One thing the No2AV Campaign Against Democracy (principal funders the Taxpayers’ Allowance, political parties in favour – Tories, DUP and BNP) keep saying about the upcoming Fair Votes referendum is that ‘nobody really wants’ AV.
Now, like all myths, there is a tiny grain of truth here, in that some supporters of a Yes vote in the referendum would prefer a different system. The Greens would prefer AMS, the Lib Dems STV (AV with multi-member seats), some of Labour AV+ (AV with a top-up) and so on.
Of course, there are also plenty of people in the campaign – probably a plurality – who prefer AV to all other systems. But even ignoring that, let’s assume that *all* the people in the campaign prefer a different system.
If that’s ‘not really wanting’ AV then I’d love to be the No2AV people’s boss:
Boss Ah, Noddy, do come in. I’ve asked you to come and talk with me about your next pay-rise
Noddy No-Vote Wow! Great!
Boss Yes. What would you say if I asked you if you’d like a ten thousand pound raise?
Noddy I’d say yes, obviously! That’s fantastic!
Boss Ah. Oh dear. That’s a shame.
Boss Well, you see, you said you’d like a ten thousand pound raise. But I’ve only got five thousand pounds to offer you. Unfortunately, if you want a ten thousand pound raise, you can’t really want a five thousand pound raise. That leaves you with the only other option, which is a punch in the teeth.
Noddy That is entirely logical and fair.
Boss punches Noddy very hard in the mouth
Noddy Thank you, that is much better than giving me something I didn’t really want.
Of course, this is the basic difference between supporters of the status quo and those of us who want a more democratic system. First Past The Post, the current system, gives a plurality (sometimes as low as 17% of registered voters) exactly what they say they really want (assuming none of them are lying, or ‘tactical voting’ as it’s known), and the rest get absolutely nothing. It’s not surprising, then, that the people supporting it are unable to understand nuance, and degrees of preference. (This is, after all, a campaign whose supporters are Tories, fundamentalists, fascists, and a handful of New Labour dinosaurs like Blunkett).
AV, on the other hand, finds a compromise that’s acceptable to as many people as possible – not everyone gets their first choice, but most people will work out happier than they otherwise would. It’s not surprising that the people supporting AV would be flexible and work together for a goal that might not be everyone’s favourite system but is a hell of a lot better than what we’ve got now. The whole point of AV is that a lot of people getting something they can be happy with is better than a small number getting something they love while the rest lose out.
It might not be my very favourite system, but I wouldn’t be giving up weekends to go and stand in the wind and rain to try to persuade people to vote for it if I didn’t actually want it. It might not be my all-time dream favourite best thing ever, but the choice between AV and FPTP *is* as simple and clear-cut a choice as between a five grand pay-rise and a punch in the mouth. I know which one of those I’d vote for, how about you?
We have three upcoming street stalls in Manchester, incidentally. All are on Saturdays, between 11AM and 2PM:
Saturday 19th February, Saturday 19th March and Saturday 16th April in St Ann’s Square. I’ll be there – feel free to come along and help out.
For those who don’t fully understand AV, I explained it here.