Friday, 4 February 2011

PR Against AV

The Labour No2AV campaign launched today and thought I'd reproduce the below piece from their site while I muck around writing another blog post.

Socialism is, among other things, about organising society along democratic lines. In the here and now that means favouring more democratic systems of governance so the state becomes more amenable to the pressures and aspirations stemming from below. This is the reason why I favour the proportional representation generally and the single transferable vote in particular (see
here). The first pass the post system we have now has the distinction of having only one voting system worse than it from this standpoint. And that is the system we're having a referendum on on May 5th.

What about Proportional Representation

It is important to remember this referendum is about the Alternative Vote system. NO to AV does not take an official position on proportional representation.

Some of our supporters back PR – such as Labour MP Margaret Hodge – while others prefer the current system.

There are strong principled arguments for and against PR, and it’s a debate worth having. The Alternative Vote, however, is a step backward rather than a step forward.

AV combines the weaknesses of both systems; it is less proportional than First Past the Post, and AV ensures that the BNP will gain more votes and more legitimacy, while not giving any help to small parties like the Green Party.

Before it became the principal financial and logistical backer of the Yes to AV campaign, the Electoral Reform Society (who were previously called the Proportional Representational Society) said of AV:

"AV is thus not a proportional system, and can in fact be more disproportional than FPTP... It does very little to improve the voice of traditionally under-represented groups in parliament, strengthening the dominance of the 'central' viewpoint."

This is the wrong referendum at the wrong time, and risks saddling the UK with a system that even the supporters of the Yes2AV Campaign don't want.

Nick Clegg has acknowledged that there won't be another change in the voting system in the foreseeable future, saying:

"you can't constantly ask people. Referendums have a fairly definitive feel to them...I wouldn't be expecting another one."


Derek Wall said...

yes its a cluster fuck!

Boffy said...

I agree that Marxists should support PR, and AV is not PR. But, as I argued in my blog AV - Why I'll Abstain, I don't think voting no in the referendum is the solution, because it would mean supporting the current system as a lesser evil by default. That's why I'll abstain.

Rather than voting No, I think Marxists should campaign for consistent democracy. That would not only mean arguing for a Referendum on other types of Electoral System, but would mean arguing for the convening of a Constitutional Assembly to discuss and vote on a whole series of other democratic reforms which should be fundamental even to a bouregois democracy. Given the democratic revolutions going on in North Africa at the moment this would be a good opportunity to raise these issues.

The otehr basic elements of a bouregois democracy that we should demand include:

* Abolition of the Monarchy
* Abolition of the House of Lords, and for a unicameral Parliament
* For a Bill Of Rights
* For Annual Elections To Parliament & Local Councils
* For the Right of Recall Of MP's
* For All MP's To Be Paid No More Than The Average Wage
* For Abolition Of the Link Between Church & State
* For a Written Constitution
* For The Election of All Top Civil Servants
* For The Election Of All Military Top Brass
* For The Election Of All Judges
* For The Election Of All Police Chiefs
* For The Removal Of All Laws Interfering in The Running Of Organisations
* For The Right To Strike For All Workers
* For the Abolition Of All Blasphemy Laws and Other Restrictions On Free Speech
* For Democratic Rights Within The Armed Forces
* For The Establishment Of A Popular Militia & Right To Bear Arms As A Part Thereof

I'm sure there are more as a re-reading of Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man" would probably remind me of, but they would do as a start for discussion.

I'm sure

Alasdair said...

I'm no huge fan of AV, but I'm really struggling to see how it will help the BNP and give them more legitimacy but not do anything to help left parties like the Greens. Can you explain the logic of that sentence?

Seth said...

All this is yes to is more Lib Dems and, having been disabused of our (alright, my, though thankfully not enough to get my vote) assumption that they would always support the left of centre, anything that assists them is poison as far as I'm concerned. No to AV and NO to the Lib Dem apologists for the Tories!

Amanda said...

It is precisely because it is potentially unfairer than FPTP that I shall be voting for it! After we have had an election with it, it will become only too apparent that we need to reform it further, perhaps to AV+ as a stepping stone to PR (AMS). Another thing to think about is what will means will be used to select a new upper chamber?

modernity said...

good post, I am convinced!

Seth said...

Amanda, that's like voting Tory to not get more Tories, or Hitler to demonstrate how bad the Nazis really are.. Clegg has said it's a one-off vote, or happy to wait another 50 years?

Or is that a joke?

Amanda said...

Voting for an electoral system is not analogous to voting for Nazis. It is a realistic conclusion of the effects of AV (tandem GE studies and Oz experience) and it's shortcomings. We all want a more democratic system and this is the more direct route as I see it for progress to be made. We either keep what we have or change (good or bad). We learn more quickly when we make mistakes.

Michael C said...

""you can't constantly ask people. Referendums have a fairly definitive feel to them...I wouldn't be expecting another one."

If you accept this then why on earth would you vote to endorse the status quo? AV doesn't go as far as most electoral reformers would like, but how does it follow that we should reject any progress at all?

The BNP have made it clear they are opposed to AV. The argument it gives them more influence could not be more bogus. And the Tories are also united behind a NO vote. Why do you think this is?

The British left's uncanny ability to shoot itself in the foot remains alive and well...

Phil said...

You're assuming AV is more progressive, Michael. It clearly isn't. If change was always better than the status quo, the British left would be lining up behind the Tories' crazy plans for the NHS and the public services instead of being at the forefront of opposing them.

And Amanda, I don't buy the 'irresistible momentum for change' argument. The only example I can think of off the top of my head has been the gradual assumption of more powers by the devolved assemblies and Scottish parliament. But that's because of their semi-autonomous political cultures and the social forces present with an interest in wresting more power away from Westminster. There is no such constituency with that level of weight vis a vis the Westminster party system at present who want PR. A vote for AV will "settle" the question as much a vote against will for a generation.

I hate FPTP. But I damned if I'm going to support ditching it for a worse system.

Seth said...

Amanda, we will have to agree to disagree, but IMHO you misunderstand the nature of England - it rolls over, then goes back to sleep.

Amanda said...

A non-vote or paper spoiling might as well be a vote for FPTP. AV does favour the larger parties producing overblown majorities and this will be the pressure cooker for further change. Sitting on the fence on this one will be for the left a missed opportunity to unmask the anti-democratic electoral bias in this AV abomination for indeed we learn more quickly from our errors it is said, and voting for AV will be an institutional demonstration of that. Let it play out and we will have reform. Standing idly by is not an alternative, it is an abnegation of change whether it is for the bad in the short term(AV), or for the long term(FPTP). If the NO campaign win then who will be the winners? What shall the people have gained?

Amanda said...

Fence-sitters of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your indecision. lol

Phil said...

I simply disagree. As a proponent of PR I'm keenly aware of the fact there is no appetite for it out there. Once the referendum is done that will be it for another 20 or 30 years. The left should be there agitating for a more democratic system, but there's no need for us to line up behind a AV to do so.

D Birkin said...

Boffy...u know that we have a bill of rights right?
That was the basis of the American version

Anonymous said...

I felt so lonely and unhappy after the green party of which i am a member voted for a system that will make it harder for small parties (including the green party) to gain representation) and could also exagerate the lead of the most popular party further. Electoral reform is over for a generation which ever way this goes thank clegg for that. av the only system worse than first past the post. complication with out benifit. james?

Amanda said...

Anon:Look at the Greens in Oz.It just calls for adaption but hopefully (and I admit this) til we can agitate for AV+ or AMS based on AV's admitted drawbacks.