‘AV it!

According to The Guardian we are going to see a referendum on electoral reform in May of next year. We will be offered AV or FPTP, two inadequate systems but that’s the choice we have.

Some people are convinced that because AV is not good enough it is not worth supporting. That is nonsense. Progress is progress and a stalled process of electoral reform now is a process stalled for generations. As Ezra Klein says:

Failure does not breed success. Obama’s defeat will not mean that more ambitious reforms have “a better chance of trying again.” It will mean that less ambitious reformers have a better chance of trying next time.

Conversely, success does breed success. Medicare and Medicaid began as fairly limited programs. … As any scientist will tell you, it’s much easier to encourage something to evolve in a certain direction than it is to create it anew.

Sunny Hundal is right; AV is far from perfect as an electoral system but it is important leftist get involved and support it. The good is not an enemy of the perfect, its a stepping stone on the way.

James Graham is right; AV is not perfect but it ends perverse tactical voting by enshrining a workable version of it in the system.

Keeping FPTP would not be a chance to regroup it would be a loss of momentum. The United Kingdom doesn’t do revolutions reformers need to be patient and to work hard.

If you’re not ready to work hard for a slight improvement then politics may not be for you. It is dozens of slight improvements that got us to where we are today, and it is dozens more that will get us where we need to be.

[Pun inspired by the Hopi Sen]


4 thoughts on “‘AV it!

  1. I left this coment elsewhere but it fits here too;

    Well I’m for proportional representation. AV is no more proportional than FPTP so it isn’t that the reform doesn’t go far enough it actually does *nothing* to address the fact that millions of people go unrepresented or massively under represented.

    It’s not too small a reform, it’s an irrelevant reform designed to head off the possibility of PR for a generation.

    Right now nothing has gone through Parliament and I think we should keep pressing to get the possibility of PR into the referendum. Loads of pro-PR people have given up trying for that. That’s their choice, but that looks like compromising before the negotiations start to me.

    However, once the people have decided that they ‘want’ AV no one is going to change the system again a few years later. The same is probably true if the referendum is lost.

    Therefore the referendum itself – if it does not include the option of PR (which is how it was done in New Zealand) means whichever way it goes that’s the end of the hopes for having a system where millions of votes aren’t simply thrown in the bin.

    It’s not about purism – it’s about how do we get a proportional system. The AV referendum stops us getting that and for what? Your ‘slight improvement’ leaves millions disenfranchised for at least a generation.

    1. Thanks for commenting.

      However, I disagree, as Ezra, Sunny and I have said success breeds success. Even a small success can lead to larger ones. A vote for FPTP is a vote for the status quo, getting a new electoral system and getting people used to some state of flux is the best way to break the status quo bias that is going to be electoral reforms biggest hurdle.

      I think that electoral reform is going to take a generation, politics is just slow, AV is a first step whereas FPTP is no step at all. Sticking with FPTP will lay the matter to rest.

      “Well I’m for proportional representation. AV is no more proportional than FPTP so it isn’t that the reform doesn’t go far enough it actually does *nothing* to address the fact that millions of people go unrepresented or massively under represented.”

      I want PR (actually multi member STV with probably a unicameral parliament, although I might change my mind and settle for a second chamber), but AV is still better than FPTP.

      First of all, it gets people used to ranking candidates.

      Secondly, it eliminates irritating tactical voting which will change voting patterns massively. The greens would get a huge boost and would probably take their marginal seats.

      Thirdly, strategically I think its an improvement and its a stick in the eye for the establishment, and gets the ball moving.

      1. Oh, just noticed you’re a green (and from camden, I should be living near you come October).

        My comment on the greens wasn’t directed towards you, just a coincidence honest, but its nice to see this blog is attracting the audience I want.

    2. I’d only support PR being on the same referendum as AV if the referendum itself were to be counted using AV, Condorcet or Approval Voting. It’d be too easy for FPTP to win under an FPTP count (they could offer several varieties of PR to make it even easier).

      A referendum on FPTP vs [a PR system] is not going to happen – the Conservatives would never go that far beyond their coalition agreement and there’s not currently enough support in Labour for anything beyond AV to get the votes that way. It’s not totally clear at this time that it would be winnable, either.

      AV isn’t proportional, true, but in many other respects it’s still a better voting system than FPTP.

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