You Only Vote Twice

Posted: 2nd May 2011 by Get No Happy in Politics

We’re fast approaching the AV referendum and indications are that, much like the Balrog, it will not pass. This is a real shame but unsurprising given the amount of vitriol the NO campaign especially has poured into the debate. Now I won’t bore you with the reasons you should be voting yes (instead I can direct you to an earlier post by me to do that) but will instead step down a little from my moral high ground to have a brief sneering look  at the NO campaign.


The enemy of my enemy

It is demonstrative of the level of discourse the No campaign want for this issue when one of their main arguments against a fundamental change in the governance of our nation is “no one likes Nick Clegg”. Sod the issues about representation and democracy, Nick Clegg is a bad man (though I would say this is incorrect) and thus, much like the demands of a eloquent and classically trained psychopath, we can be sure anything he wants will ultimately lead to our downfall.

I ate a YES leaflet with some fava beans and a nice chianti

I could go on at length on the long, sad history of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”, but fortuitously, after 10 years, two invasions, millions of dollars and untold military and civilian casualties, America has chosen this week to finally catch and dispose of  it’s most infamous communist-fighting patriot, and I feel this serves as an appropriate reminder of the folly this mode of thinking represents. Taking a step down from  hyperbole hill, the anti-Nick aspect of the campaign is clearly targeting disaffected Lib Dem voters; “send a message to that smug bastard” and all that. Much as in the Ballard of Mr Bin Laden, reacting against you’re immediate enemy means strengthening a future one, it means both supporting the Tory party and killing for perhaps a generation one of the main tenants of Lib Dem policy (PR). And of course all that representation in democracy stuff.


It’s not taking part, but the winning that counts

The demands we make to leaders around the world is that democracy is the only way to represent the will of the people, that without free-elections any claim to represent your countrymen means naught. If this is true then leadership is not be a prize to be won, but a position to be earned, yet since the (sorta) scandal of expenses the population at large view politicians as self-serving passengers on the gravy-train of life who actually care very little about the common man, and conceptually this aspect of the NO campaign does little to dispel this. A place in parliament is something of  prize, an end unto itself.  Never mind that in a multi-party system it doesn’t represent the views of the population, you won (Woo) and that’s far more important than sticking to the tenants of democracy.

To represent FPTP properly, Mr Blue & Red would have jet-packs and the other lanes would be land-mined

The odd thing is, while we can name many areas that work FPTP style (as the NO campaign so expertly did above), there is one small little-known aspect of life that doesn’t operate on this principle. It’s known as every single sport that relies on a league system. In Formula 1, for instance, it’s entirely possible to never win a race a season but still take the championship by consistently finishing second. Yet no-one would argue this is unfair: Any fan would appreciate that the drivers and mechanics and tacticians who keep the pace all season deserve their accolade. Under our system it’s the single win that counts, not performance (or appeal) across the board; which is why (to use one of my favourite links) strong majority governments can be formed with the minority of votes. Yes technically, as the No campaign claims, a government could be made up of a party that was “no ones first choice”, but if we’re going to test a system to hypothetical breaking points, under FPTP, a party could receive almost half of all votes cast and not have a single MP. As long as we insist on this ‘local MP representative’ schtick AV is as close as we’re going to get to have a representative government.


Some votes are more equal than others

A big part of the NO campaign focuses on the idea that as candidates are eliminated, those who chose them as first choice effectively get another go. Therefore, they say,  some people in principle will get to vote many times, whereas those who pick the ‘strongest’ candidate will only have one vote counted and this is unfair.

Mmmmm, votes, glorious votes

Now. This isn’t actually true. Let me explain.

In behavioural economics, we often need to determine economic decision making based on continuous variables; for instance (in my case) will individuals spend money punishing an unrelated person for a fair/unfair offer? The amount of this ‘offer’ can be from £0 to whatever (hence continuous).  Thus we often use what is called the Strategy Method: instead of asking one participant “if Person A gave £1 what would you do” then another “if Person A gave £2…” etc we present all possible situations to all participants “If Persona A give £2… BUT IF person A gives £2” etc . We get much more data per person, need less participants and  it’s far quicker than running a new round each time.

AV is basically a Strategy Method way of voting. Picking your ‘first’ choice is saying “If this person remains, I want to vote for him”, second “if first is no longer running, then I vote for this one” and so on. Your picking based on all eventualities. The thing is, after each round EVERY vote is counted again, it’s just that if your first choice remains in the running, your vote goes to the same person as it did in the preceding round. It’s just quicker than asking everyone to fill out a new form after each round.  No one person gets more votes as every persons decisions are effectively counted again. This  needs stressing.

"NO ONE GETS EXTRA VOTES" says Mittens the AV kitten

So there you have it. No reasons to vote against AV and every reason to vote YES.


If you’re still not convinced

It’ll help the BNP: Apparently not and correct me if I’m wrong but I believe they don’t want it. And if you must take the The Enemy of My Enemy approach to your civic duties, do you really hate Nick Clegg more than Nick Griffin?

Cost too much: Disgusting and manipulative posters aside, it may cost more, and Don’t you know, there’s a war deficit on? In the grand scheme of things a figure between £50-150million is but a small drop in the debt-ocean. And honestly, this isn’t buying a new castle for the Royal couple as a wedding present or financing the opportune bombing a North African country, this is spending money on a fundamental aspect of our way of life. It’s worth a few quid.