13 October 2010

All Must Win Prizes?

I've just been reading Policy Exchange's report on the AV system (that's the Cameron-favoured think-tank)

Now, I agree AV is a pile of manure, but the report is full of pro-FPTP bias and patronising statements regarding reformers, have a full read here

As I said, and have already outlined, AV is a crock, and broadly their analysis of that system is correct - AV is just FPTP with a 50% threshold, any chump can see that - but it's the subtle digs at any other form of voting (MMP, STV, PR etc) and assumed fairness of FPTP that I take offence with

The concept of wasted votes, and safe seats, are brushed aside for the airy belief that MPs are fairly elected to represent us, and that a proportional system is the 'all must have prizes' system - this very statement is evidence of the inherent bias present before the report was even written, it's a belittling comment that one expects to hear about a primary school sports day where everyone gets a medal

To use it in reference to an electoral system is at best crude, and at worst plainly offensive

Is STV or another proportional system 'all must win prizes'? No - the concept is solely that for every vote you receive, you gain a proportion of a seat - every vote counts, if you get 10% of the vote, you get 10% of the seats

Is that really a patronising, egalitarian idea? The concept is not that the Greens are given equal footing with the Tories or Labour, but that if they can get a decent share of the popular vote, they are represented - the Tories get 40%, they get 40%

And note 'decent' - a proposed benchmark at 5% would see very few minority parties win a 'prize', but supported nationally by at least a million people (that's based on a low turnout)

Nothing vindicates this more than the Lib Dems - in the present three party system say they were to receive 20% in every single seat - they could potentially win none - that's 20% of the population missing out, or about 5-6 million voters, in actuality they got 23% of the popular vote, seven million, and 8.5% of the seats so I balanced it a bit

There is little defence for this anomaly, it's certainly not a patronising 'all win prizes' system, but one that recognises every vote, which is something people do note, otherwise they wouldn't even count the national shares - the only true argument against it is the local one, hence the defence of constituency MPs

That is where we move into the ideological and opinion-based concepts of elections - whether or not it is important, and fair to elect one person in a winner-takes all election in a small geographical region

For my money, and as I've said before, there's nothing wrong in principle with that system - but it's no longer reflective of modern society - we look at the national picture in elections, we have leaders' debates, MPs have virtually no freedom from the party, bizarrely even defenders of our antiquated system say we elect governments, therefore smashing a defence of constituency-based FPTP

If you are electing one person for one role (say, a mayor) then FPTP, or it's 50% threshold brother, AV, works, but we have taken this individual aspect away from Parliament so now that the main parties benefit on a national scale from traditional local voting patterns

If you are looking at a national party, and a government, not an individual MP, then the case for FPTP is dead, and I think you'll struggle to find many who don't vote on the 'national' level, therefore I feel that we need a fairer national system, and that's why I formed my subjective opinion, look at the broad picture and decide what is fairest, there's no 'true' answer - but I didn't feel it necessary to belittle my opponents with patronising phrases

In short we already have the result of a PR system, just without the fairest aspect of it, as far as I see

This article was biased from the start, and picked on the easy target of AV to belittle all reform - expect more of these tactics from both the Conservatives and their various supporters and think-tanks for the next nine months

And yet I have decided to vote NO on AV - the reason I didn't bother fully fisking the report was because I agree AV is wrong, for most of the reasons outlined, and I don't want to settle on a weak system, believing politically it's better if the Tories actually win, but disagreed with their obvious bias and patronising attitude towards reform

Personally I want to see a system that retains a direct election, thereby preventing ultimate safe seats like the EU Parliament system, but that is also proportional - stopping situations like in East Anglia, where there are two main parties and one just happens to lose 48 times out of 52, mostly on slim majorities, thanks to the boundaries - I think a multiple constituency system, possibly even based on FPTP, that brings in the most popular candidate(s) from hard-done by parties would be fairest. This 'FPTP+' system I have created would see slightly enlarged constituencies, grouped together returning those who win each seat, and the best runner-ups, representing the share of the vote and keeping direct elections, removing the need for a dreaded list system

In my example, this would see the Lib Dems move from about 7% of the seats based on over 25% of the vote, to about 15 seats, while the Tories would go down from a ridiculous 92% of seats to a more realistic level (forgive me, limited time, and I'm basing this on memory - they were rather close overall, and clearly nobody got near 92% of any popular vote)

And I also have to ask, Policy Exchange is fully staffed and has many professionals working for it, this was written by 'Director of Research' Natalie Evans and edited and proof-read - why then was a relatively short document (no more than 10,000 words) riddled with fairly obvious typos? I'm writing this in half an hour, for free...how many did I make?

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