AV: Whose Side Are You On?

This post was written by Salman Shaheen on April 19, 2011
Posted Under: Democracy,Green Party,GreenFeed

On the same day that David Cameron and arch-Blairite former Home Secretary, John Reid, shared a platform to denounce AV, the Evening Standard came out against voting reform, patronising the electorate by basing its flimsy argument on the crazy notion that AV is so much harder to understand. I wonder what’s so hard to understand about ranking candidates in order of preference. Most semi-intelligent people have learnt how to count to five by the time they reach 18. Then again, perhaps the Tories implicitly accept that right wing voters are inherently stupid and that’s why they’re so scared of electoral reform. It might also explain why the BNP are equally opposed to AV.

Meanwhile, with a few honourable exceptions, the Greens are out in force campaigning for AV. As Waveney Councillor Graham Elliott reports:

In Waveney I know several people who voted for their THIRD choice candidate in the 2010 general election in an attempt to keep the Conservatives out. They knew their first choice (Green) would not win and they also knew that the Lib Dems (their second choice) were weak in Waveney and the contest was really a two-horse race between Labour and the Conservatives. They therefore voted Labour which was their third choice. Under AV they would have been able to vote 1 for Green, 2 for Lib Dem and 3 for Labour with no increased risk of letting the Tories in. This is just one specific example to illustrate why the current system doesn’t work. Far too many people vote to keep a party out rather than vote for they believe in. AV will allow a more honest expression of voters values.

From my time campaigning with Elliott, back when I used to live in Suffolk, I’ve come to realise that he’s one of those people whom if they’re on your side, you’re probably on the right one. And if it’s a choice between the Greens, Ed Miliband and the Lib Dems vs. The Tories, John Reid, Nick Griffin and the Evening Standard, I think it becomes clear which side has the moral highground.

Of course, as Reid’s appearance with Cameron shows, the debate does cross party lines. But, increasingly it seems, it is running along ideological ones. With a few obvious exceptions, the left are falling behind AV and the right are coming out against it. No one wants to have Nick Clegg on their team, I admit, he’s the spotty fat geek with asthma we got lumbered with because nobody picked him. But set him aside for now. The referendum isn’t about kicking Clegg – we can wedgie him in the changing rooms come the next election – this is about setting the direction of our democracy.

We can go forward or we can stand still forever. It’s time for those on the left who, for whatever genuine and principled reasons they have, have come out against AV, to look around them and see who’s playing for their team and what their agenda is. It’s time for them to ask themselves, whose side are they on?

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Reader Comments

The most depressing thing about the Yes campaign is this ridiculous idea that there is value in voting for who you actually want. The counterpoint to this is a reduced chance that who you actually want will get in. I would much rather have some tactical voting and a chance at a few seats, than ridding the system of tactical voting and having no chance whatsoever.

Written By Jacob on April 19th, 2011 @ 1:26 pm
Richard T

As you say, there’s no need to even think about the merits of AV when you see the opponents – such luminaries of the democratic spirit as Margaret Beckett, Prescott, Reid, Straw and the Tories.

Written By Richard T on April 19th, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

Jacob, the most depressing thing about first past the post is that people are afraid of voting for who they actually want. Tactical voting is a stain on our democracy, entrenching a banal two-party system. AV is a far from perfect solution to this, but it is important to break the mould. For all practical purposes, it will not make a huge amount of difference, though the Greens believe it will put them in a better position to win more seats. But the important point is that if AV fails, arguments for PR will be crushed even more swiftly. If the left votes against AV because it’s not everything they want, it will have handed the Tories and the enemies of genuine democratic reform an easy victory.

Written By Salman Shaheen on April 19th, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

“if it’s a choice between the Greens, Ed Miliband and the Lib Dems vs. The Tories, John Reid, Nick Griffin and the Evening Standard, I think it becomes clear which side has the moral highground.”

Ridiculous line of argument. What if the BNP supported AV? Would you vote no?

The idea that leftwing opponents of AV are “on the same team” as the Tories is as ridiculous as if I were to say left-wing supporters of AV are “on the same team” as Clegg. Which is why I find the use of the phrase “whose side are you on?”, with its labour movement connotations of scabbing etc, pretty distateful in this case.

Written By EddM on April 19th, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

I’m not accusing anyone of crossing the picket lines, the point (admittedly made fairly facetiously) is where the ideological lines are tending to be drawn. The No camp is dominated by the right. I’ve accepted that lefties have some valid and principled reasons for opposing AV, but what I think people need to do is look at why so many on the right are opposed to AV and question what their agenda is. I’m not going to call you a scab if you vote no, Edd, but I do find it disheartening that some on the left would rather stick with the terrible system we have and pass up the only opportunity we may ever see for electoral reform. If this vote fails, PR will be dead. If it succeeds, we have a chance for something better.

Written By Salman Shaheen on April 20th, 2011 @ 10:28 am

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