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.


The iPad – because Mac loves you back!

There has been hype.  There has been backlash.  And we can’t even buy it yet.  You know there’s no real reason to buy an iPad.  But this is why you want one anyway…By Alice Sage

Now, I’ve not read everything there is to read on this subject.  I have googled.  My thought is this –

Both Martin Cloake and Will Sturgeon on The Media Blog have made the point that the iPad is not quite all that.  Also, that the press coverage of new apple tech is always disproportionate to mac’s sales figures (apparently).

There’s the argument that the iPad will revolutionise ebook readers, thus revolutionising newspapers, books, human literacy itself (plus the fabulous argument that anything by Apple will be revolutionary simply because it always has been).  This is not really news, as ebook readers are yet to make any substantial impact and the web is already important as a main focus for journalism – our news-digesting trends are moving in a digital direction so surely that a better kind of ebook (or at least a more appealing one) seems to be beside the point. Continue reading

Burning down the house – why the election system is structurally unsound

Why change is impossible in modern British politics – not that modern British politicians mind too much.

By our inside man at the Liberal Democrats – Kieran Leach

Year after year or more appropriately decade after decade politicians from all parties bemoan the problems inherent in our political and electoral structure.  We elect a total of 650 members of parliament to the house of commons.  Therefore, in order to hold a majority of seats and automatically form a government a party must hold 326 seats.

In order to hold a majority at the last election the Labour party needed only 35.3% of the vote.  They accomplished this – gaining just 66 more seats than the opposition.  In plain english almost two thirds of the votes cast in 2005 were against the party which was returned to government.  This state of affairs becomes even more plainly ridiculous when you compare the three main parties share of the vote to their share of seats. Continue reading

Observations on Christmas…

A very merry Christmas to all you festive Pickers and Mixers – the time is upon us for goodwill, peace and shocking credit card bills…so here is a note from us girls about our Christmas experience…

The French family Christmas usually consists of a brief, dutiful nod in the direction of church, followed fairly immediately by a controlled stampede towards the Christmas loot.  This only tails off when the dinner bell is sounded and we descend on the table to devour a luncheon banquet of roast beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, parsnips, gravy, a token green vegetable, and a few dozen of those little sausages wrapped in bacon.  I’m cooking this year, heaven help me.  Then those of us who can get away with not walking the dog lie about eyeing the remains and muttering feeble things about washing-up, before opening the traditional bottle of wine and watching seasonal specials on telly until the small hours… Continue reading