The Straw Man Referendum on the Alternative Vote in the UK.

General letter.

On 5 May 2011, a referendum is offered on what deputy premier Nick Clegg formerly - and now famously - called "a miserable little compromise" of the Alternative Vote. If passed, voters would be allowed to state their order of choice, 1, 2, 3 etc, for candidates. Voters could still just vote with an X, if they wished, so they would be given greater freedom of choice, with the option to utilise or ignore preference voting, as it suits them.

Proportional Representation is not possible in single member constituencies and that is just as true of AV as FPTP. On occasion, AV can give more disproportionate results but, on other occasions, so can FPTP. The remedy is with PR, not with either system.

People dont know the truth that there is essentially only one voting system that is really fair. Until they do, we will continue to have these despairing discussions.

All elections consist of a vote and a count. The Alternative Vote reforms the vote properly but not the count. You could see this in the 2010 Labour leadership election (or the other party leadership elections). The parties dont allow an unpopular candidate to win on a split of the vote between two more popular candidates. Order of choice, either by an exhaustive ballot or, in one election (which is why the North Americans call the Alternative Vote: "Instant Run-off Voting") with a preference vote is essential to democracy.
The parties know it and if they believed in democracy, more than themselves, they would honor it for the whole people.

But AV is a single member system, so it wastes most first preferences, maybe just electing, say, a third of them. Only the single transferable vote elects about three-quarters or so of first preferences, even in a moderately proportional system of three or four member constituencies, as in the Scottish local elections.
In fact, STV elects both more and better first preferences, with a better choice of candidates than AV. STV allows voters to prefer between candidates of the same party, effecting primaries, a big democratic advance that career politicians hate (as was evident from the Plant Report).

Whereas First Past The Post is an open secret of safe-seat-seeking careers masquerading as individual representation of the people. A great book could be written on the history of sneakings into safe seats, like a party game of Musical Chairs.

With STV, multi-member constituencies can be drawn round real communities, the historic shires and boroughs or cities. There is no need ever to change them, only the number of seats in proportion to population shifts. Big savings could be made on the running sore of pseudo-boundary revisions.

Again the politicians care nothing about communities, only about the most advantageous boundaries to themselves. This is nakedly the case under the 2010 Tory Coalition diktats. Labour and Tory have ever treated the boundary revisions as their tug o' war for partisan advantage (as chronicled in Robert Blackburn's The Electoral System in Britain).


To an STV supporter.

if your Plan A was on offer I would accept it:
By all means let's have STV for local elections and let all the British people see it would work as well in England and Wales as it already does in Ulster and Scotland.

I agree that would be preferable to an AV referendum for the Commons. But you know as well as I do that the last thing most politicians want is the democratic voting system of STV that we should have for all official elections.

 I agree with you but when faced with the only choice Ill be given: FPTP or AV for the Commons, then a lifetime's experience in electoral reform forces me to guess that: YES to AV is less foolish than NO.


By the way, the 5 may AV referendum will be as much a judge on the media and the British people, as it already is on the politicians. The politicians have failed democracy. The media are likely to confirm their ignorant partisanship. And the ill-informed British people are likely to be intimidated against change.

At least that is what I thought until I saw the NO campaign patrons. Despite personly having some (decidedly qualified) sympathy for Margaret Beckett, the rest of the list is an incitement to throw a custard pie at the NO campaign.

Amusing how Michael Gove declined the honor of being a patron for the odious FPTP relic. As education minister, it would not have looked good for him to promote the illiterate X-vote against the numerate preference vote. An exception to the old age, of the two-party tribalists on the patrons list, is perhaps William Hague. But he was a child MP-groupie, by 16, speaking at the Party Conference. Then, the two-party glory days were still not so far away.

Hague is one of six Tory MPs who have the whole of North Yorkshire sown-up, thanks to the monopolistic single-member system, which AV wont change. But it will make some FPTP minority winners more vulnerable.


Response to Margaret Beckett, NO-campaign president.

(Her article in The Guardian, november 2010.)

To top of page.

Dear Margaret Beckett,

Before disagreeing with you, by the way, I hope you, especially with your scientific background, will not give up bringing your party, packed tho it is with nuclear cronies, back from the folly of more nuclear power. For the sake of future generations. Enough said here.


As Plant commission member, you once wrote me a stroppy reply to my criticisms of the Plant Report, which recommended the Supplementary Vote, which is just a one-alternative vote.

You make the usual incorrect statement by supporters of FPTP: it does NOT give the seat to the candidate with "the most votes". It gives the seat to the candidate with more votes than any other single candidate - an entirely different thing.
Hence, the Guardian CIF awards, using FPTP, gave victory to one right wing CIFer because the rest of the vote was split nine ways between left wing CIFers.

In Parliament on the Constitutional Reform Bill, the Lib Dems asked just how small a minority is acceptable to supporters of FPTP. You had no complaints about Labour winning in 2005 on 35% minority of votes. You politicians just dont care about democracy, only incumbency.

 You know very well that nobody asked for the Alternative Vote, it was just the Straw man that was all Labour and the Tories would offer and are now impudently knocking down.

 Even so, you can't do so fairly.
Nobody has four or five votes with AV. What you mean is that someone's vote may be re-distributed more times than another person's. Your objection is that people may have an alternative vote to FPTP's wasted vote system.

 AV has an admittedly modest potential for making seats less safe, because, say, an Independent Labour candidate could stand against an official candidate, without splitting the Labour vote.

 Talking about getting "muddled up," proportional representation is NOT a "system," it is a principle. And it is also wrong to say that principle "matches the number of seats a party wins with the number of votes it received."

Proportional Representation is just that: the proportional election of representatives, achieved by the single transferable vote (STV) as the 2007 Scottish local elections proved. STV is the democratic system we should be using for all official elections.

What you are muddling PR with is proportional partisanship by Party List or Additional (List) systems, a popular fallacy, I admit, but why should you stoop to it?


Half a government: one party-political Palace of Westminster.

The Coalition is reducing the number of politicians by 50.
The Coalition is increasing the number of politicians by hundreds, packing them into the Lords on party lists.
The Houses of Parliament are turned into one party-political Palace of Westminster.

They will be pseudo-elected by two different voting systems (FPTP or AV) as a pretext that the two chambers wont have the same party balance of power. Tho, the only real purpose is to avoid one good voting system by employing two bad ones. Politicians want Britain as a party oligarchy instead of a representative democracy.

Party List systems are preference votes made by the parties and not the people. STV is the only proportional count that allows all the people a preference vote.  And that includes Additional (party list) Member Systems.

The Richard report, on the Welsh Assembly, condemned AMS precisely because it doesnt allow voters to reject candidates. Its recommendation of STV was blocked by Britain's ever-undemocratic parliament and government, safely exploiting the ignorance and therefore indifference on the subject.

One-dimensional pseudo-democrats abolish the potential of the second chamber for representative elections in vocational expertise.

 Life's a scramble and politicians are the scramblers in chief, leading the wrecking rush.

 The hand-me-down assertion, that there is no ideal voting system does not imply that there is only a Babel of compromises.

The pursuit of knowledge or science is progressive. A century and a half ago, J S Mill MP's speeches on Parliamentary Reform recognised the essentials of voting method for a mature democracy. The work has gone on ever since, despite poorly informed commentators on the subject. And, I can safely add without being effectively refuted, that the democratic and scientific method of elections is the Single Transferable Vote. 

Six official reports have more or less endorsed STV in the previous decade. And probably would all have done so more emphaticly, a seventh, the Jenkins report as well, had not the government blocked STV (as explained at the end of my page: Against the Jenkins Report).

The 2009-10 Speakers Conference on Parliamentary Representation regarded the parties as its "gate-keepers." That makes the rest of us Parliament's gate-crashers.

Richard Lung.
1 december 2010.

Many more on-line comments on Press articles.

To top of page.

Comment on Tim Montgomerie (from ConservativeHome), The Telegraph, 15 january 2011.


Tim Montgomerie comes up with the usual falsehoods: FPTP does not elect the candidate with "!the most votes." It elects the candidate with more votes than any other single candidate. The more choice of candidates, the smaller the percentage of the votes the winner needs, because of split voting.

That couldnt happen with PR.

TM says:

"... proper proportional representation (in which the composition of Parliament precisely mirrors the total votes cast for each party)" 

But Proportional Representation, properly speaking is exactly what it says: the proportional election of representatives.

Proportional representation applies, as a consequence, to all groups in society including but not exclusive to parties. Party List systems only give proportional partisanship.

PR properly speaking is the single transferable vote. STV is widely recognised, by those whove studied the matter, as the best system. For instance, it elects most first preferences, which can never happen in a single member system, such as Labour and Tory politicians have confined the terms of the referendum to, for that very reason.

Nevertheless, the Alternative Vote does at least allow the voters to state their order of choice beyond the most limited ranking that an X-vote allows: for either of the two front runners, if you dont want to waste your vote.


Comment on february 2011 Mail article by Harry Phibbs

(which provoked some commentors – I didnt, despite the provocation – to call him Fibbs).


FPTP produces "clear results" - clearly wrong results: mainly one party dictatorships on minority votes.

"the person with the most votes wins" False: candidate with more votes than any other wins: can be very small proportion of votes.

Phibbs: AV only used by 3 countries. - But politicians will still use AV process for electing their party leaders - Tories as well as Labour (a fact Phibbs forgets) because they wont deny themselves an over-all majority result. 

Phibbs: "those who back minority or fringe parties get several" votes. False: Some voters will vote for one candidate in each round, others may vote for different candidates.

AV can give "perverse" results - probably not as perverse on average as FPTP. That's because both systems retain MPs single member monoplies on representation. The "gift" is to the two-party control freaks from the least possible choice offered by an X-vote. AV would give more freedom of choice so is a small progressive step.

Tho, only STV which also has a proportional count would give truly  representative democracy.


 Comment on a Telegraph article, february 2011.


"An attempt by the House of Lords to set a 40 per cent turnout threshold..."

That would look good from a Tory party winning near an over-all majority of seats on 36% of the votes. Not to mention the previous Labour government winning a 60 seat majority on 35% of the votes. No complaints or thresholds against that by the winning parties.

" AV would then be the thin end of the wedge: soon, full-scale multi-member constituency PR would be introduced."

There is no such thing as single-member constituency PR, because you cannot have PR in single member constituencies.


PS The concurrent Telegraph editorial also speaks from ignorance and prejudice. Proportional Representation by the Single Transferable Vote does not give disproportionate power to a coalition partner, because STV is not party-based. It is representative democracy of individuals, prefering candidates across the political spectrum, effecting universal primaries and effecting the nation's prefered choice of coalition partners. STV gives unity in diversity of choice not dogmatic partisan division.


Comment on David Cameron's 18 february 2011 article in The Mail:

 Politicians elect over-all majority leaders with AV. The public are second class citizens who have the least possible choice of a single X-vote.

With AV, every voter has a vote in every round. It is nonsense to say that some have several votes to others one vote. Some have to forego their first preferences, some dont, in succeeding rounds.

Churchill's criticism of AV amounts to it not electing most first preferences. That takes the system he rightly supported, the single transferable vote form of PR, which a self-serving Parliament vetoed.

AV is a small step to STV.

David Cameron has gone down the Blair way of misleading people and will become as much distrusted.



Comment on 18 february 2011 Mail editorial:


The Mail editorial neglects to mention that Churchill supported proportional representation. The single transferable vote elects most first preferences, 74% in the STV Scottish local elections.

But at least the Alternative Vote allows the expression of order of choice, so that if ones first preference doesnt count, then a second or later preference might. AV is a small step towards STV's representative democracy, away from the two-party tyranny of FPTP.

I could respect The Mail as a critic of politicians abusing the safe seat system of FPTP. But when they misrepresent any slight improvement to the voting system, they have historicly tarnished their reputation.


Comment in The Telegraph, 20 february 2011:


Janet Daley,

Your first sentence is your truest. [I'm confused.]

In a democracy, which you claim to believe in, the simple question is not whether coalition is better than one-party government (single parties are coalitions of interest, too) but whether democracy is better than oligarchy.

 The 2005 election by FPTP produced a one-party dictatorship on 35% of the votes and 22% of the electorate. The whole tone of your article is that tyranny is better because it is more decisive. In a war emergency, decision may be all, but we have democracy to make wars unnecessary, because everyone's wishes are adequately consulted and implemented.

 At present, we dont have the election system to deliver a properly representative democracy. A self-serving Parliament banned the option of the single transferable vote in a referendum. With STV you can vote for your prefered coalition by prefering individual candidates across party lines.

STV proportionly represents the prefered majority coalition that the voters want (rather than the oligarchicly prefered coalition a single party has cobbled together to win on a minority vote with FPTP).

 The Alternative Vote is a poor second best to STV. But AV would at least allow the voters to give their order of choice for candidates, which would give some indication of their cross-party allegiances and of the kind of compromises they might make, as distinct from the compromises that have been made for them within a single party, most of them didnt vote for, but which got in power,anyway, with FPTP.



Comment on Andrew Rawnsley's Observer  20 february 2011 article for AV

 [Rawnsley jokingly called "saddos" himself and other close followers of electoral reform.]

Dear fellow saddos,

 Fear of change was the main weapon that won the No campaign to STV in British Columbia's second referendum, which allowed the partisans off the leash from confinement to objective information in the first referendum.

The BC public, judging by a post-election opinion poll, believed a proportional system was necessary, due to the highly erratic results of FPTP in the province, but they also believed the No campaign's assertions that the system was thoro'ly bad and too complicated and the constituencies too big, and (appealing to the herd instinct) too few places used it: Tasmania etc (as distinct from Papua New Guinea for AV).

 The BC Yes campaign had huge support of 6000 activists and the No campaign practicly nothing on the ground. But the BC Citizens Assembly's successful labors to find the best voting system, STV, (banned from a referendum vote by Britain's self-serving Parliament) which took them the best part of a year, was undone in hugely expensive thirty second tv adverts, as a basis for the general public's making up their mind.

The No campaign admitted they used their expenditure almost all on mass adverts.

 The BC Yes campaign adverts needed to state the advantages of STV instead of just the proportionality disadvantages of FPTP.

 Also, the Yes campaign appears to have been at a disadvantage from a widely dismissive attitude from the media mob, the kind of comments that would be declared in contempt of court, under the sub judice rule, that the jury must not be prejudiced by uninformed opinion and be allowed to decide on the merits of the evidence.

Even David Cameron managed to whip himself into a frenzy of loathing for AV, for the benefit of his Mail article, the other day. Cameron and The Mail will tarnish their reputations for honesty just for the dubious oligarchic advantage of doing down the slightest improvement to Parliamentary representation, which AV offers.

Tho, of course, the Tory and other parties would defend to the death their right to use a variety of AV, instead of FPTP, for their own leadership elections, as distinct from elections for those second class citizens, the general public.

Drawing the AV referendum battle-lines

( website, 27 february 2011)

(It is the politics website introducer, I criticise for describing FPTP as giving an “outright” winner.)

Matthew Elliott heads the No-to-AV campaign – he whose book, Fleeced! I have reviewed and supported. (As with Margaret Beckett, who I support in her opposition to nuclear power, I don’t have to support their resistance to AV’s slight democratic improvement.)

Katie Ghose, spoke on the politics site, for the Yes-to-AV campaign.


Comments on the debate:

The First past The Post system does not give an "outright" winner. That is the whole point of an Alternative Vote to ensure there is an outright winner. Or to put it another way: there is no Post in the First Past The Post system. The Alternative Vote insists on the Post of an over-all majority of over 50% of the votes. That is AV insists on a basic democratic standard. The more candidates splitting each others support, the less votes a FPTP winner needs. In principle an oligarchy can govern on FPTP and does.

The Alternative Vote takes a small step towards better democracy than FPTP within a constituency.

The No-campaign's complaints, that AV does not do more than that, are irrelevant. The anti-reformers wouldnt let the reformers debate a properly democratic system, in the referendum, that meets the remaining limitations that AV still shares with FPTP.

The single transferable vote meets all the objections leveled against either FPTP or AV. That's why the self-serving incumbent politicians have kept STV off the agenda.

We know from the Ashdown Diaries volume 2, 6 May 1998, that privately Blair wouldnt give Jenkins STV. (Hence, Jenkins remark after about Blair being a second-rate intellect.) We didnt know that all those STV submissions, including mine, to the commission were a waste of time, because the one person that mattered in the country wouldnt have STV.

But half a dozen reports since Jenkins have more or less supported STV, despite more government obstruction and discouragement, including the current referendum.

AV's ranked choice makes it a small step towards STV's (proportionly) representative democracy, and as such I hope we shall take it, despite the misleading opposition to any improvement.

The decisive factor on whether to choose FPTP or AV, in the referendum, is not Papua New Guinea and Fiji but the politicians' own insistence on using an alternative vote procedure to ensure their party leaders have an over-all majority of over half the votes.



Comment on Boris Johnson article

28 february 2011. The Telegraph.


Interesting that the politicians insist on perpetrating the "gigantic fraud" of AV upon themselves, when they dont allow their party leaders to be elected without an over-all majority after a series of exclusion counts!

Or is it that the politicians use a fraudulent voting system (FPTP), as HG Wells says in his 1924 novel, The Dream?

Boris Johnson: "Why on earth are we contemplating this change for Westminster elections?"

Youve half-answered your own question: Because people like Gordon Brown and Boris Johnson and the rest of the two-party caste wouldnt contemplate anything more than the slightest improvement to democracy than the Alternative Vote, and then are in a panic that even this "baby step," as Clegg also called AV, could let in a few new voices into Parliament (against evidence of Australia's two-party AV system).

Much of the No-campaign seems to be made up of parrotings of misleading information and crude attempts to prejudice the innocent public.

Take this Borisian beauty: "yes, it is indeed true that if you vote for the BNP you will effectively have two votes – one for the BNP and one for whomsoever you place second. Is that such a great thing?"

Well, to tell you the truth, everyone will have a ranked choice. In a single member system, it's not such a great thing for the BNP, because most voters wont make the BNP one of their later choices. The BNP are more likely to be elected by First Past The Post, which is no doubt why the BNP are supporting FPTP with the Tories.

Actually, it would be a great thing if the smaller parties, and Independents were fairly or proportionly represented. We have a system that does this: the single transferable vote elected 74% of first preferences in the Scottish local elections. (I dont think the BNP have that level of support to be elected proportionly, except with a regional list, like the Euro-elections.)

But the self-serving incumbent politicians keep blocking STV.

Blair privately blocked Roy Jenkins on STV (Ashdown Diaries volume 2, 6 May 1998). Six reports since have all more or less supported STV despite the discouragement of the politicos.

 AV would be a small improvement because it does at least allow the voters their true order of choice, not the least possible choice of an X-vote, that leaves the dilemma of voting tacticly to exclude the least liked candidate or wasting a vote on some most liked candidate not likely to be elected in the monopolistic single member system.

Boris Johnson gives a lot of guessed figures, as if we knew what the results of an AV election would have been. But that requires knowledge of voters preferences. AV can produce more disproportionate results than FPTP but on average probably does less so. Both FPTP and AV are inherently disproportionate because you cannot have PR in a single member system. Vote Yes to AV on May 5th. And roll on STV, which meets all the stock objections that apply to party list systems of PR.



Comment on Brendan O'Neill article

28 february 2011. The Telegraph.


The perfect public school boy objects to "snitching!"

You did (or didnt) have a privileged education and connections that gives you your privileged position, your sinecure, to rain down tosh on the rest of us?

Dont blame me for the slight, the public has the "nous" to know better.

Science works in that it insists on standardss of honest debate to ensure against deception, including self-deception, so that we dont merely believe what we want to believe. Politics fails so badly  because it is as completely unscrupulous as the No-campaign.

For a century, the Establishment has been avoiding any attempt to make the voting system worthy of a truly representative democracy. The antics of the No-to-AV campaign are just the latest desperate attempt to manipulate public opinion by emotional fogging of reasonable reform.

This doublethink article from a biased Mail media group attempts to emotionly sway the public by pretending that an attempt to remove emotional manipulation, is itself censorsahip. This article itself could be said to censor all rational debate. Not a single reasonable argument given on the issue: Just a waste paper for the wasted vote.

Lest it be said I have no reasonable arguments, they are on my "Democracy Science" website.



Comment on  article by Paul Goodman

(ConservativeHome). 4 March 2011. The Telegraph.


Politicians will never give up the Alternative Votes exclusion count essential for electing their party leaders, with an over-all majority, whatever the outcome of the May 5 referendum.

David Cameron says AV gives the gold medalist runner the bronze. In fact, it is AV that supplies the winning "Post," of an over-all majority victory, that the so-called First Past the Post doesnt have. And this is the real "gigantic fraud" that Boris Johnson tries to deflect from the guilty "FPTP" system to the - comparitively - innocent AV.

Referendums have a way of showing-up the opportunists who hope to snatch an unscrupulous victory.

Paul Goodman seems to regard the Alternative Vote as a threat to the survival of the Tory leader and his party. Yet he admits this cannot be proved. It is sufficient, as far as he is concerned, that Tory MPs will say it. (Another article today in The Telegraph celebrates UKIP pushing the Lib Dems out of second place in the Barnsley by-election and predicts UKIP will become the biggest party from the Euro-elections - courtesy of a party list voting system, which the Tory party would also oppose for Westminster elections (So would I.)

Likewise Goodman admittedly puts aside any arguments on the merits of the case for electoral reform.

Well, it has to be admitted that a way to win referendums can be by  panicking the Tory party to panic the people, who have been kept uninformed by a media careless of democratic progress in the common interest.

An attitude of party self-interest indulging an ritual civil war is a sure sign of a broken society, by which should be meant, a failure to agree on free and fair rules of the political game, that all sides can respect and unite on, should occasion require.

AV takes the small step of greater freedom of choice than the minimum-choice X-vote. The single transferable vote would complete the process by electing most first preferences for a truly representative democracy - resisted by a self-serving incumbents parliament.


 Up-dated 5 March 2011.

Comment on Ed West article, in The Telegraph.

(9 March 2011: People who don't even know what AV is are about to bring it about.)

There is no reason why people should know about AV. Voting method is a specialist subject. The only reason for a referendum was to block the public having the same benefit of choice that politicians get in electing their over-all majority leaders.

 The debate is one of prejudice from the No-campaign (Think: Nick Clegg for President with AV) and a small but significant reason for giving the voters a numerate vote and taking people out of an infantile illiterate X-vote that gives them the least posible choice - or as you would not say: keeping them in their illiterate serfdom to the party bosses so dearly beloved of the reactionary media.

 Next step, the single transferable vote, which elects most first preferences, 74% in the Scottish local elections, that is a truly representative democracy, the politicos and their hacks have been obstructing for a century.

Comment on Tom Uttley article.

The Mail 18 March 2011.

I didnt post a message on this but on reflection, it struck me as typical of the provoking yawn, yawn attitude of ignorant conceit, and hostile determination to sabotage any inkling of greater electoral power. After all, this is a question of the basics of democracy. It deserves treating with some respect.

Misrepresentation being the norm for FPTP, and thereby its supporters, he misrepresents AV as "mind-bogglingly complicated." This phrase was picked up in two or more online comments. In fact, all required of the voter is to be able to count up to about five orders of choice, if so desired: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ... for first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc, order of choice. One choice would do, which is all the x-vote gives.

These buffoons are less worthy of respect than baboons who teach their children to count up to three.

Nor is it hard to understand the returning officers work in an AV election count that has the candidates with the least votes give way until some candidate wins more votes than everybody else, an over-all majority.

As in the second British Columbia referendum, it was known that by pretending STV is too complicated (where again the voter has to be able to count up to five or so to get the power of choice that an X-vote doesnt confer) they could reverse public support to public antipathy, from the first referendum to the second.

Further remarks rounded-up:

This is the prejudicing against the education of democracy in a numerate vote. This is the snatching away a semblance of power to the popular interest in the small and grudging progress of AV.

On 18 february, The Mail editorial sided with a Cameron article against AV, allowing Nick Clegg to make a case for AV. Their on-line poll asked: Who do you believe, Cameron or Clegg? This personalised the debate, when Clegg was the most hated politician in Britain.

78% voted for Clegg on AV.

The articles appeared on the friday. The online comments on the editorial and Cameron's article were not working till the next day. The Mail pulled articles and poll and all, by Sunday. Usually they leave the public plenty of time for poll results to gather.

The Mail group as journalistic prop of the No-to-AV campaign, to the Alternative Vote referendum, for at least two weeks in a row, put up propaganda as news articles which no-one has the opportunity to refute on the spot.

Mail on Sunday criticised a supposedly pro-AV web-site smear that has nothing to do with the Yes-campaign, as if it had.

 Next week, 27 of february 2011, the paper copies a No-campaign poster: Nick Clegg as President.

So, the No campaign knows that Clegg intends to abolish the monarchy and make himself president?
What powers of divination!

The truth about the President Clegg poster is that the No-campaign unscrupulously used Cleggphobia to put people off the Alternative Vote.
AV is essentially the system that politicians use to elect their own leaders on a majority, precisely to avoid the possibility of electing leaders with minority support.

And the No campaign believes that the Tories and Labour dislike each other so much they would rather have the Lib Dems in power than each other?

The No-campaign kept quiet about where it gets its funding from - a story, the Mail on Sunday news-hound unaccountably failed to sniff out, much less bark about. Like the curious case of the dog in the night-time that failed to bark.

  The Mail group journos inflicted a relentless stream of prejudice against reform. Some received my above comments. Virtually no attempt at a debate, just propaganda or wrong-headed partisanship. Realpolitik not democracy is their stand-by. Their politics of force and fraud is shown by their abuse of publishing power: almost totally one-sided debate. And by the unacceptable standard of argument criticised above.

A timid reform has provoked a running-up of pirate flags intent on despoiling it.

Comment on Simon Walters article. Mail on Sunday 20th of March 2011:

As support for No campaign grows, and even Don't Knows are ahead of the Yes camp…

Clegg: I won't use AV poll as excuse to quit Coalition.

 55 per cent of people, in a survey, confessed they did not know how the proposed voting system would work.  One third did not even know about the coming referendum.

 Yet their page spread makes no attempt to explain beyond one sentence.  "Under AV, voters can cast multiple votes in order of preference and the candidate must gain more than 50% of votes to win."

 By way of debate, supporters are given one sentence: "Supporters say it is much fairer."

 Comment on article by Iain Martin, Daily Mail 26 March 2011.

Mail comments only allow 1000 characters, which including spaces between letters, is less than that number of letters. So, I did not have space to do more than repeat the essential points. The gist of this article was an attempt to sell No to AV on the popularity of David Cameron. (This from a No campaign that has discredited AV by treating it as a Clegg for President vote.) At the same time, the article threatened dire consequences for the PM at the hands of a merciless Tory party if he failed. From Cameron's already cited response, this tactic seems to have kick-started him into the reactionary line that AV, simple finger-counting numeracy, 1, 2, 3,... for voters, is the end of civilisation (Tory one-party dictatorship).

It is openly admitted that Tory funders have been tapped for funding the No campaign.
What should be a constitutional question by which all parts of the nation can agree on a fair game, has degenerated again into an obscene partisan power struggle to infect the electorate with their own prejudices.

Comment on the following gem:

The Sun, 'AV will bring in fascism', 30 March 2011,

Comment: The No-campaign have been repeating that the Alternative Vote will favor the British National Party, presumably on the well-founded principle that if you repeat a falsehood often enough, people will believe it. Despite the fact that the BNP are opposed to AV. The reason for this BNP opposition is that the BNP could not expect many cross-party preferences from voters for other party candidates, and so would be unlikely to make the over-all majority in a single-member constituency, required by AV.

Personally, as a democrat, I favor all significantly supported varieties of opinion being fairly represented in Parliament. That is why I support proportional representation by the single transferable vote, which is the one system that does that job properly enough.

Beginning of April. Referendum campaign launch:

 DAILY MAIL COMMENT: The AV system is complex, costly and a democratic disaster The official guide to the May 5 referendum, being sent to every home in Britain, sums up our present voting system in just seven words: ‘The candidate with the most votes wins.’ So how revealing that it needs more than three pages to explain the basics of the Alternative Vote,


My comment: the leaflet is wrong to repeat the No campaign learn-nothing know-nothing explanation of simple plurality voting. The candidate with more votes than any other – no matter how few – wins, meaning that so-called First Past The Post actually has no Post.

It needs more than three pages to explain AV, because AV is a new system to most people and anything new requires some explanation. This editorial lead is fatuous and sloppy, like virtually all the barbarian media say on this subject, and if on this subject, what credibility is to be given to much of the rest of what they say?

On the same day, from The Mail, this flippant caption:
CRAIG BROWN: AV, RSVP, RIP - vote reform made simple.

And this prejudicial and erroneous caption:
HARRY PHIBBS: The AV would be a gift to the BNP 
Nevermind, Phibbs, that the BNP actually oppose AV.


Telegraph, 4 April 2011.

Blog by Ed West, on Yes campaign sinking even lower than the No campaign by air-brushing a black poet from a Yes campaign leaflet. (Not heard, to date, a Yes campaign response.)

Blog by Norman Tebbitt claims that AV would cause disputed elections because the result gives a different answer when later preferences are taken into account to the count when only first preferences are counted, which he equates to a First Past The Post count.

However, Tebbitt assumes that X-votes are always first preferences, in a simple plurality count. This is generally agreed to be false, except now by Tebbitt apparently, for purposes of adding to public confusion on change. His party have been pushing tactical voting for themselves, as second or later preferences, instead of wasting your X-vote on a first preference for the Liberals, since the 1950s.

I don’t consider myself a vindictive person, but surely there ought to be some sort of poetic justice here for the enemies of more voting choice than the X-vote's minimum.
I suppose we have to agree with GK Chesterton that it would be intolerable if people always got what they deserve.
But sometimes, it might make a refreshing change.

The same day, I asked a group of people if they had anything to ask or say about the national referendum. A few were in favor. Most didnt say. And the No-campaign's propaganda was dutifully trotted out:

Someone said that The Electoral Reform Society was hoping to make a business profit from the use of computers for the Alternative Vote count.
I had to point out that AV had been in use in Australia for over 80 years, long before computers were invented and still not using them in the count.

Someone else said how complicated AV is and how tiring it would be for her to do the extra counting.
(Oh dear! I said nothing.)

Someone else didnt fail to mention the (not so far denied) air-brushing out the black poet from a YES leaflet. And immediately changed the subject, as soon as I made one point of principle: David Davis not David Cameron won the Tory leadership on First Past The Post. David Cameron won on an AV procedure, so Cameron must believe Davis should be leader.

It was a depressing experience.

5 April 2011 update.

Comment on Simon Heffer's article in The Telegraph, 6 april 2011: The PM should listen to his old tutor.

(Vernon Bogdanor has just brought out a book on The Coalition and the Constitution.)

No doubt all that Professor Bogdanor says about the alternative vote is true.  And that is why AV and not the democratic voting system, that he has so long and eruditely espoused in his books, was not allowed in the referendum by the two main partys politicians.

 Nevertheless, the alternative vote does extend numeracy to British voters, which does reform the vote out of its illiterate least possible choice.

This is a necessary tho not sufficient condition for representative democracy. I am no more satisfied with it than Vernon Bogdanor.  But I do not want to condemn the British voters to innumeracy in the referendum.

It is curious how constitutional reform can go ahead no matter what cronyism it inflicts on the British people but as soon as anything in the democratic direction is afoot, there has to be a referendum in which the barbarian media can launch the sort of all-out tosh that has characterised the No campaign to AV.

 The referendum has shown politicians and the media in their true colors. It comes down to this, whether you believe in realpolitik or constitutional rules that are generally agreed to be a free and fair game.

Comment on Andrew Gilligan's article: AV is nothing to shout about.

Telegraph 11 april 2011.

Heed the opponents of AV by what they do not what they say. Whatever the referendum result, politicians will still elect their leaders by an alternative vote procedure to ensure their leaders command majority support, and never use FPTP. That answers how crucial the difference can be.

The No campaign doesnt believe its own tosh, demolished here in part by Andrew Gilligan.

 Britain's mis-leader, David Cameron says "Trust Winston," as an opponent of AV.But cameron knows perfectly well that Winston Churchill supported proportional representation. The Commons was even warned by an MP, in the 2010 Constitutional Reform Bill debates not to use Churchill to refute AV when he supported PR.

 Churchill said: I would rather be one-fifth of the MPs for the whole of Leeds than one MP for a fifth of Leeds.

The single transferable vote, in multi-member constituencies, in Scottish local elections elected nearly three-quarters of first prefered candidates. From AV giving preferential voting, we can move on to STV giving proportional counting as well. STV is the real deal in representative democracy.

Comment on Vernon Bogdanor's article: AV referendum. The weapon of choice.

The Guardian, 12 april 2011.

All true, Mr Bogdanor, but?

Aung San Suu Kyi did a Buddhist assessment of the four trials of democracy.

One is to over-come what I'd call favoritism.
Two is to over-come spite.
Three is to over-come ignorance.
And four is to over-come fear.

Needless to say, this infamous AV referendum is an orgy of all four vices.
The barbarian media have been "laughably biased" as one Mail commenter put it.
A stick, to beat the coalition with, refers to the spite vote, much in evidence from commenters on CIF and elsewhere.

As to ignorance, Andrew Gilligan in The Telegraph commented on a few of the No campaign's more absurd claims. Like Bogdanor he also poured cold water on the Yes camapaign's excessive enthusiasm.

I always say that the single transferable vote is the democratic voting system, redeeming the first preferences, mostly wasted in a single member system, tho at least AV gives a preference vote, and so should be supported in the referendum.

Lastly fear: the Labour and Tory parties were too afraid to offer a campaign on STV and having dared so much as AV, the Tories and half Labour now have exaggerated fears that even this modest change will undermine them.

Comment on: There is an alternative to the fudge that is AV.

Telegraph editorial, 16 april 2011.


Some good comments here.

Let's just mention again the editorial's arguments against AV.

AV allegedly elects "the least disliked candidate". But that's better than FPTP which gives to many the next most disliked candidate.

Half the Tory vote and half the Labour vote are wasted to give these two parties a near monopoly of representation against all the other diversity of national opinion.

Only STV (single transferable vote) would give us representative democracy: most first preferences elected. But at least AV allows the expression of orders of preference.

 And for all AV's limitations in this respect, one can see that its opponents dont believe their own arguments when politicians use AV procedure to elect their own party leaders and their own Select committee chairmen in the Commons.

 I'm sorry but this editorial degenerates into a sort of subdued clinging to what Hailsham, in The Dilemma of Democracy, called "elective dictatorship" which he (as Quintin Hogg) had once embraced, on just this editorial's terms, in his 1945 manifesto book "The Case for Conservatism."

It is time to move from FPTP contests for one-party dictatorships.

 The reactionary media need not fear that AV will make the Tory party beg for the proportional representation they have so unfairly denied the British people for so long.

drc wrote, in response to the above comment:

 And peers, too - they elect their Lord Speaker by the same variant of AV:


A PR exercise in the Lords?

Telegraph View: If AV is a poor system for electing MPs, Proportional Representation is in many ways even worse.
7:00AM BST 17 Apr 2011


 So, The Telegraph editorial believes that compromise has to be kept within the Tory or Labour one-party dictatorships that afflict this country. And believes that its make-believe majorities in the Commons are a good enough pretence of democracy.

 There follows a discussion on the problems of a PM actually having to compromise with  people. The ancient Greek law-giver Solon was urged to take on dictatorial powers. He replied that the mountain top was a fine prospect. The difficulty was in getting down again - something which Thatcher and Blair were to find out.

 PR "for the whole electoral system" - whatever that badly expressed phrase means - would "be disasterous for the country" would it?

There's no sign you even know what PR or democracy is, properly speaking, much less agree to it.


Comment on another Telegraph article, on 17 april 2011.

 Tim Montgomerie's article, A Voters guide to the alternative vote, is actually a voters guide to the mentality of the party activist. The only point of view he appreciates, apart from that of Tory advantage, is the mirror-image viewpoint of his Labour opponents.

 Eventually, he gets to the campaign difference over the BNP. Actually, the Tory chairman, Baroness Warsi claimed what the Sun reported on 30 March 2011, as 'AV will bring in fascism.'

This is despite the fact that the BNP are against AV.

 Montgomerie asks with assumed innocence: What's all this about the Yes campaigns funds?

The Yes campaign have published all their donors ahead of the referendum.

The No campaign are taking advantage of the legal loophole of not having to do so till 6 months after the referendum.

The slur on a funder of the Yes campaign is conveniently not identified by Montgomerie. There was an insinuation that a firm stood to gain from the use of voting machines, which is unfounded because AV, as used in Australia does not use voting machines. That's perhaps why the claim is made so vaguely.

 Several indignant Aussie commenters here say it is news to them that Australia is getting rid of AV.

I completely agree with those Aussie commenters here who regard the trashy level of this referendum debate as an embarrassment to Britain.

 But the fact is that the unpolitical general public are easily swayed by propaganda. (I saw a small sample of the gullibility, timidity, world-weariness, innuendo and evasion - the grubby imprint of the No-campaign on the public mind, which I hope is not too typical.)

 The clear example is the two STV referendums in Britiish Columbia. The first didnt allow other than a neutral factual description of how STV worked for people to make up their minds.

The second referendum reversed the majority by letting loose partisan propaganda similar to the No-to-AV campaign, sometimes using the self-same objections for the two different systems of STV and AV.

For example, they intimidated the public by pretending STV/AV is terribly complicated. They appealed to the herd instinct for timid conformity by  emphasising how few countries use it - neglecting to mention how many professions use STV - or how much the politicians themselves depend on AV and will never use FPTP.

Comment on article by Nick Clegg in The Telegraph, 20 april 2011.

Politicians cannot do without an Alternative Vote procedure to ensure their party leaders command an over-all majority. And also their Select Committee chairmen in the Commons and Lord Speaker in the Lords.

Cameron defeated David Davis for Tory leader. David was defeated by brother Ed Miliband for Labour leader, because the Tory and Labour parties insist on an AV and not a FPTP procedure.

 An alternative vote, in order of choice, 1, 2, 3 etc allows a choice across party lines to show what we want as a nation, rather than the bitter divide we still are.

The single transferable vote, which elects most first preferences thru a proportional count, would have been much better, had we been given that option. But AV would be a "baby step", as Clegg once said, to more representative democracy.



Comment on an article in The Guardian, 22 april 2011.

Martin Kettle is right: hatred of Clegg is cheap - ill-advised and downright wrong, tho he may have been. Blair and Brown became hate figures but only after many years in absolute power.

 Clegg is hated both from the Right and the Left, both sides of  Britain's two-party system, which is institutionalised blaming the other side, for serially letting down the country.

 Reactionary human nature and Britains reactionary politics will never improve while it can get away with blaming someone else. If there was as much determination for democratic reform or power to the public, as there is serial hatred for leaders, this country might get to manage its own affairs, so we have only ourselves to blame when things go wrong - as they would - but at least it would be in our power to adapt.

 An obvious current example is the AV referendum - a foot in the door for the British electorate - but No, the spite vote is determined to use Clegg as a stalking horse to prevent even that baby step to popular empowerment.

Kettle is right, hatred's foolish counsel says more about the haters than Clegg.


Comment on: A Formula for Fair Voting by David Broomhead.

The Guardian 23 april 2011.
(Neither formula nor fairness that I could see.)

Glad to see so many good comments here refusing to be blinded by science.

 So, mathematics would "prevent much wasting of time" would it?

This article is a fair example of how academics have been muddying the waters - in the case of this here social choice theory, for over half a century - against any clear understanding of electoral democracy.

 As this article states, the mathematics works on an assumption of preference voting, and also majority counting, in other words the Alternative Vote - in order to debunk the Alternative Vote.

 The social choice mathematicians do not attempt to assume that First Past The Post is even worthy of debunking.

It is a classic case of: Brother, let me take the mote out of your eye.
First take the beam out of your own.

The whole point of the limitations of single member elections is that you have multi-member elections with a proportional count of the preference vote. That way you get most first preferences elected (74% in the case of the STV Scottish local elections) and experimental proof that the system works well.

Experimental proof, as well as mathematical proof, can trump the arguments in science.

Science doesnt "try to design the perfect voting system" or whatever, it tries to make progress with what weve got - something the academics have so lamentably failed to do, since the great and generous-minded John Stuart Mill recognised the key to representative democracy, 150 years ago, in Hare's system (the ancestor of modern STV/PR) and stood for Parliament to introduce the Bills for votes for women and PR.


Comment on article in Mail on Sunday, 24 april 2011.

 (An article mainly about an article of clothing: what Cameron and Clegg would wear for the Royal Wedding.)

The no campaigns war on AV for "President Clegg" is false , when Cameron and Reid pretend that AV gives more votes to small party supporters.  What they really mean is that some people would have the affront to not always vote Tory or Labour, if given the chance to escape the hold of wasted votes with only an x-vote.-------------

The Alternative Vote excludes the candidates with least first preferences until the candidate with the most votes wins.  That’s how Cameron and Ed Miliband were elected party leaders. First past the post does not in fact elect the candidate with the most votes, only the candidate with more votes than each other candidate, which is why first past the post does not have any post.  The alternative vote supplies the post with its 50% plus majority "post."-----------

The alternative vote encourages cross-party support, which the main parties would have to heed to win by 50% plus democratic majority in each constituency.  Co-operation, as well as competition, progresses a nation. --------- Tho STV would be best.

Comment on Telegraph editorial accusing Clegg of mud-slinging.

25 April 2011.

It was admitted in your sister paper, the Mail on Sunday on 24 april, that the No-campaign was using the unpopularity of Clegg to put people off AV.

The No-campaigns AV for "President Clegg" is a base and baseless abuse of the referendum.

As Ed Miliband said, this is not a referendum on Clegg but on the better voting system. Far from mud-slinging, The Telegraph editorial might have mentioned that Ed has actually come out as a mature and moderate spokesman on the virtue of a preference vote that can show areas of national agreement by ordering ones choice for candidates of more than one party.
Pity about his party, tho.

What are the arguments then?

The No campaign dont believe their own arguments because they use AV for electing their party leaders.
So do MPs for Select Committee chairmen and Peers for their Lord Speaker.

When there is a prize or award to be fairly given, AV is the system used, e.g the Nobel Prize, Booker prize, the Oscars, the Baftas and many other examples.


So, AV is better than FPTP for single vacancies because it ensures a democratic majority in each constituency. (STV would be much more representative, which is precisely why the Labour-Tory duopoly blocked it.)

The opponents to change are absurd because they imply that there is no remedy for FPTP delivering MPs with as little as 29% of the votes in the 2010 election.

 Why doesnt the No campaign be honest and just scream they dont want democracy, they just want their divisive little oligarchy which can foolishly ignore every one else's counsel, to perpetuate national self-defeat?


Comment on Telegraph view: The pro-AV camp's dirty tricks begin to back-fire.

2 May 2011. (The Telegraph view was mainly about Chris Huhne's out-bursts. The paper says "Although the No lobby has played the odd questionable trick, it has avoided the snide and bitter tone of its opponents."
To correct this white-wash, a slightly shortened version of the following "review" was posted to the on-line paper on 3 May 2011.)

No to AV campaign leaflet.

To top of page.

One side of this glossy leaflet is taken up with a photo of a rather glum Nick Clegg propeling the back of presumably David Cameron into number 10 Downing St.

The no campaign could have posted a cheaper more informative leaflet. But as this is their pitch to the general public, we must take it as we find it.

 Here then are their half-dozen reasons for telling the public to vote no to the alternative vote.

Firstly they say AV will produce “coalitions most of the time, with Nick Clegg deciding who would be Prime Minister by cutting a deal behind closed doors after the election.”

 Comment: The first point is actually a criticism of how the coalition was formed after the 2010 election. Apart from the fact that it was a first past the post election, the actual way the coalition was formed is a procedural matter distinct from the voting system that engendered it.

 The eventuality of coalitions could be prepared-for before the election, so that the voters have a better idea of how the different parties might combine and compromise with each other in government.

 In the event of a coalition, preference voting across party lines informs the nation which parties the public would prefer as partners in government. In this respect, AV is definitely superior to first past the post.

Much better, than either system, would be the single transferable vote because STV not only allows preferential voting across party lines but fairly elects the parties in due proportion to their support in the country and so makes representative government possible.

 Coalitions are compatible with democracy, indeed a much more representative democracy if STV is used. The real point about coalitions is that first past the post is an undemocratic means to prevent them happening and gives least indication of what coalition the public might want to happen, if some coalition is unavoidable.

 Moreover, there is no evidence of more coalitions from over 80 years use of AV in Australia. Also estimates of British general elections, using AV, suggest they would not have made much difference to which governments were formed.

The real factor at work is the decline of support for the two main parties, so that they are less likely to be able to govern on their own, even with the gross handicap that FPTP gives them. All the more reason to move to STV to ensure any given coalition is prefered by the majority.


The No campaigns second point is that only three countries use AV. The claim that "Australia want to get rid of it." is simply false. Alternative voting is used by the politicians themselves for their party leaderships and leading positions in both Houses of Parliament, as well as in wider society for single vacancies and awards.

The no campaign gives a misleading impression that AV is too little used to be worthy of consideration.

In any case, this point does not address the question of the merit of the alternative vote.


Nor does the fourth point address the merit of the alternative vote, in claiming it will cost £250 million. Critics have said this cost includes the cost of the referendum itself and the cost of voting machines which will not be used.

Once introduced, AV would only cost payment for the slightly longer time to count more than the first round. First past the post is just a system that neglects to count beyond the first round. The negligence of FPTP may be cheaper on election night, by a couple of million pounds or so, but the cost to the nation of that unfinished count may be grievous in the long run.


Of course it was a waste of time and money to hold a referendum on a voting system, the alternative vote, which nobody really wants, even tho, in all conscience, we have to support it, as slightly more democratic than first past the post.


The first point was wrong in implying that coalitions cannot be democratic and in defiance of the evidence that AV makes them the norm. Likewise, the second and fourth points manage to be both false and irrelevant.


Only the no campaign's three remaining points properly address the question of the legitimacy of the logic of the alternative vote.


The third point claims AV "allows the second or third placed candidate to win. We would end up with third best candidates becoming MPs."

Comment: this point simply assumes that first past the post ensures the election of the best candidates. The fallacy of this assertion is that only the first preferences should count towards winning an election. This fallacy is compounded by the implication that an x-vote is always a first preference: that would be true only if there were just two candidates.

 According to the no campaign's third point, David Cameron won as the second best candidate for the Tory leadership, because second placed to the first placed David Davis, in the first round of the election.

The opponents of AV don't believe their own argument, because Tory and Labour will never use first past the post for their party leadership elections, whatever the outcome of referendums.

As HG Wells said, voting method is not a matter of opinion but a matter of demonstration. The voting method referendum is based on this fallacy that authority prevail over science. This becomes a farce, if the (media and money manipulated) result is akin to Rudyard Kipling’s The village that voted that the Earth is flat.


The nay sayers fifth point is "that's someone else's fifth preference is worth the same as your first preference." This may be true - at a stretch. Never mind, in principle it is right. What they really object to in AV, is not that it gives equal weight to unequal preferences but that AV would expose the extent to which first past the post does just that.

 For instance, whether or not I'm allowed to state my order of choice on the ballot paper, my fifth preference might well be for a Tory or perhaps a Labour candidate. And if the truth could be told, thanks to AV, such a fifth preference might count the same as someone else's first preference for a Tory or Labour candidate. That is because my first to fourth preferences might very well be for fringe parties or independents, probably excluded in the early rounds of an AV count.

Such preferential heresy is definitely not what the two main parties want the general public to know, for information is potentially popular power over the duopoly.

The fifth point is at bottom a fear of preference voting because it exposes x-voting’s suppressing information relevant to a choice of more than two candidates.


The sixth point objects to AV on the supposition "that supporters of the BNP and other fringe parties would decide who wins, because they will be eliminated first and then their votes could be counted again and again for other parties. That will encourage other candidates to pander to the likes of the BNP."

 Comment: This objection is that people, who are not supporters of the two main parties, would actually have an influence on who gets elected, probably one of the two main parties.

John Curtice surveyed the AV by-elections in Scottish local government and found they made little difference from FPTP.

 Nor does AV pander to parties isolated on the extremes. The BNP and the Communist Party both oppose AV. They know that not many voters will transfer their preferences to them, which would give them an especially hard task of crossing the winning 50% threshold.

 Once again, the no campaign missed the point in criticising preference voting. The real fault is with the single member system, which means that most first preferences are wasted, in the process of excluding all but one candidate from election. STV Scottish local elections in multi-member constituencies elected 74% of first preferences in 2007.

 The sixth point is also misleading, because everyone's votes count "again and again" in each successive round, not just the votes of small minorities. AV is certainly no less an equal vote, in each successive round, than FPTP is in its single round, despite the leaflet's spurious invitation to “Defend equal votes by voting No…”

 Nor does FPTP ensure that "the candidate with the most votes wins." That is what AV ensures.

In short, the No campaign is a piece of Realpolitik, which says anything to get its desired result. With the money and the media support to get across its propaganda, it has not only swayed the voters but matched lobbygate New Labour for spin: false, irrelevant, misleading, biased...

Peter Oborne's "The Rise of Political Lying" awaits a sequel on his own side's fatuities.


Refutation of Premier Cameron's case for keeping FPTP vs AV.

To top of page.

The Telegraph, sunday 1 May 2011.


Mr Cameron,

Firstly, you say to keep FPTP because it is simple.

AV is simple as 1, 2, 3,..

Even baboons can count up to three. (Laurens van der Post: A story like the wind.)

 You say of AV: "It makes winners of losers and losers of winners."

Well, you ought to know, Mr Cameron, it made a Tory leadership winner out of you, instead of David Davis, with more first preferences than you.


Secondly, when you praise FPTPs "effectiveness," you make a virtue of FPTP exaggerating swings as it did for Thatcher, giving a majority of seats on 44% of the votes.

Cameron is saying that swing voters, giving disproportionate change in representation, are most important. Indeed, the 1.6% of the electorate who dictate the change in who holds the marginal constituencies are treated as the most important to target in campaigning.

 This contradicts the No campaign claim that FPTP gives an equal vote.

 Cameron confuses "decisiveness" with exaggerated swings. And the facts do not bear out that FPTP makes it easier "to kick out tired governments". The Tories were in power 18 solid years and New Labour 13 solid years.


Thirdly, Mr Cameron claims for FPTP, "efficiency."

Contrary to Cameron, FPTP is expensive and bureaucratic. That is because the main expense of elections is the single member system. If Cameron wanted a cheaper system that makes genuine communities out of constituencies, he would back the single transferable vote, where the number of seats can be adjusted to the population size of the community.

And you dont need the huge expense and waste of time re-drawing contentious artificial boundaries for the gerrymander-prone single member monopolies -- as the Tories now are so eagerly doing to repeat the trick of the 1983 election, when they virtually disenfranchised a quarter of the electorate's widely spread support of the Lib-SDP alliance, in order to secure Tory disproportional representation.

STV, which uses preference voting, was introduced "as easy as 1,2,3," in Ulster and was successfully introduced to the 2007 Scottish local elections.

AV would take a little longer to count more rounds than one FPTP round (and do the job properly) at an insignificant increase in expense.


Fourthly, Mr Cameron claims "fairness" for FPTP with "one person one vote."

But AV also gives this in every round, as Cameron falsely denies (see below).
Cameron's real complaint is that voters can change their choice in successive rounds - the whole point of having further rounds.
All that his argument boils down to is that he doesnt want the voters to have more than one choice. It is not an argument for only first preferences counting (if he believed that he'd believe David Davis should be Tory leader).

 The Tory party and most of the Labour party are desperate to suppress the preference information that AV gives of support for unrepresented rivals.
Preference voting for freedom of information!

 Cameron claims FPTP "is enshrined in our constitution and integral to our history – and AV flies in the face of all that because it destroys one person, one vote."

 Britain doesnt have a written constitution for FPTP to be enshrined in. (Unlike Ireland which has STV enshrined in its constitution.) Nor is the existing voting system historic. England historicly has a two-member system (occasionly more) representing the real communities of boroughs and counties.

 Cameron continues:

"If you vote for a mainstream candidate who comes top in the first round, your other preferences will never be counted.
But if you vote for a fringe candidate who gets knocked out early, your other votes will be counted."

 This ignores that the voters who stick with the same choice have their same choice repeatedly counted, in each round of AV.
It also ignores that when voters vote tacticly with their one X-vote under FPTP, the same thing happens, as he complains of: a vote that might have gone to a Monster Raving Loony goes to, say, the Tory party.
That, according to Cameronian logic, "is unfair and undemocratic".

 So, let's change it and go to STV, which elects most first preferences (74% in the 2007 Scottish local elections). Meanwhile, at least AV would allow voters to state their preferences.

 Cameron then appeals to FPTP because it is what so many other people do.
But as Margaret Thatcher described of her non-conformism, it means not always going with the crowd.
If England had always gone with the crowd, it would have conformed to Continental absolute monarchy or dictatorship, instead of limited government. It is time to limit the overweening power of the two party system and allow a say for others, with AV.

 Oh, and Churchill supported STV, which gives the best votes for the best candidates (most first preferences elected), the democratic voting system we should have for all official elections.


Further post to The Telegraph article by Cameron:

1 May 2011.

Just to correct some-one who misrepresented me as saying that Churchill supported AV, when I said he supported STV.

Many of us know his famous quote against AV.
Churchill is right about AV but the same argument applies to FPTP, it is just that the preferential information of the voters true order of choice is not made available, as it should and would be, with AV.

But Churchill's express support of STV is equally deserving of fame: I would rather be one fifth of the members for the whole of Leeds than one member for a fifth of Leeds.(Quoted in Parliament For The People, by Joe Rogalay.)
That would give a proportional representation of at least 5/6 the votes.

 Any one only had to look up a couple of posts in the thread to my own entry to see what I'd really said but bare-faced misrepresentation is what the supporters of the misrepresentative first past the post are fighting for and with.

This ritual civil war will lead to turmoil. This should not be a fight at all, but a national agreement on free and fair election rules of contest.

Comment on Suzanne Moore’s article

Mail on Sunday,  1 May 2011.

According to the logic of the No campaign, David Cameron would only be the second best leader of the Tory party because David Davis beat him first past the post, until further rounds, allowed the voters, for losing candidates, an alternative vote for Cameron instead of Davis.

When Cameron and other nay sayers pretend AV gives more votes to those who choose alternatives, they are saying that the Tory leadership contest gave more votes to supporters of Cameron than Davis.

The No leaflet falsely says Australia is getting rid of AV and ignores how few coalitions they have had in asserting AV means more coalitions, ignoring that coalition and compromise is a necessary part of democracy as distinct from an alternating two-party dictatorship.

The No campaign imposes on most peoples indifference and ignorance and tells that intelligence is not welcome in politics.

FPTP suppresses most preference information, that AV gives, and is a step towards the STV, whose proportional count, effectively elects most voters first preferences

Comment on article by Boris Johnson.

The Telegraph 2 May 2011.


Boris Johnson has so little of substance to say about the Alternative Vote referendum that he can only make a virtue of hiding behind the royal wedding to avoid discussing it.

The Supplementary Vote that elected him London Mayor is a system of one alternative vote, that is a second preference as well as a first preference (except that tactical voting considerations might spoil this).

It is the same system to be used to elect crime and police commissioners. A leading policeman in the Lords expressed concern that a full order of preferences was not offered, as by the Alternative Vote.

If you have only one alternative vote, then you still have to worry about possibly wasting both votes and not prefering a candidate who is not one of the front runners.

For London mayor, your supplementary vote will have to be for either Boris Johnson or Ken Livingstone, if you want to have a say in which one of them gets in.

A fully alternative vote does not close down your options so drasticly, and certainly not as drasticly as FPTP.

 Nevertheless, the evidence from Australia and from AV Scottish local by-elections, surveyed by John Curtice, is that AV makes very little practical difference from FPTP.

This contrasts sharply with the estimates in The Times yesterday, which claim that AV would exaggerate the exaggerations of FPTP. This claim is in complete contradiction to the No campaign that AV leads to coalitions, in which the reviled Nick Clegg would be king-maker.

 In fact there is no systemic inevitability that AV would be less proportional than FPTP. Neither systems use proportional counts and voters could, if they wished, vote exactly the same way with AV by just using one preference.

AV does ensure a majority are needed to elect a candidate, which is why isolated parties like BNP and the Communists oppose it.

But this democratic advantage is out-weighed by the systematic rigging of the single member system so that the less concentrated support of parties like the Lib Dems is disenfranchised.

Testing FPTP to destruction will fragment the country into local fiefdoms. The Tories have already had to shed Scotland and will never again be a national party. But PR has ensured their survival there at other than Westminster level.

 The Times was right, however, about the single transferable vote's PR yielding coalitions. But they were wrong about STV yielding weak and indecisive government. There is no more democraticly decisive government than STV produces, provided the voters know its power, which is precisely why politicians have blocked its recommendation by so many reports. With the Jenkins report, PM Blair even got in to secretly quash STV before Jenkins made his public recommendation.


Comment on David Blunkett article to The Mail.

Posted 3 May 2011.


First past the post has no post, AV supplies that with a 50%+ democratic majority. It is essential to politicians leadership elections and Select Committee chairmen and the Lord Speaker election, the No campaign just dont want the rest of us to have AV.-----

It is not that AV counts lesser preferences more often, all votes are counted in each round, it is just that those with different views to Labour or Tory would have some say in the outcome they are not best pleased with.-------

Mr Blunckett, AV is not a proportional system, as you say.----

All politics is more or less compromise, and the declining support for Labour and Tory mean that others should have more say. That's what youre resisting. AV wouldnt give a bit more say to the people. and a step towards STV which would also give more power to the people.

Comment on joint article by William Hague and Margaret Beckett.

The Telegraph, 4 may 2011.

Hague and Beckett confuse having more than one counting round in the election with having equal votes.
The fact is that with FPTP the result arbitrarily changes, depending on the number and the allegiances of the candidates. Whether some decide to stand or not changes the outcome.
So, if you have two left wingers versus one right-winger, the latter probably wins, tho one of the left wingers might have won, if his vote was not split by the other left-winger standing.

This simple fact is the anti-democratic Tory case against the Alternative Vote. Whereas Labour was a dog-in-the-manger towards the Liberals. That means they would rather the Tories win than share power with a left competitor. The Blair era Labour deceived the Lib Dems over PR to help get back into power.
Now the Tories have deceived the Lib Dems with the token AV reform, that they have scuppered with a one-sided campaign because of most media and money on their side to get away with falsehoods, as in the No to AV leaflet, told to an unpolitical historicly deferential people.

If Britain's historical situation were reversed, so two right-wingers split their vote to let in a Left candidate, the shoe would be on the other foot. The Tories might lose because of a split vote with UKIP and other nationalists.

AV addresses this problem. (STV would do so far better because its proportionality is more truly representative, which is why Labour-Tory block STV.)
Hague and Beckett pretend the problem isnt there, no matter how self-defeating FPTP becomes.

They will either go back to the bad old days of two class war parties or degenerate Britain into US and and Canadian size turn-outs of only 50% of the electorate, because FPTP doesnt give voters a dogs chance (As H G Wells said) of expressing their wishes effectively.

Comment on Telegraph View.

4 May 2011.

The Telegraph view appears to believe that FPTP minority-vote one-party dictatorship fought over by Labour and Tories is better than anything else.

AV would allow voters to prefer candidates of different parties, establishing which parties they would prefer to work together. Tho, there is actually no evidence from Australia that AV does increase plural politics.

(STV/PR would be much more representative of all shades of popular opinion and show which were most allied for a prefered majority coalition.)

 Democracuy is about working together, not about oppressing your fellow citizens after an election as a ritual battle, which is what the No-campaign supported by The Telegraph and most of the Press has one-sidedly and so dishonestly fallen into - as in the No-campaign leaflet - which appears to have been what yesterdays Cabinet rumpus was about in part.

Comment on article by David Starkey: Yes vote would take us back to the bad old days.

The Mail 4 May 2011.

AV is better than FPTP with regard to forming governments, because the preference vote, 1, 2, 3, etc shows which parties that the people would most like to work together giving coalitions some democratic legitimacy. This would be much more true of the single transferable vote which also gives fair representation to all parties and Independents, because of its proportional count.

Starkey ignores the democratic deficit of one party dictatorships on 35% of the votes and 22% of the electorate.

When the Tories get their boundary changes, they may have the disproportional representation of a 1983 type election, in which the SDP-Liberal Alliance got about 24 seats for over one-quarter (26%) of the votes.

Also FPTP disenfranchises about half the Tory and Labour voters, by wasting their votes, so that these two parties can monopolise Parliament. The majority of people, whose vote didnt go to the MP who monopolises each constituency, are not represented, they are patronised by their MP.

Closing remarks.

The mass circulation Mail offered very little opportunity for public debate on the AV referendum. Their so-called debate page only offers comments of no more than 1000 characters. You generally only get one shot. It is mostly moderated or censored. And the moderators can be conveniently lazy about putting up the comments.

On top of that, the only blog general enough to accommodate an actual debate is the Peter Hitchens blog, where comments have been banned mysteriously "for legal reasons." In any case, Hitchens devoted no more than 30 words on AV, on the fantasiticly weak premis that he didnt believe the Tories were really against AV and therefore you should say No to AV.

But then Hitchens main contribution to debate, on the 2008-9 Credit Crunch, seems to have been an article that blamed a BBC (who else) financial correspondent Peter Preston for not withholding a report for a day - tho journalists live by the day. That is what the word means.

Britains leaders and media mostly remain wilfully ignorant of the injustices to democracy. The AV referendum message was that intelligence is not wanted in politics, only an Orwellian mass willingness to believe what your leader tells you, without bothering to check the facts or the logic of the arguments.
The Independent's opinion poll say that they will - by a huge margin of 30% - a margin about as big as the 1975 referendum, when the nation was told that the Common Market didnt mean political integration in a European super-state, tho the government knew it did, it emerged when the records were finally made public.

By the AV referendum campaign, the Establishment have shown themselves as much wilfully ignorant or anti-scientific as anti-democratic.

The AV referendum was a straw man but it scared the careering crows out of their minds.

Note (6 May 2011):

The 5 May 2011 was polling day for the three Celtic governing bodies, local elections as well as the AV referendum, which was defeated by 68% to 32%.
The convention is that there is no campaigning on polling day. Voters are finally left in peace to make up their own minds. But the right wing Press broke this convention. The Sun carried an article, as well as one by David Cameron, to vote No to AV to "save democracy." (That must be news to Australia that they have lost democracy for over 80 years.)
The Mail devoted all its front page, like a bill-board to vote No. Both the Mail and its sister paper The Telegraph ran a cascade of No articles, on the day. A commenter complained how many no articles were The Telegraph running.
The Express also urged No, on the top of its front page, as well as in its editorial.

Appendix: Count-down to UK referendum on the general elections system (from 2000).

Commentary on UK electoral reform and the promised referendum:

Respecting true elections.

( Combined from two newsgroup postings: 10 and 17 June 2000. )

It's all very well for British Premier, Mr Blair to talk about individual opportunity with respect for the community - democracy, in other words - but his government has shown no respect for proper democratic rules in British elections.

Much of the fault for this is the ill legacy of the Plant report, which recommended different electoral systems for different British elections. Consequently, the British government has been pre-empting the reform debate by instituting its own 'PR' and other methods, at various levels of government.

The British mainland now has half a dozen undemocratic voting methods where one democratic method would do.

The Jenkins report got the message that the German system, adopted by New Zealand, allowed a small party, holding the balance of power, to choose a coalition.
Did the commission decide to abandon additional member systems? Not a bit of it.
As a last ditch attempt to promote a hybrid system of monopolistic single members and party list monopolies of the proportional count, the report cobbled together an even more complicated system of 'alternative vote top-up'.

The effect of this, speaking of successive elections as days of the week, would be that on sundays, tuesdays, thursdays and saturdays, the largest minority party would monopolise or hog government. And on mondays, wednesdays and fridays, a crucial small party could decide the coalition.

So, the Jenkins commission's idea of justice was to try to engineer a Buggin's turn between these two types of unjust government.

This is a system virtually no-one wanted but which British reformers largely are campaigning for, because they are afraid that's all there's on offer.
As a result, AV top-up goes noticably uncriticised by reformers.
But the anomalies of AV top-up are so rife that they would be exposed as a laughing stock in a referendum. As a consequence, the referendum result would at best be indecisive and afford no lasting constitutional settlement that would secure general respect from the people or the politicians.

Mr Blair's alleged support, for the alternative vote ( as used in Australian elections ), falls back on a system thought by analysts to bind the splits of the left in Labor's favor. But the alternative vote, minus a top-up of the small party bosses candidates, is deeply flawed, on its own account.

As electoral expert, David Butler pointed out to the Jenkins commission, the alternative vote is arbitrary.
Even one voter, changing between two runners-up ( neck and neck ), can change which candidate's second preferences are re-distributed, and give a disproportionately different complexion to the final result, including a different winner.

Also, Churchill's famous remark, about the alternative vote, will always stick: the worst votes for the worst candidates. The worst candidates are those with the fewest first preferences and yet their second preferences are the ones deciding which leading candidate qualifies as having an over-all majority.

And Roy Jenkins' notorious remark in favor of the alternative vote cannot be defended with justice. He said words to the effect that people must often take second or third best in life, in jobs, housing and one's wife, and there is no reason why this should not be so in the electoral system.

This contention is grossly misleading. The point of the single transferable vote, STV ( which uses a proportional count of a preference vote ) is that a large majority of voters in a multi-member constituency are ensured their first preferences are elected.

Even in quite small Irish multi-member constituencies of three or four seats, some two-thirds of the representatives will be elected by first preferences, and nearly all the rest by second or high preferences. So, it's fair to say that something in the order of twice as many voters will have their first preferences elected, using STV compared to AV.

Even the published submissions to the Jenkins report showed substantial support for STV. And the report gave no statistical break-down of the mass of 'ordinary' people's preferences - making the excuse there were too many of them.

Richard Lung.

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