2 Jul 2010

AV referendum will stop proportional representation for a generation

The referendum on the AV voting system, is likely to rob the Green Party of significant political representation for a generation. Frankly we don't have a generation, we have run out of generations, the ecological crisis is here now.

If voters support AV we lose and if voters support the existing system we lose.

Sold as voting reform AV is not a fair or proportional voting system.

Without proportional representation it will be a huge struggle for the Green Party to win a significant number of MPs.

Across the entire planet Greens have only ever won three or four parliamentary seats on a first past the post system.

Well of course in Colombia may be over 20% of people vote Green but in most countries Greens get around 5% of the vote, something more.

We need to get 5%, or whatever proportion of votes we win, of seats in parliament. We can then have influence which given climate change and all the mad false solutions like carbon trading or biofuels is vital. We can also work with other green inclined politicians for change

Without proportional representation achieving any seats is very difficult. Caroline Lucas achieved a major victory and shows that it is not impossible, however Caroline is a perhaps unique green politician and green support is very concentrated in Brighton.

AV is a little better than FPTP because 'wasted' votes no longer apply, you have a first and a second preference.....this means that you might vote green instead of voting tactical against another party.

However unless a party wins over 50% of first and second preferences in a constituency it will fail to elect an MP. We can do this in Brighton though it will be a battle, I am not convinced that we are close to do it any where else in the UK.

With AV the German Greens would have found it impossible to win any seats in parliament.

AV can be seen as a means to prevent the growth of the Greens, if it is introduced it will make the system a little more democratic reducing the pressure for change in a very undemocratic system and if the referendum fails to introduce it will be said that voters are happy with first past the post.

I suspect it is more dangerous for the Green Party and democracy if AV is introduced.


Certainly we need to be campaigning for actual PR, something the Liberal Democrats have abandoned so quickly most of their supporters have not even noticed.

I am concerned as a Green Party activist but the issue is simple should our votes cout or should we have a winner take all system.

Greens should never ever be naive about the tough political realities we face, with Labour out of power there will be swing back to Labour which could take green votes, the combination of well funded climate scepticism and corporate greenwash is reducing concern with green issues and the political system is becoming more and presidential....all these factors need to be faced up to and all make it tough for us.

Greens need to get a lot more political, we face a very hostile political landscape.....we need to start thinking about how we change some of the contours pretty quickly....a campaign for pr is certainly needed.

23 comments:

Rupert said...

We need to continue to make clear that only PR is full, real electoral reform, yes.
BUT: there is going to be an AV referendum. You need to decide which side you are on, in it.
It is crystal clear that defeat for AV will be perceived as defeat for electoral reform and thus as a vote for the status quo; whereas success for AV will (as you agree, Derek) eliminate the wasted vote argument and eliminate most tactical voting. This will be great for smaller Parties, and thus for democracy.
We would probably have won Norwich South this time, with AV as the system. It allows people to express their 1st preference for us. All the people who voted tactically for Labour or the LibDems would have put us first instead. And then we would have come through on their second preferences.
Now: are you still against AV? I hope not...

jcrooney said...

AV isn't proportional and won't give us the results we need, but is certainly better than FPTP and is a step in the right direction. It's not much but it might have to be enough.

Boyd said...

You're absolutely right about proportional representation, but AV is clearly better than first-past-the-post - ask any Australian Green, where they haven't won at a federal level with it, but with AV can build their vote (now in double digits), use that bigger vote to pick up seats in offices elected by PR like the federal senate and be sought after for "second choice preferences" that can influence the policy positions of winning candidates.

Push for PR where it can be won, like the House of Lords, and work for AV next year to help us all move forward.

Sunny Hundal said...

Derek this doesn't make any sense because PR is not on the agenda.

Other than Greens and Libdems - no one is calling for it and it won't be on the agenda.

If you kill AV reform now you kill even the smallest move towards PR for decades.

You can't say I want something completely different so I won't support anything else - because it kills any appetite for trying it again.

You think that if we don't move to AV, then somehow the chances for getting PR will be increased? That's ludicrous.

AV is not proportional, but it allows people like myself to vote Green as well as Labour - and give smaller parties more prominence.

Just ask Sian Berry if she liked AV in London or whether she would prefer FPTP.

Derek Wall said...

It seems less proportional than what we have at the moment, damned if we do, damned if we don't.

Rupert said...

Derek - what is your evidence that AV is 'less proportional than what we have at the moment'? It is true that in certain peculiar electoral arithmetics, AV _can_ generate less proportional results than FPTP. But under most conceivable electoral circumstances, AV results in more proportional results and far fewer wasted votes.
If you have evidence to the contrary, please share it with us.

Derek Wall said...

you need 50%b to win!

While you may be able to do that in Norwich South I am sceptical we can do it elsewhere.

And if we could get 50% I don't think it would be fair on minorities.

You seem very keen on it so we may have to agree to differ....and yes if its for a president or a Mayor its better

Nonetheless damned if we do and damned if we don't in my opinion.

Lets not sell out on PR like the Lib Dems!

Jo said...

I think Derek is very brave to say this.

If we stick to our guns and support PR as we have said we will in our manifestos we will gain all those disaffected if the no vote wins.

This will obviously backfire if AV is voted for. I am very sceptical and feel it won't win - the Tories and lots of Labour people don't support it and we are in the minority that do.

Therefore I think we should put our head on the block and run a high profile campaign for PR but express delight if AV wins obviously.

It all depends whether you think AV stands a chance with the Tories in.

I could be wrong but I have a feeling it doesn't.

Jim Jepps said...

I'm with Jo and Derek.

Rupert, the BBC has been monitoring general elections since the 80's to compare what would happen with AV and to even suggest AV has any effect to make the system more proportional is a gross distortion of the truth and if you go to the public with that line you'll be lying to them.

We don't know what type of AV is going to be suggested and it is likely they may well go for suppleentary vote which is used in the london mayoral, this would certainly entrench the top three parties in England.

However, nothing has gone through Parliament as yet which means there is still time to press for the New Zealand solution where the public was given the option of choosing which reform they'd prefer and then choosing whether to go for it.

Anything else allows the Tories to supper any chance we have to win PR for a generation.

Sunny Hundal said...

If we stick to our guns and support PR as we have said we will in our manifestos we will gain all those disaffected if the no vote wins.

I'm sorry but this is just not true.

All the polls show that people do not want to break the constituency link. And neither is there serious appetite for coalitions in the way that Europe has. This is why a form of AV plus allows a clear winner while maintaining a constituency link is most popular.

I have a suggestion for PR advocates - rather than trying to scupper incremental reform, go out the convince people that PR is the way forward. If a big enough base is built then you'll eventually get it.

Right now, even if PR was on the ballot you wouldn't win that referendum. So I think it's pie-in-the-sky to say that you're going to hold out for PR and if AV fails then that would be just around the corner. It won't be. We'll continue with FPTP and coalitions for decades.

Anonymous said...

you lose my vote if you cop out with AV

anyone else wish to send the Green great and the good a message?

Ken S from Ramara said...

AV is a better option than FPTP! In Canada PR is a difficult sell to the majority of Canadians. Maybe one day the Canadian Senate may be elected via PR! Right now the PM of the day stacks the Senate with his bagmen and cronies!

Jon said...

Anonymous is clearly a Tory.

Jim I agree we should push for as good an option of AV as possible on the ballot paper but I'm yet to hear a reason why any form of AV would be worse than FPTP. If AV entrenches three party politics then it also boosts the Lib Dems which makes a further referendum on PR more likely not less.

Also I agree with Sunny that we need to build a constituency for PR as we'd lose now and I think that's made easier if the AV referendum is won.

Rupert said...

Jim; what you say here is false. The BBC 'analyses' are useless: because AV CHANGES VOTING BEHAVIOUR. The proof is in Australia.
In other words: The laughable nonsense in the media at present from YouGov, the BBC and others about how the election just gone by would have been different under AV ignores the most important feature of AV, visible clearly in the Australian system: that AV changes how people vote ON FIRST PREFERENCES too. In Australia, Green 1st preferences have increased markedly under AV. This has facilitated Greens getting enough votes to win in the Senate.
The analogy for Britain is clear: We get AV. It helps us [the Green Party] to win in Norwich South, and to advance significantly across much of the country. We get PR for the Upper House; and then, because of having AV already for Westminster, our votes in that PR election are higher than they would otherwise be, higher than we are used to. We get plenty of Lords / Senators / whatever elected. They then feed back into increased profile and increased chances in House of Commons (AV) elections...
This is a real scenario of hope for the Green Party, and therefore for the planet. It is realistic. It is what is on the table. We would be absolute fools not to seize it.

DLW said...

I'm a yank, and I think we need to do what we can to evolve our democracies from where-ever they are at... and strategically support alternatives to FPP and develop habits that'll help bring about other election reforms.

I myself have advocated for Strategic Election Reform geared for US state legislative elections.

http://politeaparty.blogspot.com/2010/07/strategic-election-reform-american.html

But I'm also willing to be flexible because I trust that the politics of Gandhi will be the way to truly move the political center to what is needed for life on earth to be saved.

dlw

Bob Steel said...

Derek although I think you are often correct I think you've got it wrong on this one, largely for the reasons Sunny has stated above. AV is a very unsatisfactory system but that's the point we should be making while we try to build momentum for proper proportionality. I would like to see Greens getting fully involved with Take Back Parliament http://www.takebackparliament.com/ and building some momentum for real fair votes. But as Sunny says if this one sinks, make no mistake that the media and the political establishment will regard it as a vote for the status quo. So I'm absolutely sure the best course of action is to campign for AV whilst making a clear case that this is only the first step.
Regards
Bob Steel

Proportional or Nothing said...

Take Back Parliament seems to be dominated with Lib Dem activists, and they aren't very forthcoming about their affiliation.

Bob Steel states people should say yes to AV whilst also stating it is only the first step. - but that's not what groups like Take Back Parliament are claiming at all. Take Back Parliament and others have a lot of influence, but they have chosen rather selfishly not to make any more demands. Why not call for amendments and ask for more options? Doing so would perhaps undermine the Lib Dem front that it is and their plan to use the AV referendum to set the party apart from their Tory coalition partners at the 2011 local elections.

If PR is good enough for the European Parliament, the London Asssembly, even the antiquated House of Lords - then why not the House of Commons?

SPOIL your ballot paper or vote NO to AV as it is NOT PR and not democracy.

Wilf Day said...

Derek is correct, as electoral reformers in Canada have concluded. We oppose AV:

http://www.fairvote.ca/sites/fairvote.ca/files/AV-backgrounder-august2009_1.pdf?q=files/AV-backgrounder-august2009_1.pdf

Will AV eliminate most tactical voting? No, it institutionalizes it. In Australian House elections the choices have shrunk to two: Labour or The Coalition. Do you want that for the UK? It could easily result in an accidental Conservative majority. That would be a “first step” to nowhere. In the next election, if the Coalition holds together, by election day most Lib Dem voters will be mad at Labour, and give their second preference to the Conservatives: that’s the accidental Conservative majority. AV results depend on who you’re mad at on election day.

What is the evidence that AV is 'less proportional than what we have at the moment?' The Jenkins’ Commission report. This is not a new debate. Has everyone forgotten? “In some circumstances, and those the ones which certainly prevailed at the last election and may well do so for at least the next one, it is even less proportional that FPTP . . . So far from doing much to relieve disproportionality, it is capable of substantially adding to it. Second, its effects (on its own without any corrective mechanism) are disturbingly unpredictable.”

http://www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm40/4090/chap-5.htm#c5-a

“Why not call for amendments and ask for more options?” Right.

“All the polls show that people do not want to break the constituency link.” No doubt. That’s why Jenkins recommended AV+. The AMS system certainly helped the Greens in Scotland.

From the Canadian electoral reform perspective, AV in the UK would be a terrible distraction. I hope it loses.

Wilf Day said...

Derek is correct, as electoral reformers in Canada have concluded. We oppose AV:

http://www.fairvote.ca/sites/fairvote.ca/files/AV-backgrounder-august2009_1.pdf?q=files/AV-backgrounder-august2009_1.pdf

Will AV eliminate most tactical voting? No, it institutionalizes it. In Australian House elections the choices have shrunk to two: Labour or The Coalition. Do you want that for the UK? It could easily result in an accidental Conservative majority. That would be a “first step” to nowhere. In the next election, if the Coalition holds together, by election day most Lib Dem voters will be mad at Labour, and give their second preference to the Conservatives: that’s the accidental Conservative majority. AV results depend on who you’re mad at on election day.

Wilf Day said...

What is the evidence that AV is 'less proportional than what we have at the moment?' The Jenkins’ Commission report. This is not a new debate. Has everyone forgotten? “In some circumstances, and those the ones which certainly prevailed at the last election and may well do so for at least the next one, it is even less proportional that FPTP . . . So far from doing much to relieve disproportionality, it is capable of substantially adding to it. Second, its effects (on its own without any corrective mechanism) are disturbingly unpredictable.”

http://www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm40/4090/chap-5.htm#c5-a

“Why not call for amendments and ask for more options?” Right.

“All the polls show that people do not want to break the constituency link.” No doubt. That’s why Jenkins recommended AV+. The AMS system certainly helped the Greens in Scotland.

From the Canadian electoral reform perspective, AV in the UK would be a terrible distraction. I hope it loses.

Wilf Day said...

The final paragraph of the position of Fair Vote Canada (Canada's counterpart to the ERS) is worth quoting:

"Is switching from our current voting system to AV for parliamentary elections likely to be a step toward fair voting in the foreseeable future?

No. Societies rarely change their voting systems for parliamentary, legislature or council elections. When those scarce opportunities arise by popular demand, proposals for cosmetic change are diversionary and may make the legislatures even less representative. Some established politicians are only too willing to misdirect public opinion in the name of reform. Democrats must be constant in the demand for fair democratic representation for every citizen and nothing less."

stevehynd said...

im personally really pleased the Greens have voted to support the AV vote, shows a degree of political pragmatism that has not always been there before

http://stevehynd.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/the-green-party-shows-polictcal-maturity-as-well-as-political-idealism/

Serenus Zeitblom said...

I agree with Derek. Changing to AV is tinkering at the edges of an electoral system that is not fit for purpose, in that it does not lead to Parliaments that reflect the way people vote; it's about achieving the political establishment's aim of achieving "strong" government, which is about the executive doing more or less what it likes. And since the number of seats in Parliament is being reduced, any increased proportionality under AV will be watered down.

As I've argued on my blog -http://notesbrokensociety.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/political-reform-and-the-irrelevance-of-av/ - there is a crisis of political legitimacy in Britain that the current political reforms don't begin to address. It revolves around the fact that three main parties - two in coalition - seem to be hell-bent on pushing an agenda of cuts and privatisation that nobody voted for, while millions of dissenters have little parliamentary voice. Proportional representation won't change that on its own, but it is a necessary condition.

AV is ultimately about giving the impression of reform while ensuring that power remains where it is now. In terms of real political reform, it's irrelevant.