I’ve found it quite hard to get too excited about this vote. Both sides have made some ridiculous claims. The Yes camp say that the Conservative leadership elections and X Factor use AV. They don’t. The No camp say that the vote is costing alot of money, an argument which could just as well be used to get rid of elections full stop.
That said I’ll be voting No. I started to make my mind up when I heard a debate on the radio between John Reid (No) and some guy for the Yes camp. Reid made quite a worthy defence of the No position, one person one vote and all that, and the Yes guy just responded by being rude to him. As time has gone on I’ve been struck by how much of the Yes campaign has been about complaining about the No campaign (the idiotic Huhne has been the worst, but then he’s less interested in the AV campaign than the next Lib Dem leadership campaign). They haven’t offered anyone much of a reason to say Yes.
Then there is the fact that I don’t relish the idea of having the Lib Dems in power forever and giving their leader the ability to pick the Prime Minister every four or five years.
On top of that I am quite wedded to the idea of one person one vote and despite what the Yes campaign have been saying, that will end with AV. If you vote Labour in a strong Labour constituency your vote is not counted again. If you vote UKIP, however, and they finish bottom your second vote, perhaps for the Conservatives, will be counted again. Thus, your vote for UKIP and the Conservatives gets counted. If you vote Labour only your Labour vote does.
The fate of smaller parties has been a focus of both Yes and No camps. The No camp say we don’t want extremists votes deciding things, a very weak argument as the vote of an extremist is worth just as much as anyone else’s. The Yes campaign say that their system will allow smaller parties to flourish and, hence, offer more choice.
But voters already have choice. In Kensington and Chelsea, one of the safest Conservative seats in the country, voters had a choice last May of Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, UKIP, Alliance for Green Socialism and an Independent. Proponents of a Yes vote argue that AV will make it more likely that one of these other, smaller parties would win and that the current system gives them no chance.
But they can win. What they have to do is get out, work hard, and convince enough of their fellow constituents that they should have their vote. Sounds impossible? Tell that to Caroline Lucas. Tell it to the Labour party, founded in 1900 and in government inside of three decades. ‘Ah but’, its been said to me, ‘Labour had the power of the trade unions behind them’. Indeed they did. And perhaps the lack of any similar manifestation of support for, say, the Alliance for Green Socialism, shows that it is their unpopular ideology and not the voting system that ought to be their most pressing concern.
The Yes campaign argue that under FPTP the people in Kensington and Chelsea who voted for any one of the six losers will not be represented. This is rather a strange argument given that AV does not propose to award the constituency of Kensington and Chelsea seven seats in the House of Commons so there will always be at least one loser and, by extension, some voters who are not represented.
AV, in short, kicks away a keystone of British democracy in one person one vote and replaces it with something which doesn’t remedy the failings even its supporters diagnose with the current system. That’s why, on Thursday, it’ll be a No from me.