Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Refutation/Debunk of yet another #No2AV Blogger... (grass roots labour)

Debunking of argument in original article at Grass Roots Labour

Arguments against AV put together by CLPD’s Secretary
Sunday, 19 December 2010

•    AV benefits the Lib Dems.  It has been estimated by the British election study team at Essex University that under AV the number of Lib Dem MPs would rise from 57 to 89, while the Tories would drop from 307 to 285 and labour from 258 to 248.
If you put tribal party issues above democracy then you may support this argument, but if you support democracy and think parties should be accountable then this is no argument at all. 

•    The only countries using AV are Australia, Fiji and the Pacific island of Nauru (The Papua New Guineans dropped it and the Fijians are having their doubts).
I have never been a fan of 'follow the crowd' just because it is a crowd (think lemmings) its the end of any progress at all - again maybe this argument suits tribal party supporters. However, of these examples only Australia is comparable - and they are doing pretty well on it.

•    AV makes coalition governments much more likely.  The Lib Dems will be the kingmakers – they are as likely to go with the Tories as with Labour.  “AV opens the door to a new political world in which coalitions become the norm, and single-party majority government a distant memory.  Defeat for AV could quickly end the Coalition Government.  But success would bind it together – for a long time to come” Vernon Bogdanor, Cameron’s tutor at Oxford.
This claim for more coalitions, quite simply, isn't supported by the evidence! Canada use FPFP and have had dozens of hung parliaments, Australia uses AV an has had even fewer than the UK.

•    AV does not take account of the second preferences of all voters, only those of the least successful candidates.  This was a point made about AV by Winston Churchill in 1931 – “The decision is to be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates”.  In other words, an MP’s success could be determined by the preferences of UKIP or BNP voters.  This situation could therefore well lead to the major parties adjusting their policies, for example on immigration, in order to appeal to the prejudices of these voters in the hope of picking up their transferred preferences.
This could only have been written by a party tribalist - most people don't support one candidate 100% and support the others 0%. All candidates are a compromise - with good and bad points. Someone who votes BNP may well be a labour supporter who just wants stricter immigration controls. A supporter of any party may vote UKIP if they don't like being goverened from Brussels.

•    There are many more spoilt ballot papers under AV.
Is this just made up? If true, then you need to look at why they are spoilt before making any decision based on it... Its not against the law to spoil a ballot paper if you want to!

•    AV will not make politics more open and honourable.  After a general election we would see unseemly horse trading between parties, with manifesto promises and campaign commitments being jettisoned.
Again was this just made up? What is the evidence for this statement? The current UK coalition parties have acted as described here - but this is under FPTP! If anything this is an argument against FPTP...

•    AV may not produce a more proportional result than FPTP.  For example under AV in Alberta Canada, one party obtained 90% of the seats on 54% of the vote.
Like FPTP, AV isn't a proportional system, so it doesn't make sense to criticise it for not being proportional! - if proportional representation (PR) is important to you then it would be very simple to switch from AV to AV+ (which is a proportional version of AV) once AV is introduced.

•    AV has been described as an “anti-incumbent” system, which accelerates trends.
Yes and?

•    Under AV tactical voting becomes part of the electoral architecture.  AV encourages tactical voting in a structured and formalised way.
No. Tactical voting means voting for someone other than your favourite candidate to (hopefully) stop an even worse candidate getting in. Under AV you just vote honestly... nothing tactical about it... you will get the best candidate possible from your preferences. There is no 'tactical' voting under AV.

•    If you live in a constituency where Labour is in third place, your vote for Labour is totally disregarded and has no effect concerning Labour.  It becomes a full-value vote for the Lib Dems if you transfer to them.
How is this a bad thing? If your first choice can't win then you still get a choice of which of the others wins without tactical voting! Vote Labour (even if they have no chance), show your support save their deposit! Then give your next preference to the candidates in the order you prefer them.

•    It is possible for a more weakly preferred candidate to end up winning.  AV would quite often produce Lib Dem victories in constituencies that are either primarily Labour or primarily Tory.
I don't know what 'weakly preferred' means here. To win under AV you need 50% of the votes - how is that 'weakly preferred' ?

•    “AV led to a significant drop in the number of people voting in Australia – that’s why they had to make voting compulsory.  AV doesn’t help democracy, it stands in its way”.  Margaret Beckett.
Sorry, but this was just a lie - voting in Australia was declining before AV was introduced, AV actually gave it a bit of a boost.


  1. Hi Paul - thanks for the blog comment earlier :) This is the post that brought me back to the subject of AV (I can't seem to stay away!). The majority I agree with, a lot of the anti-AV arguments don't hold up - however I'd argue that AV is just as tactical, only in a different way to FPTP. I'm Conservative (well, somebody has to be!) and don't care (putting it mildly) for Labour or the LibDems - however, were the BNP to stand I'd consider ranking them both as a way to vote against the BNP. Yes, I still get to vote Conservative for my 1st choice, but I couldn't care less how I rank the others ;-)

    It's not that I'm more for FPTP, I just like worst-case scenarios for each system - I'm in IT and we always think of the worst!

  2. Phil, you present a valid issue (at last someone does!! :) )

    If people really don't care between a number of lower options, but want to rank them so they can put someone *last* what would really happen?

    If they all 'happened' to put their "don't really cares" in the same order, it could potentially give a result as if a lot of people really do care between those lower order prefs...

    The questions are then:

    - would this really happen and influence a result?
    - If not then meh.

    - But if it could/would then is it a worse side-effect than FPTPs' side effects?

    - If so can it be mitigated to the extend that it doesn't?

    I'll think on it - do you have any thoughts already?

  3. p.s. My first thought is that I'd suspect this is unlikely to matter, because it is only lower order prefs - which are very unlikely to be counted - would have to still be in after higher pref went out etc... But will ponder further.

  4. I have to admit that though I believe quite a few people could vote this way, I'm not convinced it's a scenario that would be likely to influence the result.

    I suppose if I was a voter who disliked all politicians - the "they're all as bad as each other" argument - and the "extremist" was added to the available candidates, I could decide to vote against the extremist by voting for everyone else - "Conservative", "Labour" and then "Liberal" just because that's the order they're listed. However it would still need to be a tight race and have a large enough number of similarly-minded voters - again, not convinced this is likely.

    I believe in some parts of Australia they mitigate any potential unfairness by shuffling the order of candidates between batches of ballot papers.

    Also (!), as you point out, this doesn't get away from FPTP's side effects. So I dare say I will be pondering also!