AV it!

Watching from a distance, it’s possible to view the campaign for the AV referendum with a detached amusement. But it’s becoming increasingly hard to stomach the ‘No’ brigade.

It’s perhaps not surprising that ‘No to AV’ is turning into one of the most dishonest and tendentious political campaigns in British history. For a start, it’s being engineered by the seconded chief of the Taxdodgers’ Alliance. Secondly, and more to the point, the only logical argument in favour of FPTP is that you favour a system that allows a party which 64 per cent of the population actively went out and voted against to have powers that would make a dictator blush. Not surprising, it’s an argument no one is making.

So we’re left with the smear and the half truth, both familiar to long-time observers of the Taxdodgers Alliance. The front page of the No to AV media webpage gives the game away – six smears against the Yes campaign, one ‘positive’ story – some F-list Tory sportspeople backing the no campaign (including such glittering luminaries as, err, pram-faced Fleetwood boxer Jane Couch)

They have a go at the Electoral Reform Society for, err, campaigning. In fact, our idiot boy Chancellor, Gideon Osborne, comes out with this gem

“The Electoral Reform Society – which is running some of the referendum ballots – stands to benefit if AV comes in because it could be one of the people who provide these electronic voting machines”

Erm, yes. Except we won’t need the machines because, in my experience, the bank clerks and social workers who count our elections can … err … count. And so what if the Electoral Reform Society did benefit? If its subsiduary, Electoral Reform Services, makes more money from clients (such as The Conservative Party, which runs its elections on a system that is a kissing cousin of AV) what will it do? Well, given that it is a wholely-owned subsiduary of the Electoral Reform Society, we can probably speculate that it will spend the money on … campaigning for electoral reform.

And David Cameron is equally dishonest and duplicitous, declaring falsely that under FPTP, all votes are of equal value. Are we to assume, then, that the Conservative party spends the same in marginal Morecambe as it does in safe-Labour Preston or solidly Tory Wyre? Well, fortunately, we have the figures. Wyre’s 71,612 voters had £7,179.16 spent on them by their Tory candidate (10p a head). Preston’s 61,025 voters received a lavish £725.75 (a tad over a penny apiece). For marginal Morecambe? £31,135.24 for 69,254 voters (45p). So, to David Cameron, your vote is worth at least four times as much if you live in a marginal than in a safe Tory seat. If you live in safe Labour territory? One 45th as much. The true figures, taking in cash from Central Office are, needless to say, likely to be even more damning.

It seems to Cameron, all votes are equal – but some are more equal than others.

Anyway, that’s quite enough logic and reason. Time to take a leaf from the ‘No to AV’ playbook, here’s the best negative argument yet against FPTP;

Anything that unites John Prescott, Margaret Beckett, Nick Griffin, Baroness Warsi, John Redwood and Norman Tebbit simply has to be a very, very bad thing

PR man Cameron needs some PR help

Never thought the day would come, but ex-PR man David Cameron needs some PR help.
PR of the proportional representation kind, of course. He’s under the delusion that first past the post ‘works for the people of Britain.’
Well, Mr Cameron, it clearly didn’t work for the 64 per cent of the people of Britain who voted for a candidate not wearing a red rosette last time round. Nor the 57 per cent who never voted for his beloved Margaret Thatcher.
Cameron claims fair votes leads to backroom deals and ‘behind closed doors’ decision-making. And this is different to the current system how, exactly? The Parliamentary whip, the party line, would all be broken down were prime ministers forced to reach across party lines. Flights of fancy like the poll tax and the Iraq War would be much harder to pull off. Backbenchers would be beholden to the public, not the party machine.
Even the US, with its primary elections and the checks and balances provided by Congress achieve many of the same goals Cameron seems to keen to avoid. Ronald Reagan managed to govern with a Democratic congress. Does Cameron lack the confidence to try to lead Liberal Democrats to his way of thinking?
Low marks also for Ed Balls, the schools secretary, who trotted out the lie that PR reduces the link between the MP and his/her constituncy. If you follow the model imposed by Labour for Euro elections, he might just have a point.
But using a single tranferable vote, candidates are forced – absolutely forced – to work their consituency for all it’s worth. In a system where you have to compete with representatives of your own party for the public’s vote, you simply can’t afford to be a carpet-bagger. Why a Norfolk-born, Harvard-educated former FT leader-writer representing a former coal-mining community in Yorkshire should find this prospecy unappealing is…. well, draw your own conclusions.
And finally, proving Godwin’s Law once and for all, we have Norman Tebbit. He cites PR as a factor in bringing the Nazis to power. Not for the first time in his life, he’s talking out of his rear end. A quick look at the figures shows that the highest vote the Nazis ever polled was 37 per cent – keeping them in opposition under PR, but the kind of figure that hasn’t lost a British election in three decades. In fact, PR served, at least briefly, to keep Hitler in check and ultimately forced him to use undeomcratic means to seize power.
PR is, along with the economy, the key issue of this election. We can’t, in Mr Cameron’s words, go on like this. It’s time to join the grown-up world and give everyone a vote that’s worth something.