So having covered a daft flyer from the No campaign, I’ve since been given a flyer from the Yes campaign, and it’s also terrible. It’s a shame because it’s such an easy argument to win, and the Yes campaign have failed spectacularly put across their argument. There are a number of dodgy claims on the flyer, some of which I’ll address in turn:
“A ‘No’ vote in May tells the politicians we’re happy with business as usual – expenses scandal and all.”
Not particularly. The expenses scandal has nothing to do with the electoral system at all (AV wouldn’t prevent it so if you’re voting for it for that reason you’re a bit of an idiot) and it’s clear regardless of which way the referendum goes that people were pretty pissed off about MP’s claiming for a moat around their house and things like that.
The flyer then goes through its 3 reasons to vote yes:
1) It will make all MP’s work harder for support because they have to get 50% of the vote.
Not really. It’s not as if come election season candidates are just throwing votes away by lazing around because they think they only need 30% of the vote – they take as many votes as they can get. What it may mean is that they will have to appeal to a wider section of the electorate and try to get another party’s second votes, but that’s not necessarily a good thing, if it means that candidates stick to the middle ground and refuse to be controversial, and to a certain extent they do that now anyway to get as many voters as possible. We’ll have to see how that pans out.
2) It will make your vote count.
“AV lets you show your support for any candidates you think are up to the job. So if your favourite candidate doesn’t win you can still have a say.”
This is correct but they’ve phrased it in such a ham-fisted way that it plays straight into the No campaigns hands in saying that it’s unfair and that it gives the supporters of unpopular parties an extra vote. They should have stayed well away from the individualistic point of view (after all, it won’t make any one person’s vote count any more than anyone else’s, unless those people don’t give a second preference) and instead explained that whichever candidate is elected will represent the spectrum of opinion much better than under the current system. That is one of the strongest arguments in favour, and instead the Yes campaign patronises the voter and says it’ll ‘make their vote count’, whatever that means.
3) It’ll tackle the ‘Jobs for Life’ culture – “it makes safe seats less safe.”
That might be true but not in any significant way. The safety of a seat depends not on how much of the vote they have to get, but on how likely voters are to change their voting behaviour, so actually it might not do anything of the sort, it just adds another complication to predicting results, more than actually making a seat less safe. But this is kind of a repetition of number 1, surely? Could they not think of another argument? How disappointing!
AV’s not a particularly great electoral system but there are 2 good arguments in favour of it. As I’ve already said, it’ll mean that the elected representative of a constituency represents the opinions of their constituency better than under the current system. It’ll also mean that noone is forced to vote tactically as they are now. I will be able to vote for the party I like rather than voting to keep the party I dislike out. That’s not to say it’ll get rid of tactical voting altogether, as in some situations a party with a particularly good campaign team can knock out their closest rival in the first round, but it’ll be a great improvement on First Past the Post.
And these points aren’t difficult to make! I already showed in my last post the cartoon about tactical voting, but there are also good visual illustrations of my first argument, two of which are below. I find it particularly offensive when the Yes campaign assumes the electorate is too stupid to have it explained to them in any way other than appealing to simplistic populist arguments involving the expenses scandal, because if they think the electorate’s too stupid to understand AV then that’s one good argument against bringing it in! It’s almost as if they don’t want to win.