AV: two letters that are causing a storm in politics - and provoking a collective groan from the public.
Two letters that keep cropping up, stalking you like a scene from a horror film.
Two letters that are in your newspaper, at your bus stop, on the telly and through your front door… and now they’re coming to your computer!
I know to many, the AV debate is as dry as a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, but it is hugely important and I urge everyone to cast their vote this May.
Rest assured that on 5 May I will be putting my cross next to No. People who know me won’t be surprised. I am a Conservative after all. But my support is not due to slavish obedience to the Tories - I’ve never been one to toe the party line completely.
For me, ‘No to AV’ goes beyond David Cameron’s ‘power, pledges and principles’ and I was not swayed by the dire advertising campaigns run by both sides.
FPTP may not be perfect but it is understood, and as Leonardo Da Vinci said, ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’. Simplicity is key to this debate. No campaigners like David Cameron and Lord Reid aren’t trying to insult public intelligence by saying the system is too complex. There is simply no need to complicate matters by replacing FPTP with an even more flawed system.
I find something quite unnerving in a system that seems to take into account your second choice more than your first. AV makes the voter’s afterthought a valued currency.
Most people want an easy life, so why are we trying to make it more difficult for them? Why are we trying to make it more difficult to have their democratic voice? FPTP works because you know where you stand. Just one cross of the box and you’re done for the day in five minutes flat. You are simply voting for the one person you want. That is the nature of politics. There can be only one winner and that winner should be the person who attracts the most first choice votes in their seat.
So many of the arguments from both sides I’ve heard have been contradictory or ridiculous. Who cares about the cost, which silly country has fallen for the AV claptrap or, the media’s favourite, which system will aid the BNP?
Like many I was appalled by the No campaign’s bleak baby posters and left cold by the actor-laden ‘Yes to AV’ letter that came through my letterbox. Celebrities and negative campaigning are not, thankfully, the way to sway the British electorate.
But there is one group whose opinion interests me – academics. The dashing Tristram Hunt, historian, lecturer and backbench Labour MP, is an expert on matters of constitutional and electoral reform and is a No campaigner I admire. After spending his professional life focusing on the ins and outs of British politics his opinion counts so much more to me than some politically-sure actor or actress beaming down from a ‘Yes to AV’ leaflet. What do actors really know about politics anyway?
Critics on the Yes side have attacked the PM for damning a system which was used to help him become Conservative Party leader. Let’s be realistic here, did he really have a choice of saying to Conservative Central Office, ‘um, actually I would like to use FPTP’? This is out of his hands and he has every right to criticise the system that brought him into power. Talking about hypocrisy, what about all these ‘Yes to AV’ MPs? They were all elected through this so-called unfair and archaic FPTP system. Are they willing to give up their seats then because they don’t like the means of which they acquired power? I don’t think so somehow.
By voting no, you are not saying to MPs that it is business as usual. ‘No to AV’ does not mean no to change. The referendum shows appetite for change to what some see as a corrupt and deeply flawed system - but AV isn’t the answer.
Voting to keep FPTP doesn’t mean that we are going to excuse politicians their wrongdoings or forgive their sins. We hardly gave them an easy time over the expenses – just ask David Chaytor and co. We have the press and an angry electorate to ensure abuses of the system end. We already have the power at our fingertips, and this is why we don’t need a new voting system come May.
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