On Today this morning the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham was talking about the referendum on changing the voting system. The BBC seem to believe they know the date: 5 May next year with the local elections.
Daniel Kawczynski seems to prefer the current system because he thinks it unfair on him.
You get two votes…
He wants to know why people who vote for minor parties should get two votes to his one. On face value this seems a fair comment: after all they get to vote Monster Raving Loony, then for someone else. However as an argument it is just plain daft.
Let us consider an election under FPTP
Mr Kawczynski 1000 votes
Miss Smith 900 votes
Miss Looney 800 votes
Mr Bob 600 votes
Not an impossible outcome under FPTP in local elections. Now it looks like everyone got one vote in the outcome. However in fact 2300 votes were not counted, and they got no vote. More than twice the number who did get a vote.
This is bad for democracy as Miss Smith next time will try to squeeze Miss Looney and Mr Bob, saying that only Smith can beat Kawczynski here. Those who support Looney might be persuaded into voting for the lesser of two evils out of Smith and Kawczynski rather than the party they support.
Now suppose we had AV. Not a perfect system by any means. Then we’d transfer Mr Bob’s votes:
Mr Kawczynski 1150
Miss Smith 1050
Miss Looney 950
(even split between the three others and deciding not to).
Now it is true that 150 people have no vote now. That is because they chose not to.
They made a choice not to transfer. They haven’t been prevented from voting. Note that all 1000 people who voted for Mr Kawczynski initially find that at this stage have one vote. As do all the people other than the 150 who opted out.
Noone has two votes at this stage.
This goes on until we get to a head to head. At which point the people who voted for the final two still have one vote each in that decision.
… and I don’t
Mr Kawczynski says it is unfair that he, who only ever wants to vote Conservative, has only one vote.
He can chose to not transfer his vote, and that is his democratic right. As it is the democratic right at the moment to spoil a ballot paper or stay at home. It isn’t true to say he has less votes: he has the same vote as everyone else but is chosing not to use it. Just like the current abstainers and ballot spoilers.
I also don’t believe him. I would imagine that he has preferences. Suppose he found himself in a Labour LibDem marginal. Currently he has two options.
- Vote Conservative and get ignored
- Vote for the lesser of two evils.
This is wrong. He should be able to vote Tory to show his true views, but that statement should not disenfranchise him. He still has to be represented by the elected official.
He may not have a strong preference between Labour and LibDem, but suppose he found himself in a seat where the BNP have been fighting Labour. He probably doesn’t want either to win, but most people would want to avoid a BNP councillor. If I faced this situation I’d be worried: I do not support Labour, but could my LibDem vote be better used to stop the BNP?
The fact we have to address that issue and make that decision is anti-democratic.
In fact across the country currently many people have a grim choice: vote for the lesser of two evils (there are very few three/four way marginals) or be uncounted. The fact that despite this the percentage vote for the big two parties has fallen in every election since 1992 (’92 76.3%, ’97 73.9%, ’01 72.4%, ’05 67.6%, ’10 65.1%. In 1979 it was over 80%. It doesn’t look much prettier if you include the third party vote.) and the turnout has fallen to the point where I thought the 65.1% in 2010 was good, from 1945 to 1997 it was never below 70%.
In 2005 more people stayed home than voted to reelect the Labour government. The first time this happened.
This must show that something has gone wrong: I think we are facing a democratic crisis.
69.1% of the vote is the most that a government has had since 1945 but even so that is only about 44% of the voters.
Not that I doubt Mr Kawczynski but…
He has claimed he has had no consituents contact him about the electoral system. I find this hard to believe given the Power 2010 campaign to mobilise people this year. Could it be that he didn’t see the post as it was filtered for a form response by staffers? Or is it really the case that noone in Shrewsbury wanted the change. From people I know who were LibDem candidates I doubt it.
I will be campaigning for a yes vote on May 5, because AV is an important step towards getting a fairer system and trying to unpick the disenchantment that 30%+ of the population have with government and politics.