AV and the politics of half measures – the compromise of the Liberal Sympathiser

Apparently the May 5th AV referendum is a complete yawn-fest – everyone is saying it.  But are we losing out by ignoring our big moment?

The reformist argument for not voting AV seems to be: “If I don’t vote for AV the government will know I’m doing this in protest, because I wanted proportional representation“.  Well, the world is a crazy place and simple choices are sometimes simpler than they look.  I voted Lib Dem and I got a Lib Dem government.  I just got a Tory government as well.  Likewise I wanted proportional representation but what I am being offered is AV.

Firstly, what is this AV / FPTP malarkey?

Just as I can only understand the off-side rule when it is explained to me by a childhood friend using shoeboxes and a shopping analogy, the current system FTPT (First Past The Post)  is best summed up by a simple metaphor:

At the moment we have this system – and it means that a candidate very few people vote for can still win, as long as the majority of votes are spread across the other candidates – even if those other candidates are very different to the one that wins…

In the above example you can substitute Left Wing and Right Wing, or Pro-A-Thing-We-All-Like and Anti-A-Thing-We-All-Like for Pubs and Coffee.

The AV system is essentially run by getting us to pick our top-three favourites out of a longer list than we are used to (I think..) and picking the guy that gets the most votes – whether they be someones first, second, or third choice.  At least it would be genuinely someone the majority of us liked.


I vote for A, B and C

You vote for X, Y and B

Someone else votes for B, Y and A

We all agreed that we liked B so B wins

I know we wanted PR, but what’s wrong with a step in the right direction?

AV has nothing to do with Proportional Representation – which is to do with how we are categorised rather than how we vote:

Currently your vote is added to all the votes in your area and then your area counts as ‘one’ (you and your ten neighbours’ votes in, say, the outer Hebrides counts as ‘one’, my and my several million neighbours in South East London’s votes count as ‘one’).

Proportional Representation would count votes individually (your vote counts as ‘one’, your mum’s vote counts as ‘one’…etc)

AV is one thing, Proportional Representation is another.  You could have one, the other, or both at the same time.

From the word go this referendum has been derided as incomprehensible, pointless and yawn-worthy.  Why? We asked for voting reforms and now we have the chance to have voting reforms.  Why aren’t we jumping for joy?

Yes AV is different from PR, no it isn’t all that more complicated than the current system, and if we turn down the first referendum of any kind in 35 years we may never get a second chance.

The gift-horse and the mouth…

We have to eat what we’re given (as it were) and if AV is all we are being offered then why not  say thank you and vote it in.  After all, if you ask for a pay rise and get a bonus instead, you don’t turn down the bonus just to make a point.  Your boss might argue that they tried to meet you half way but you weren’t interested.

In other words, we asked for voting reforms – and the government are offering voting reforms. Not voting will be a sign that voting reforms are no longer worth talking about.

It’s going to take a very long time for anyone to get anything near exactly what they want (the coalition being a great dying dinosaur of a case in point) but then, that’s Democracy folks!  Whether you vote yes or not, it’s a vote worth having.


King of the Pirates – Radio Caroline is Forty-Seven (but still fit)!

From the golden age of the offshore pirate radio, Radio Caroline is running a special Easter line-up of old and new music – with the presenters that started it all – to celebrate their forty-seventh anniversary.

In the 60s we were miles behind America in showcasing the spectacular music explosion that was happening in our country, and across the pond. All we had was the BBC and the only modern music broadcast in Britain was a brief spot on The Light Programme. Continue reading

Sketch a laugh at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

One week of the festival left to enjoy – Here is what’s good to see!  Don’t forget these guys will all come to London once the tourists leave Scotland . . . By Alice Sage

You can burn out on any kind of show.  A good sketch show draws you in and keeps you hooked with quick changes, sharp writing and energy.  However, it can be distancing for an audience to sit and watch scenes acted out on stage.  It’s too much like TV. Stand up comedy, on the other hand, is literally in-your-face and very hard to ignore – even if it’s truly awful (especially if it’s truly awful).  Either way it’s a good plan to chop and change between the different styles on offer.  It is barely worth paying big money for a show and unless you booked a month ago you won’t be able to!  So here is my choice for (under a tenner) cheapo shows… Continue reading

Joni Mitchell memories from a folkskeptic fan

To celebrate Joni Mitchell week on the furiously folky ForFolksSakeAlice Sage gives her heartfelt reasons why Mitchell’s music rules ok.

– Featured on ForFolksSake here!

When I was fourteen I bought a copy of Song To A Seagull for my mum’s birthday.   Continue reading

Weird and wonderful – Twin Peaks is back in Britain on DVD!

Today, after a twenty year void, Twin Peaks is finally released on DVD in the UK.  If you are not excited, you should be!  So says Alice Sage

Diane, I'm gonna buy a boxset Gold Edition of Twin Peaks. It's been ten years since my last coffee - how's Annie?

Yes folks, to mark it’s twentieth anniversary, the mind-altering blueprint of freaky TV goes on sale today, for the first time in the UK on DVD.

Twin Peaks is David Lynch‘s most successful attempt at cogent storytelling – not that the plot is its main selling point.  Like all David Lynch‘s works this skirts around a story, eschews anything resembling realism and looks like it was made by ten or twelve enthusiastic horror fans while the real director went for lunch.  Don’t let that put you off.  I’m no fan of David Lynch, but something about Twin Peaks makes all those detractions seem like perfectly balanced, creepy geniusContinue reading

Ways to waste time #2 – Twitter wants you!

A guide to Twitter for the unconvinced beginner.  By Alice Sage

Do you find yourself muttering things like “oh look, Countdown is on” or “I think I’ll have a biscuit” or generally talking out loud when no one is around?  Then Twitter is for you.  The ranting crazy lady of social networking, Twitter is basically a neat kind of socially-acceptable thinking-out-loud.

Click to go to Twitter

If your friends use Twitter, then getting started is a no-brainer.  Setting up an account is easy, as it is a simple case of picking a name, password and profile pic.  Personalising your page is annoying but doable and really not that necessary.  I spent a coupleof hours fitting a good photo for the background of my page, which now just gets on my nerves.  However, if you don’t have lots of friends on Twitter then having fun with it takes a bit more forward planning. Continue reading

Ways to waste time – best of the blogs

If you are thinking of wasting some precious time online, non-Twitterers, do it here.  The Editor’s top arty and news-based blogs for the discerning procrastinator…By Alice Sage

Not everyone spends all day religiously keeping up with blogs, Twitter, RSS feeds and Facebook updates (I do.  Yay me) – but you are online right now, and obviously not busy, so why not see what else is out there!

Four arty-types:

Comics, jokes, diaries and doodles – the pretty blogs I love best… Continue reading