27 September 2010

It's a race!

This is a very good poster against AV (or rather for FPTP), that Tom Harris posted:

It is rather excellent, highly emotive and plays on our sense of fairness - the idea of a race being won by the first across the line

Only...it's not true, it's a bloody brilliant campaign idea but it's not true, far from it

I've said before, I don't really like AV - but I cannot defend FPTP

I think it should be obvious why the concept is quite wrong but here's a summary

1. Unlike an actual race, the finish line is not fixed - in a race between two candidates, there is a fixed line of 50%, but once it becomes say, four, like in the poster, it becomes a lot lower

Let's say three candidates occupy the centre-right, one occupies the left - the right has a natural advantage in the population, say 65%, but in the election the right vote is split into 15%, 20% and 30% for our three losers - the leftie crosses the line first at 35%, despite being the minority viewpoint - the finish line has been moved, if we want to use images such as this maybe that should be made obvious when less than a third of MPs have a true majority (and a lot less than my made-up 35%, which is usually enough for a win)

2. The metaphor is simply misleading - yes they share a theme of crossing a line, but in an election the distance travelled by a loser is people's votes - win by .1 of a second, great, you're better than the other bloke, win by one vote, then nearly half (or worse, more than half), didn't actually want you and are denied representation - races are about winning, elections are not winner takes all

3. To tactically hold back an opponent is called 'cheating' in a race

and lastly, Tom even defends FPTP being used in the general election, when virtually all other elections, including his own party leadership, use AV or PR

Apparently 'AV is a good system for filling a single position. If Britain had an elected president, for example'

Last time I checked, we did vote for a single position - that of an MP to represent his/her constituency

But he quantifies this brand of logic by saying we elect a government, not individual MPs really

Right...despite that being the primary reason for using FPTP - governments are formed by the relatively tiny swing in seats that can be changed by this system, resulting in a situation where a party with less votes can in fact win, and indeed the reverse happened this year, where the Tories got the biggest majority since 1997 and yet couldn't get enough seats - if you deny the election of single MPs as relevant then you call into question the supposed election of governments on FPTP, Cameron was clearly over the line first...

In fact his argument is a fairly clear one for PR, he openly says

Whether we like it or not, the general public believe that the general election is there to elect a Prime Minister, not your own MP. That’s why we had the televised leaders’ debate (an innovation I opposed, incidentally) – because most people saw May 2010 as a contest among three men to become (or remain) Prime Minister.

So the individual MPs are pointless, and the FPTP system is therefore working against the election of governments - move away from local MP elections and you support PR, or a brazenly unfair national system

This is Labour logic at work, he just wants to keep his safe seat rotten borough, where he believes he is winning a race (forgot to point out the geographical boundaries that have no similarities to a true race) - in reality he's being given a 99m head-start

Unfortunately this will also become Tory logic soon enough

Although AV is pretty crap

*Highlighted by Dizzy

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