Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Referendum Myths and Irrelevancies

I am annoyed at the pathetic levels to which both campaigns have stooped and - in something of a rush - I've picked out some of the worst arguments from both sides.  Anyone want to add to these?

FPTP is Fairer / AV is Fairer

An argument can be made for both systems on the basis of fairness.  FPTP does select the single most popular candidate.  AV does select the candidate that has the broadest appeal. 

What neither campaign is saying is that a lot of the time, AV and FPTP will select the same candidate:

  •  When one candidate gets 50% + 1 vote on the first round
  • When the leading candidate on the first round manages to get to 50% + 1 vote after votes have been redistributed in subsequent rounds.

I don’t know and I haven’t done the analysis, but I expect that most MPs elected at the last election under FPTP would have been elected under AV.

AV is complicated

Oh, it so is.  Especially if you struggled to get past junior school.  However, for anyone who manages something as simple as working out what to serve at a dinner party (“Stephen doesn’t like curry and Amy is lactose intolerant so let’s serve chicken and vegetables”) it’s a breeze.


The No Campaigners are Bullies

Life is hard.  Get over it.

AV is Expensive

First off, the No2AV campaign count the cost of the referendum itself: that's outright misleading.  Second, they make some big assumptions about the costs of AV.

AV probably will be a bit more expensive to run than FPTP.  But in terms of government expenditure, the amount is tiny: a fraction of 1% of the education budget, for example; a miniscule fraction of a fraction of 1% of the overall government budget.

Hardly Anyone Uses AV

A challenging point for two reasons.

Firstly, if we are to look at which is the most popular system of government in the world today, we’d probably come up with repressive dictatorships.

Second, one of the few governments using AV is Australia and their economy is doing very well, thank you.  If that’s what AV delivers, I’ll have it now, please.

Under AV, MPs will have to work harder

Oh yes, this is a lovely one to play to the angry voters after last year’s scandal.  Unfortunately, it’s not true.  There would still be plenty of safe seats (although some of them would change hands).  More importantly, there would still be plenty of hard working MPs.  My own MP has one of the safest seats in the land and yet remains immensely hard-working and never complacent.

That’s said, how will I be voting?

I’m not 100% set one way or the other.  However, I am leaning towards AV: it seems to me that  a system designed to get the approval of the broadest number of voters has a lot to recommend it.

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