Yes to AV

As will be obvious from the garish purple affinity banner that has been populating one of the sidebars of this blog for the last couple of weeks or so, I’m supporting the proposals to change the election system in the UK to the Alternative Vote system.

For Episcopalians, it should not be too hard to understand, its a bit like a run off election, which is how we elect bishops. In an episcopal election in Scotland, you have various rounds of voting and after each round of voting you gossip and pray and one candidate is removed, until you get someone who has reached a pre-agreed threshold. The gossip and prayer is done presumably because we think that the Holy Spirit (or possible the Holy Spirit of commonsense) might be involved and move our hearts to change our votes through the process. Its easy to understand and if you are not an Episcopalian, its just like the voting system in X-Factor. You even get the gossip and the prayer in that one too.

The Alternative Vote is a bit like that though you don’t get the gossip and prayer and you don’t get voting rounds, you get counting rounds. So, you get to rank the candidates according to preference and at the count, the totals of first preference are tallied up. If someone reaches the threshold of 50% of the votes they are elected. If not, you take the pile of votes for the bishop candidate with the lowest number of votes and redistribute them to the other candidates. Then you see if anyone has over 50% and if not you repeat until you have a winner and the white smoke goes up.

People have so many reasons for the way they vote and they are often not really consistent with simply voting for a candidate because one likes their policies.

I was asked by someone the other day for example, how to vote in their part of the world to keep the SNP out of government. My answer was that in their constituency the main fight was between the SNP and Labour so voting Labour made sense but that Labour stood little chance of winning on the party list so the second vote should go to whatever he fancied out of the Tories, Lib Dems and Greens. Thus it makes complete sense for someone in that position to vote Labour on the constituency paper and Tory on the regional list paper.

Now, AV is not being proposed for the Scottish Parliamentary elections so you might argue that the example above is a bit of a red herring. It also wouldn’t entirely eliminate tactical voting either. However, it would allow people to rank their preferences (or prejudices) when voting and I think that’s a good thing.

I’d like a more proportional system myself, such as the one by which we elect Scottish Councils – the Single Transferable Vote. However, that’s not on offer, and I see AV as a step in the right direction.

I am incidentally, unimpressed with the rhetoric of both the No and the Yes campaigns in this referendum. I’m particularly unimpressed by the constant message of the Yes campaign that we need AV in order to make MPs work harder. I don’t like the slur that is underlying that assertion and think it pours unnecessary slurry on the political landscape.

I don’t think I’ve ever had an MP whom I did not believe to be hard working. They haven’t necessarily done what I wanted or prioritised what I would have prioritised but they have certainly put the hours in. Indeed, most have seemed driven by their work in a way that I kind of recognise as very familiar.

Oh, and another thing – some folk say that they don’t want AV because it will make coalitions more likely. Well, I like the idea of coalition government. I’m just not impressed with the ideas of this coalition government very much. And if you want to get an idea of how I will be casting my other votes tomorrow, I’ll put up  on the blog something about that later in the day.

Stay tuned.