Sunday, 20 February 2011

The fanatical supporters of electoral reform think we're stupid

OK, that's it.

In response to the ever increasing misinformation about AV from the 'Yes' campaign, I have deemed it necessary to start holding them to account.

Where better to start then today's article by Andrew Rawnsley

He starts his monologue by telling us about his support for AV before even mentioning it, by saying that the election of Tony in '97 and Margaret in '87 were unstoppable whirlwinds (as I am sure he knows AV would have only have made any opposition to these even more futile, so he is getting those out of the way early).

He then goes on to tell us his geek credentials even going so far as saying "debating the pros and cons of different electoral systems can be better than sex".

So are we clear now guys? This guy loves electoral systems, while we're all away making hay, he is straw counting.
Of course we can trust his wisdom then surely? He must know these systems and politics in general, inside and out!

Well, let's see.

He starts off by saying all the 'No' side of the debate are doing are negative he says "[Nick Clegg] attributed the parliamentary expenses scandal to..first past the post.." and lists Nick Clegg's mentioning of all number of scandals that have nothing to do with FPTP..and while he admits "I'm sceptical that AV is the miracle cure which will purge us of every lazy, disconnected or corrupt MP" he doesn't consider THAT negative campaigning.

OK, now let's get down to this 'better-than-sex' self proclaimed nerd's understanding (or supposed understanding) of the systems involved.

1."It will be a worthwhile improvement if MPs have to gather some form of support from at least half of the voters" Indeed it would..this is not AV though is according to the London School of Economics and Political Science " more than 4 out of every 10 MPs would still be elected with the endorsement of less than 50% of the voters" (Rallings and Thrasher).

Not a good start and for those of you that will say "at the moment we have 6 out of 10" ...Yes, we do...but that is only looking at an X. I'm sure if you use your noggin you can see that under AV many people that won with FPTP would have been pushed over the line with second preferences anyway.
Not so much them gaining extra support, but just adding on the support that is already there.

2."The parties will be impelled to engage with more parts of the country than just a minority of marginals"
The same amount of seats have been singled out to be marginals under AV as FPTP..he knows this, he also knows that no political party will spend money preaching to the choir when the unconverted are next door.
This will happen under any electoral system.

3. "it will pay MPs to connect with more parts of their constituencies."
This is linked to '1' i guess. However an interesting point is that you would not want to convert too many of your rivals if the party in third place is more open to you. Otherwise your rivals will become third and you won't get any 'alternative votes from them'. Best not court those under AV.. wouldn't want having more supporters to make you lose now would we.

4."[David Cameron] contended that "hung parliaments will become commonplace" which will lead to more "haggling" and "stitch-ups".

Being a clever chap, who studied electoral systems at Oxford, he knows this is disingenuous"

Studies by many institutions have shown that hung parliaments in the UK will be more likely under AV. Yes, people will point at Australia "They have only had ONE hung parliament" ..Yes and for a system where 96% of the seats went to two partys last election, that is hardly surprising.
However we do not have a two party system otherwise the fptp system wouldn't be a problem.

5. Well this is an interesting one, because it seems to go against what we have just heard from him.
" AV will, at most elections, distribute seats a little more fairly than first past the post" well..surely then as the Liberal Democrats got 23% of the vote but only 8.8% a fairer system would lead them to have more seats and thus a hung parliament. ..but no "but AV is not a proportional system. It is a majoritarian system" nice twist.

Remember that PR fans, maybe the FPTP squad don't like PR, but nor do the AV club.

6."Well, let us accept that numbering candidates 1, 2, 3 does require a slightly more advanced level of numeracy than simply making a cross. I think Britain will cope." Yes, that's right. paint everyone who doesn't understand AV as stupid by suggesting it is that simple. "Can't you see the Emperor's clothes?! What's wrong with you!"

The long and short of it is yes, marking out a preferential ballot is easy. Explaining why a candidate can still win under AV when they have less first, less second, less third and less forth etc preferences than others is a little bit trickier.

unless of course we are suggesting that people shouldn't have to know what happens to their ballot? We should just say, "Fill this out and don't worry your pretty little heads about it, we nerds will fix it"
There are literally dozens of different preferential systems that all require the same data and a lot will produce conflicting results so of course they have the right to know what it is they are saying will make things 'fairer'.

7. Then another good one.
"Had they used first past the post in their last contest, the leader of the Tory party would not be David Cameron. It would be David Davis."
Wow. This is where I take away your nerd badge.
The MPs pick two candidates out of the total list, the two candidates with the most votes go to postal ballots. The most ballots declared wins.
Now considering he was in the top two candidates in the first round of voting (these are real rounds BTW where everyone can decide on their vote again ;) ) he still would have been selected to the postal ballot stage and as the postal ballots elected him with almost 68% of the vote I can't see that changing.

What a bad argument. Either an outright attempt at misinformation..or he doesn't understand the leadership process for the Conservatives, which means MAYBE he shouldn't be telling us what it would and would not do

8. "The prime minister is surely not suggesting that the fine people of Britain have a lower collective IQ than our friends in the Antipodes?"
No, but considering you have made so many mistakes, it isn't that unlikely that non-'nerds' will not quite get it right either.

9."Whether or not they know it, many millions of Britons already have extensive experience of using preferential selection because they have been regular voters in Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor."

Preferential selection doesn't mean AV.

Imagine for instance, those shows mentioned about but with AV.
Week one, everyone is excited. All the contestants turn up. They all do their thing, some well, some not so well. Everyone votes.

"And the winner is X!" End of the series.. "What what what?" You will cry (and a significant part of the population would shout "Woo Hoo!" too I'd imagine).

And here is the kicker, the decision is not made on who you like the most, but deciding who out of all these people you have only just heard from is the best, in order, while trying to balance up what you might have missed (while having a coffee perhaps).

AV, is not Exhaustive Run off voting, which is what those shows are. At any one point they are asking you to vote for ONE person.
  Even then, are we all happy that the right people win those shows? Huh

The No campaign are not saying you are stupid people. They are saying the system is a lot more complicated than now, often produces unfair results and offers minority party voters more say than others.


  1. So you demean negative campaigning by initiating a character assassination and childish mocking of the author. I think you will find that Andrew Rawnsley has been doing this a lot longer than you. It appears that you only got into blogging to discredit the yes2av vote, hence the fact that your archive only goes back to Jan '11, and every single entry is a slap at AV. Not very impartial that. I'd call it an 'agenda'

  2. So give us some positive arguments in favour of FPTP then, if you think it's so great.

    It really won't do to keep harping on about how AV is not such a perfect system, it's not proportional, and it won't make much difference. Unfortunately, it's the only alternative that the electorate are being offered, and it's a slight improvement over FPTP because FPTP really only works when there are only two candidates. If you have more than two viable candidates then you need to account for the fact that two of them might be similar. FPTP fails here because similar candidates can split the vote of the electorate letting in a lesser liked candidate to win. Hence we need to use preferential voting.

    Plus, some fairly unpopular politicians are trotting out all kinds of FUD and disinformation and downright lies about how voting Yes to AV would mean the end of parliamentary democracy as we know it, which to me is the best possible argument in favour of AV. They don't like it up 'em, do they?

  3. Colin, I note you do not disagree with any particular point.
    The author wasn't attacked. Yes he has been doing this a lot linger than why is he making such mistakes?
    I wrote this to try and redress a tiny proportion of the damage done by his misinformation.

    This is my AV referendum blog.

  4. Mark, its not that I think AV is less than perfect, I think that it is crap. I am a fan of preferential systems just not AV.

    My point here like I have said, is to redress misinformation. I have suggested many advantages to Fptp in previous posts

  5. You seem to be arguing that AV is better than FPTP, just not as much better as some would have us believe...?

  6. ..I didn't think one of the replies I made were pro AV, but whatever you want to read out of it.

    Just seems to me that this guy commands the repect of a lot of people on his subject. He shouldn't be telling porkies or twisting the truth.