Monday, 2 May 2011

The eggs have it

On Thursday in a rare referendum, UK voters will be asked if they want to change the existing voting system for MPs. The resounding NO that's being currently predicted is doubtless due to a serious image problem.

The choice is between First Past The Post (FPTP) and the Alternative Vote (AV). Unfortunately these conjure up very different pictures.

First Past The Post suggests an amusingly amateurish egg and spoon race, in which the gorgeous Tessa, 17½, crosses the finishing line first amid cries of "Hip Hip Hooray, it's Tessa's Day!" There's a smile on everyone's face as they congratulate Tessa and tuck into jam scones and a nice cup of tea.

AV on the other hand suggests a horrible disease, linked to some grim industrial compound, involving a long lingering death in which appalling pain is unrelieved by massive cocktails of powerful drugs, and the victim dies in agony cursing human existence, God and voting systems.

Those valiant souls trying desperately to sell AV to a suspicious public are up against this unappetising image and are having an uphill struggle to convert people from the status quo. They're quite happy with the egg and spoon race and the glorious Tessa, so why would they want a nasty disease instead?

Sad really, because AV makes a lot of sense. If the first count doesn't produce a winner with a majority of the total votes cast, people's second preferences are added in until someone gets a majority.

Under First Past The Post, you can win straight off with a minority of the vote, even if a majority of voters would prefer someone else. How can that be fair?

12 comments:

Rummuser said...

If the UK votes for the AV and it is implemented, there will be an immediate demand in India for the same. We too follow the FPP system which is horrendous in its outcomes. I hope that the AVs get it.

Nick said...

Ramana - It doesn't look too hopeful right now. The NO crowd are making out we'll need colossally expensive machines to count the AV-style votes. So how come Australia uses AV without any machines?

kylie said...

i could not for the life of me think what we call it here and couldnt comment till i did!

preferential voting

when i learned about it in school i thought it was horribly complicated and wished i lived in england so i only had to understand first past the post.

what a reason to live in the UK!

Wisewebwoman said...

We also have the FPP system Nick and are in the throes of a general election today in which FPP will probably gift us yet again with the smarmy fundie corporocrat anti-women Stephen Harper.
How I wish for AV to sort all that for democracy's sake!
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Kylie - Preferential voting is what we call proportional representation, in other words systems where you number the candidates in order of preference.

As the man said, if you can understand the voting in X Factor, you can understand AV.

Nick said...

W3 - How can it be right that someone can be elected with only a minority of the vote? Ditto an entire government.

Grannymar said...

I am busy sharpening my pencil for Thursday

Nick said...

Grannymar - But they provide a pencil! I hope you're ready for three elections in one. Some people are going to be very confused....

Baino said...

I don't get it, then I don't understand our system either. Preferential voting is strong here as are 'coalition's' particularly with the Liberals and Nationals. I dunno, if it aint broke???? Perhaps it is. Either way we seem to end up with Wally's running the show.

Nick said...

Baino - Indeed, whoever you vote for, the government gets in. And whatever system you use, you can still end up with self-serving time-wasters. AV may make a difference, but only a marginal one.

nursemyra said...

First past the post is an unfair system

Nick said...

Myra - It's a very unfair system. Though it has to be said, the quality of governments under preferential voting systems isn't necessarily any better.