Hague’s rubbish arguments against #AV: a point by point response to his letter to the faithful today

From: “William Hague” <bulletin@news.conservatives.com>
Date: 17 February 2011 
Subject: Help us win the AV referendum
Reply-To: “William Hague” <support-bxu6bu1b2c8xdzau6cew7aajhzx59q@news.conservatives.com>

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Without your help, Britain’s traditional voting system could be ditched for something that is unfair, expensive and allows candidates that finish third to win elections.

On May 5th, there’s a nationwide referendum on whether to replace the system of First Past the Post with the ‘Alternative Vote’ – or AV. The Liberal Democrats demanded this referendum as part of the Coalition agreement – but the Conservative Party are actively campaigning for a ‘No’ vote. Here’s why:

  • AV is unfair. With First Past the Post, everybody gets one vote. But under AV, supporters of extreme parties like the BNP would get their vote counted many times, while other people’s vote would only be counted once.
 RR: This is nonsense. It is like saying that if you go to a restaurant, and find that your preferred dish is not available because it wasn’t popular enough, then you shouldn’t have the chance to have a 2nd preference. AV is STV for single constituencies: It could equally well be named STV. Each person has only a SINGLE Transferrable Vote. (It is also worth noting, seeing as Hague gratuitously mentions the BNP here to try to smear the #Yes2AV campaign, that the BNP are campaigning FOR FPTP and AGAINST AV: http://isupportav.co.uk/2010/11/the-bnp-are-campaigning-against-av/ . This isn’t surprising: because the BNP will suffer badly under AV, which is the worst of all electoral systems for extreme Parties hated by the majority of voters, as explained here: http://oneworldcolumn.blogspot.com/2011/01/from-alternative-media-to-alternative.html .)
  • AV doesn’t work. Rather than the candidate with the most votes winning, the person who finishes third could be declared the winner.
 RR: Yes, of course, the person who finishes 2nd or 3rd ON FIRST PREFERENCES could become the winner – IF they get enough transfers from other candidates. That is exactly HOW AV works. So, for example, David Miliband got more 1st preferences than Ed Miliband in the Labour Leadership election. But Ed won more transfers, and so came out the eventual winner. What this shows is that there were a lot of people who _didn’t_ want David to win, whose first preference was for Balls, Abbott, or Burnham. If the Labour leadership contest had been conducted via FPTP, then those people would have been forced either to tactically vote for Ed (thus being deprived of the ability to express their actual 1st preference) or would have risked ‘wasting’ their vote. AV ends those kinds of painful betrayals of democracy, and facilitates people expressing what their actual preferences are. (It therefore also, crucially, allows smaller Parties over time to build up their 1st preferences until they become contenders to actually win. This is how the Green Party has grown in Australia – see my recent letter in PROSPECT magazine, on this: http://broadleftblogging.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/av-is-a-game-changer/ .)
  • AV is expensive. Calculating the results is a long, complicated process, which would cost the taxpayer millions.
 RR: Actually, AV would be barely any more expensive at all than FPTP: see http://www.spectator.co.uk/alexmassie/6702255/another-rotten-argument-against-voting-reform.thtml. The very small additional cost – basically, the extra staff time to count the more complex ballot papers on election night – is surely a price worth paying for democracy. (Of course, it would be much cheaper to dispense with elections altogether – this seems to be the ultimate logic of this particular ‘argument’ of the No2AV side…)
  • No-one wants AV. Even the ‘Yes’ campaigners don’t actually want AV – they see it as a convenient stepping stone to yet more changes to how we vote.
 RR: Well, it is certainly true that there are a good number of Yes2AV campaigners who would in the longer term want PR, myself included. But the question before voters is what stance to take IN THIS REFERENDUM. The Green Party’s preferred policy is PR: but AV is our second preference, above FPTP!… Hague is trying here to make the best as we see it the enemy of the good. His argument fails:  just because AV is not perfect is no reason to vote for a worse system (FPTP) on May 5th! Given the alternative on offer, I DO want AV. (Also, we need to bear in mind that there are plenty of ordinary voters out there, and some members of the Yes2AV campaign, who DON’T want PR, and who do want AV. The AV referendum is about AV – let’s not let Hague distract with irrelevant remarks about PR.)



Thank you,

William Hague's signature

William Hague
Foreign Secretary

Comment on William’s message on the Blue Blog


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4 thoughts on “Hague’s rubbish arguments against #AV: a point by point response to his letter to the faithful today”

  1. I tried IE8 – it was worse, but I’ve cracked it.
    Because you cut and paste the text is not wrapping, which means for High Resolution (ie large text for old people), you lose the RH side.

    A couple of CONTROL – ‘s and a magnifying glass has done the trick.

    Try doing a couple of CONTROL + ‘s and you will see the problem.

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