on. Nonetheless it is true that in landslide years AV will accentuate the dis-proportionality , in ordinary years , in this country , it would make coalition more likely as the Lib Dems would be 20 seats up ( on 2010). Overall it is about the same in terms of proportion but its effect would e to accentuate the worst aspects of disproportionality.
In Australia where there are concrete records the AV earthquake , so called is well documented but there being no middle Party it has suited then quite well You can of course map the effect of second preferences and as the Greens have eroded the old, cartel so their importance has increased . I have the figures, we can actually see a small Party being excluded by AV . Of course that is because the main Party goes for their second votes in a big way so they do achieve Policy change but as a pressure group
As for the importance off second votes well that depends on the election. In a marginal they may well be more important than first preferences . In a sophisticated large field it is entirely possible for their to be virtually no first preferences left
Such a thing happened to the Republican Party. Have you ever heard of Warren G Harding ?
Perhaps the worst dullest US President there has ever been . He was not leading the Republican nomination until the 9th iteration of an AV process.
In Australia it is standard practice to hand out lists of preferences that would tactically best suit the Party. the game revolves around the fact that the second preferences of the last man standing , so to speak , are not counted . In fact there has even been some question of fake lists handed out by rivals . It sounds amazing to us but they are used to it

Polls prior to 2010 showed electoral reform to be wanted by only a tiny number ,vastly more wanted a referendum on Lisbon.

Paul – I suspect you’re missing a very important difference between the proposed UK and current Australian systems.

In Australian federal elections, and in all state elections except NSW and Queensland, it’s compulsory to rank *all* candidates in order of preference, otherwise your vote is spoiled. So parties produce preference ranking guides for the benefit of less-informed voters, on the basis that if you’re a Loyal Labor Supporter, then you’ll probably be OK with the local Labor party’s recommended preferences.

The system proposed for the UK is the same as the one in NSW and Queensland, where you can put as many or as few preferences as you wish (this encompasses solely putting a first preference for your favourite party: in other words, the legions of people who’re allegedly too dumb or ill-informed to use anything but FPTP can still vote FPTP. The failure to acknowledge this is yet another way in which the NO campaign are grossly dishonest). So there’s no need for parties to produce ranking guides, and much less chance that people will pay attention to them. And indeed, in the NSW election last month, they mostly didn’t.

Polls prior to 2010 showed electoral reform to be wanted by only a tiny number ,vastly more wanted a referendum on Lisbon.

I’d be up for a two-question Lisbon referendum.

1) Is the Lisbon treaty:
a) a constitution for a super-state
b) a sinister plot by the Bilderberg group to destroy our cherished British freedoms
c) an exercise that clarifies existing legislation, increases transparency and democracy within EU institutions, and gives national parliaments greater powers over EU institutions

2) Should we withdraw from the Lisbon treaty?
a) Yes
b) No

Obviously, wrong answers for question 1 would lead to answers to question 2 being disregarded.

59. Paul Newman

1 Yes fair point on the differences , I think it’s a mixed scene with only one state having precisely the same system . The supposed dumbness and negativity of Australians elections might be accounted for by this (I don`t agree with you that 2010 UK GE was negative though . Given the circumstances it was Polly Anna meets Noddy ) .You might have mentioned the regionality of the whole thing which we rejected or the PR/ STV upper house ,and after all Australia is a great place that works pretty well . Endless differences. One is the absence of a third Party (wish wish wish……) which is itself the real road block IMHO ..but no-one agrees with me .

2 you may have your Lisbon questions if we can go back in time and as k

a- Are we entering an embryonic super-state which by virtue of a separating powers already has a constitution , a clear direction towards closer Union which succeeding years will illustrate .
b- Are we merely entering a trade agreement

b-Should we join

An incorrect answer to one will of course tell us you are a hapless dupe for he establishment so we can ignore your answer to 2 … …

That way we need not have your referendum at all . Sorted .

60. Paul Newman

Actually can I just quickly make a last point all this discussion seems to assume we have no active role in forming the choices before us and it is that rather fuzzier shift from citizen to focus group I really object to . I would defend the two Party system on those sort of grounds ultimately.
You have a Green bee in your bonnet , ok join the mahjor Party you like best and seek to change it . You may have to “compromise” , you may have to fit your ideas into a realistic programme , you may have to think like an adult , in fact. I like that …but again no-one agrees with me .

You might have mentioned the regionality of the whole thing which we rejected or the PR/ STV upper house ,and after all Australia is a great place that works pretty well

I wholeheartedly support a PR upper house for the UK, although I’d rather it was elected on a one-person-one-vote basis rather than the ridiculous state-based setup in which the Australian and US Senates disenfranchise urbanites and privilege ruralites (with predictable consequences…). And yes, Australia is great, and mostly works. There’s a lot wrong with the political system, though – it’s much more corrupt, and somewhat more infested with US-style religious-right-ism, than the UK.

I would defend the two Party system on those sort of grounds ultimately.

You’re advocating the US, basically – although depressingly, far-right extremists seem a hell of a lot better at swaying the Republican party than even moderate lefties are at swaying the Democrat party. And the two party system in Australia really is breaking down – helped significantly by PR in Senate elections.

62. Martin Young

To me it doesn’t mater which system is in place. I could not give a Conservative or a Liberal Democrat my AV. I’ve been a tactical voter most of my life depending on where I’ve lived Obviously I won’t be voting like that again. So would probably just use 1 vote for Labour and not use the other options. Mind you sounds a bit tactical anyway.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Aren't Labourites against the Alternative Vote being hypocritical? http://bit.ly/gLPz1Z

  2. Sadie Smith

    RT @libcon: Aren't Labourites against the Alternative Vote being hypocritical? http://bit.ly/gLPz1Z <- FFS!

  3. Soho Politico

    Can we pls dispense w/ the BS idea that, if u favour one electoralsystem for GEs, u must favour it for EVERYTHING ELSE? http://bit.ly/gLPz1Z

  4. DPWF

    RT @libcon: Aren't Labourites against the Alternative Vote being hypocritical? http://bit.ly/gLPz1Z

  5. Liat Norris

    RT @SohoPolitico: Can we pls dispense w/ the BS idea that, if u favour one electoralsystem for GEs, u must favour it for EVERYTHING ELSE? http://bit.ly/gLPz1Z

  6. June Russell

    @libcon Labour against AV 'hypocritical'? a clever point scoring argument that doesn't stand up to analysis http://bit.ly/gLPz1Z

  7. RupertRead

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/04/10/arent-labourites-against-the-alternative-vote-being-hypocritical/ My latest piece undermining #FPTP.

  8. Greg Sheppard

    RT @libcon: Aren't Labourites against the Alternative Vote being hypocritical? http://bit.ly/gLPz1Z

  9. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: Aren’t Labourites against the Alternative Vote being hypocritical?: If AV is a good enough system with … http://bit.ly/fLMmWg

  10. Alys

    Utterly feeble argument >> RT @libcon Aren't Labourites against the Alternative Vote being hypocritical? http://bit.ly/gLPz1Z

  11. Stewart Owadally

    Why is this dross even published on a usually-thoughtful blog? http://bit.ly/gLPz1Z

  12. Daniel Pitt

    Aren't Labourites against the Alternative Vote being hypocritical? http://bit.ly/gLPz1Z #Yes2AV

  13. John Edginton

    RT @myinfamy: Aren't Labourites against the Alternative Vote being hypocritical? http://bit.ly/gLPz1Z #Yes2AV

  14. I’m just looking for a new England | Irishperson in Exile

    […] for the AV system on Thursday. If it’s good enough for the Tory and Labour leadership elections, the London Mayoral election, and the X-Factor then it should be good enough […]





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