Opponents of AV have a strong progressive case…

The Yes to AV camp was quick today to remove certain images from its Facebook page. It pointed out that apparently that the images which branded anti-AV politicians ‘Jurassic’ and included, for extra shock-value, Nick Griffin, were ‘fan art’ and not ‘officially sanctioned. This may well be the case but the fact is the language used in the ‘fan art’ has actually been used by the Yes campaign on numerous occasions.

Constantly, the implication is that the supporters of the No Camp are ‘old reactionaries’ and the supporters of the Yes Camp are the new and true ‘progressives’. It would be nice, if this truly was the case, if somebody would explain the presence of Nick Clegg and his cronies in the Yes Camp. Sometimes this leads to bald-faced lies – Labour Yes on its website falsely claims that it is only the Conservatives which oppose AV.  Implicitly, anybody who sides with the No camp according to Labour Yes is siding with the Conservatives. Nowhere does it care to discuss what for it is an inconvenient truth; the fact that two of Britain’s three biggest unions are also opposed to the introduction of AV.

Of course, it suits the Yes camp to brand this as a battle between the forces of progress and reaction. The truth however, is alot more complicated. Nick Griffin may well be firmly in the No Camp but that’s because he knows it reduces the chances for small parties to acquire representation. Nonetheless, AV will give the second preferences of BNP and UKIP voters much more weight when it comes to deciding marginal seats because they almost certainly be eliminated and therefore have these preferences counted. So, the incentive for politicians from all three of the major parties to pander to the agenda of these two parties will be much greater. Therefore while AV will not get Griffin anywhere in terms of more BNP MP’s elected it will dramatically increase the potency of the BNP’s agenda in certain seats.

The fact that smaller parties only way to increase their influence under AV is not through directly accountable representation but through unaccountable pressure brought to bear through their voters second preferences is a serious democratic black mark against AV. This forms part of the progressive case against AV – it’s effect on democracy is going to be damaging and its effect on future reform is going to be the same. The only hope for this is if the emerging anti-government movement adopts electoral reform as a democratic demand.

The responsibility for ensuring a progressive case for a no vote is now made falls in my mind on the shoulders on the GMB and Unite. They must join together and, in conjunction with the official No Campaign, directly combat Labour Yes especially within the labour movement.


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27 responses to “Opponents of AV have a strong progressive case…”

  1. Robert says :

    Interesting because I had two phone calls about AV last week, one from the Union group to get AV, and my local labour party asking if I was interested in phoning around local members, to campaign for a yes vote.

    When I said no thanks to both I was asked why, I had to explain I was not a member of Labour anymore, but was told this fight goes beyond membership, and I was asked if this vote was lost then labour would have to fight both the Tories and Liberal to get back in, which is bull shit, to get back into power Labour has to prove to the people it will be better then the Tories and Liberals, and sadly right now it’s not doing a very good job or proving to me it would not end up as Newer labour.

    Then I was sitting down, when the BBC phoned up asking if I’d like to discuss welfare reforms and disability, all I had to do is drive to Cardiff, so I said no thanks.

    I’ve had more contact with labour, the BBC, and my Union since I left then ever before, funny old world….


  2. Paul Perrin says :

    Lots of comment on the two campaigns – but nothing on the systems (FPTP and AV) themselves.

    I am Yes2AV having considered the issues around the voting systems, and have written up a load of examples of why I beleive a yes vote would be good for the people of the UK ( http://free-english-people.blogspot.com/2011/01/summary-of-my-yes2av-postings.html ).

    The complete absence of similar content/arguments from the No2AV proponents suggest to me that No2AV do not have *any* arguments! hence them focusing on campaign issues and completely blanking voting/representation issues.

    If ‘dirty tricks’ worry you take a look at http://www.yes2av.org << I've been speaking to Charlotte Vere of the No2AV campaign about this for months, and (despite promises) No2AV have not handed the domain over and have actively updated it to keep it point to the latest No2AV website.

    If you want to score campaign points, have a pop about how 'clever' no2av are to have this (and other) yes2av domains – if you are really concerned about the public making an informed choice help me get the domain transferred… up to you.


  3. Keith Underhill says :

    It is correct to say that AV will probably increase the first preference votes of the smaller parties.
    This is because of tactical voting.
    Tactical voting is where you vote for a candidate who is not your real choice because you believe that the candidate you most prefer will not get elected and you want to avoid wasting your vote.
    The main contenders in a given constituency are always after the votes of the supporters of the ‘little parties’. They do this by explaining that a vote for the small party is a wasted vote. In AV they would still do this, but they would not need to produce dodgy graphs.
    The Labour Party is often the victim of third party squeeze.
    The BNP oppose AV because they are aware that they have won seats on Local Councils under FPTP and they are aware that they are universally hated and would get very few transfers from the other parties.
    If we had the Transferable vote system of PR rather than teh list sytem for Europe I doubt that the BNP would have any MEPS!
    I can’t see anything progressive about FPTP which encourages people to vote dishonestly.


  4. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Im not surprised by the Labour call but was the union one pro or anti AV?

    Your right, the AV issue does cut across Party lines.

    Lol yes it is….


    Well I hope then you will find this post a refreshing change because I do actually discuss the systems. Thanks for the links.

    I think your wrong about the No2AV arguments lacking content. Indeed, I have provided some here.

    I actually agree with you about the domain though. It is wrong for the No camp to keep it and point it at the No site. How would you suggest I can help?


    So, you admit AV doesn’t eliminate tactical voting then? In fact, it makes tactical voting worse in many ways.

    A first preference for a smaller party under AV *still would* be a wasted vote because they have little chance of getting past the 50% threshold.

    The BNP oppose AV because they have no vision. One Nation in Australia ruthlessly exploited the preference system to its eventual advantage. Nothing exists to stop UKIP and the BNP doing the same here.

    AV encourages dishonest votes too because preferences can and will be used tactically; so what’s the substantive difference?


    • Paul Perrin says :

      The biggest hole I see in your argument about things such as “UKIP voters”.

      What do you think a ‘UKIP voter’ is? An acolyte of Nigel Farrage? If you look you will find that many, many ‘UKIP voters’ are just as much ‘EU-Sceptic Labour voters’ and ‘EU-Sceptic Conservative voters’ etc – or even just ‘Libertarians’ who see the EU as too remote to be accountable or representative.

      The same goes for many ‘voters’, they vote for the party that they ‘most’ agree with, but do not follow a single party ‘right or wrong’. Yes there are tribal voters who do vote ‘right or wrong’ but they are bad for our democracy and really should be discouraged and better educated.

      You present a ‘party centric’ view instead of the ‘issue centric’ view that democracy really needs – but all parties do precisely the same (for obvious reasons) – don’t follow them, be better than that.


      • darrellgoodliffe says :


        If the comments of Gillig are anything to go by that’s exactly what a UKIP voter is because he seems to view disagreeing with a leadership as being incompatible with party membership.

        I would say however, smaller parties tend to be less broader churches and more often are lightening rods for feeling on a single issue – the Greens, the environment, UKIP, Immigration and the EU, BNP Immigration etc….yes it is a little more complicated than that I agree but it can also be as simple as that sometimes.

        I see no problem with people being tribal per se. I would say what your pointing too is a fundamental flaw in representative democracy. Direct democracy encourages more issue based thinking as opposed to tribal thinking.


  5. Robert says :

    The Union call was to get help with a Yes vote, total suprise when I asked why. I will be honest it this was full PR I’d be out knocking on doors , but not this botch up.

    In my area labour would be the first vote, then you have a choice of Plaid or the BNP both close to each other.


  6. Keith Underhill says :

    “A first preference for a smaller party under AV *still would* be a wasted vote because they have little chance of getting past the 50% threshold.”

    You are correct that a first preference for a small party would be wasted, but the whole point of preference voting is that they can then transfer their vote to a candidate who might be able to make more use of it. So their preference is wasted but unlike FPTP their VOTE is not wasted but transferred. In that sense it is a far more efficient system. It takes the guesswork out of it you just vote your genuine preferences and you don’t have to worry about who are the main contenders.

    “AV encourages dishonest votes too because preferences can and will be used tactically; so what’s the substantive difference?
    In what way can preferences be used tactically. Tactical voting is where you vote dishonestly. The best tactic in a transferable vote is to vote honestly fill in all the preferences with your favourite at the top and the most hated at the bottom.

    I don’t think it is fair to lump UKIP with the BNP. If i were to devise a system which would be most hostile to the BNP it would be AV. It is not a paticularly good arguement for AV in my opinion and I would prefer STV myself. Could you devise one which would make it more difficult for them?


  7. John Reid says :

    Keith’s first comment, spot on ,actually the Libdems fell in to that catogoury ,during the 2008 mayoral election


  8. darrellgoodliffe says :


    My problem is you solve that problem by giving these preferences undemocratic weighting. So, these people become the new ‘swing voters’ as they are under FPTP. My problem is this kind of power is unaccountable and alienated – smaller parties will now exercise their power as ginger groups on the main ones under AV so they have a ‘hidden hand’ and that’s undemocratic.

    I dont think it is particularly. They same certainly in the same stable if not the same stall. My concern is the impact of these people on progressive politics and specifically Labour where the kind of propaganda we saw from the likes of Phil Woolas will now even find more active encouragement from the leadership because it will be needed to attract the second preferences of these people. Great. Well done. What a blow for progressive politics.

    Thats not my aim so I wont even try…


  9. Keith Underhill says :

    I don’t understand this issue of ‘undemocratic’ weighting under AV each voter is worth one vote, and the vote is transferable! Unless you are saying that your vote counts if you vote sensibly and doesn’t if you make a silly choice.

    The Woolas thing happed under FPTP. Under AV it makes more sense to go for the next preferences of the Greens or Lib Dems than grub after the fascist vote. It didn’t do Woolas any good and most Labour politicians won’t be doing that in future!


  10. darrellgoodliffe says :


    No it isnt. Some peoples second preferences count for a lot (those of the smaller party voters) and some mean nothing because their first choice will never be eliminated.

    And it will become more common under AV. Errr no considering the UKIP/BNP vote tops the Green vote nationally by well over a million that’s not true now is it. Lib Dems not likely to be always eliminated so the people who will be chased are those who are voting UKIP/BNP as a first preference. Yes they will, more and more they will be stoking up racial tensions and all because of AV….


    • Paul Perrin says :

      The only thing UKIP and BNP really have in common is wanting to leave the EU. Most of the rest of BNP policies are closer to labour.

      But, racism, the BNP have all to themselves.


  11. Keith Underhill says :


    You are correct in what you say about second preferences for big parties, but you fail to recognise that the first preferences of a little party becomes equal to zero and the value of 1 vote is transferred to the second preference.

    AV and FPTP have this in common the top tow are the only ones that count in the end. AV just takes the guessing out of it.

    If your arguement is that the yes campaign and AV will encouage all our politicians to appeal to the rasicts in the BNP and ignore the much larger group of people who hate the BNP then all I can say is that smearing a movement is the oldest trick in the book.


  12. darrellgoodliffe says :


    But they have more than one vote that is counted. Both their first and second preferences will be counted.

    No, FPTP doesn’t have preferential ranking….

    Kind of. The Yes campaign may not be and I am sure they all hate the BNP but this is the practical effect of AV, as a system, yes. There will be no need to worry about the people who hate the BNP will there? They will cast their first preferences elsewhere so their voices will be silenced by the crucial and possibly decisive second preferences of BNP voters which politicians will need to win under AV….


  13. Keith Underhill says :


    They are counted twice but they only count once. Each Voting paper has the same value one.

    FPTP’s main failure its lack of preferences and it’s reliance on getting people to vote tactically.
    This point was made in parliament by a rather stupid tory MP who couldn’t actually work out how to finish his sentence. I still think it is a stupid arguement to say that polticians will potentially alienate all the other voters to try to appeal to the few availiable BNP preferences. These include the weakest of the three main parties in the constituency and the greens (who incidentally would probably get more honest votes under AV) The combination of which exceeds the BNP vote in every constituency including Barking.

    You might also reflect on the fact that the BNP are aware of the dangers that AV have for them.

    I don’t think there is a real progressive case for FPTP, but there certainly is a reactionary case for it, as evidenced by the NO campaign’s misinformation and ignorance shows


  14. darrellgoodliffe says :


    And when they do count the second preferences are given greater weight because they define the destination of the seat. This is why second preferences would become the new swing vote under AV…the small minority who decide the outcome….

    So people dont cast their preferences tactically then? Come on, the notion that AV eliminates tactical voting is an out and out lie…

    Why is it stupid? They will be able to depend on their tribal voters and will need to appeal to the BNP supporters so will pander to them. What is more its actually happened. One Nation did it in Australia; they ruthlessly used the preferences of their voters by advising them to vote tactically to further their agenda…

    Why will the Greens get more votes when AV does nothing to enhance their chances of winning? And if thats true for the Greens its also true for UKIP/BNP who start off being almost a million votes ahead….

    No, the BNP are not. They are short-sighted numbskulls. I wouldnt start calling the BNP as your chief witness. Their lack of tactical nous and long term vision is somewhat legendary…

    And what about your misinformation?


  15. Keith Underhill says :


    If second preferences count more then it would be tactically a good thing to get people (if you support Labour) to vote Green 1 Labour 2. If you understand how AV works then you will see that this is not a particularly good idea and that all VOTERS are treated equally.

    It is true that a second preference for Labour from the Greens would be as good as a first for Labour. Note count the same is not the same as count more.
    Saying that ‘AV gives more votes to small parties’ is not true.

    I never claimed that AV would eliminate tactical voting. No system can do that. Some sytems encourage tactical voting more than others and some people will vote tactically and through ignorance get it wrong. I can remember a Labour supporter telling me about one of the Labour friends voting tactically for the Liberal Dems in a Labour / conservative marginal.

    Can you explain how I can benefit by voting tactically under AV?

    If you were a green supporter in a marginal seat you have a choice vote for what you believe in or vote Labour tactically. Under AV you will be able to vote honestly for the green and then allow your vote to be used for Labour.

    You still get a say under AV. Under FPTP you either lose your vote or your principles.

    People who vote BNP are putting a big V sign to all the other parties so I don’t see then getting that many more votes. If you really think that under AV politicians will be hugging Nick Griffin then I rather doubt that!

    The sad think about FPTP is that a strong campaign by a small party with shared values is more of a threat than the campaign of a small party with widely different values. The Tories are delighted when a strong green candidate stands in a marginal. Uder AV Labour would be delighted instead, hoping for a big green turnout and some nice second preferences,


  16. Paul Perrin says :

    You are still talking about ‘Green Voters’ and ‘BNP voters’ as if they are acolytes of their party leaders – and obey all commands. Pawns at the command of the parties. This is precisely what FPTP promotes, and why it must be ditched.

    Forget ‘BNP voters’ as a group – some are certainly racist, others are ‘old labour’ betrayed by mulit-millionare Blairs ‘nuLabour’ thing (whatever that was) – No need to be racist to pick up those BNP votes – just don’t stab working people in the back!

    Forget ‘Green voters’ as a group – some are certainly marxist, others really are worried about the envionment – No need to be marxist to pick up those ‘green’ votes – just don’t promote polution.

    FPTP = Party centric; AV= Voter/Issue centric.


  17. darrellgoodliffe says :


    It probably would be a good idea to do that for a section of Labour voters yes. No it doesn’t because some are more equal than others aren’t they; alot of peoples second preferences wont count and some peoples second preferences will have a decisive weight. Thus the outcome will still, in practice, be decided by a tiny minority.

    It gives them more weight yes. Maybe you haven’t but the Yes campaign defiantly has. Your right however, no system can do that and certainly not AV. What is amusing is that you have people in Labour Yes who knows AV still has tactical voting because they took part in the Labour leadership election pretending its some kind of magical, mystical thing that will by virtue merely of being eliminate tactical voting.

    Of course I can. You can do like One Nation and its supporters did in Australia and use your preferences against candidates who are not racist bigots like you are thus ‘thinning the field’ to make it more representative of your fellow travellers.

    I dont think they will hug Nick Griffin. What they will do is pretty much what Phil Woolas did and that’s insight racial hatred to win the BNP seal of approval.

    No, that’s just mind-bending really….you see both you and Paul can’t be right can you and between you you manage quite well to expose the gaping contradiction in the AV case…..


    I don’t think AV will dissolve bonds of loyalty between parties and their core votes in the way you really imagine.

    This sense of betrayal is reflected in an alienated ‘white working class’ identity so I don’t think thats right to be honest. What you will find is they will still play up on racial issues like Woolas did…

    No I don’t accept that dichotomy at all…AV doesn’t shift the dynamics as radically as you suggest it does…


  18. Keith Underhill says :

    Tactical voting is much less likely under AV it is also much less likely to be a succesfull strategy.

    Can you explain how people voted tactically in the Labour leadership election?
    It was clear that it was between the two Millibands and if there was a straight choice between the two then Ed would win.
    What would have happened if it was FPTP? Why would that have represented the way people voted better?
    Do you judge electoral systems on what is fair or on the basis of advantage for the party you support?
    AV is clearly better for the voters, but it still has many of the faults of FPTP. It is however a clear improvement


  19. darrellgoodliffe says :


    With all due respect that’s complete and utter rubbish. Why, if this is the case, do political parties in Australia spray out tactical advice like confetti?

    People voted tactically by pushing David /Ed Miliband down and also the campaigns tactically targeted the supporters of the other camps to get them to put one or the other as a second preference. I should know, I worked on one!

    No I do not judge on them that basis. I judge this one on the fact it will only benefit the right and the centre right and make things more difficult for the left. No it isn’t, if anything its marginally worse, another thing that has informed my stance.


  20. Keith Underhill says :

    There is a difference between voting and tactical voting.
    If you try to get someone to give your candidate a second preference that is called getting them to vote. That is not tactical voting that is VOTING

    If you say under FPTP don’t vote for the party you really support because that party hasn’t got a chance, vote for my party.. that is TACTICAL VOTING. (voting dishonestly to change the result).

    In fact all the simulations of AV on past elections have helped labour. If we had it in 2010 we night have had a Labour led Coalition!


  21. darrellgoodliffe says :


    How very handy that is. Invent a difference to get around the fact your wrong. I would say if Parties are telling their voters to vote a certain way to achieve a certain outcome I would say that is giving tactical advice. In fact, I am pretty sure most of the English speaking world would actually agree with that. In fact, I Googled the meaning of the tactical and here is an interesting one:

    tactically – in a tactical manner; in a manner calculated to achieve some end; using tactics

    In fact, you yourself claim:

    “It is correct to say that AV will probably increase the first preference votes of the smaller parties.
    *This is because of tactical voting.*”

    So, tactical voting does still go on under AV then? Are the people in your scenario “voting dishonestly to change the result”. They could well be. Its possible under AV that some Labour voters will tactically cast their first preference for say the Greens, not to elect a Green because they know they wouldnt have a cat in hells chance of reaching 50%, but to give Labour a strong second preference vote. Perfectly plausible under AV but for you it just vanishes into thin air.

    I dont care who it helps or doesn’t.I happen to think your wrong and deluded to argue that (such simulations don’t factor in the changes *since* the 2010 election); the point is that AV is undemocratic and wrong.


  22. Keith Underhill says :

    You googled the wrong thing people do all sorts of things tactically.
    If you had looked up “tactical voting” you would have found:
    “when people vote for a political party that they do not usually support in order to prevent another party from winning”
    This would explain your confusion about tactcial voting you did not understand what it meant! Silly me I should have recogniesed that earlier
    This is extremely common in FPTP and extremely rare in AV and STV.

    There is no point in Labour voters voting green under AV to get second preferences for Labour since as I explained earlier a first preference for Labour would count the same as a second preference transfered from the Greens.

    When I said the green vote would probably incerease under AV I said this was because of tactical voting, what I should have said was the lack of tactical voting.

    You might be right about the dynamics changing a bit after 2010.
    AV is undemocratic, but then so is FPTP. This is because of the distortions produced by singe member seats. I would say though that if you are electing 1 person it is a lot more democratic and will take some of the guess work out of voting.


  23. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Well that is a wrong and narrow definition but that happens all the time under AV. When I cast my vote for the Labour leadership I didn’t really want Andy Burnham as leader or even Ed Balls (who I voted for purely to strengthen for Shadow Chancellor) but I put them above David Miliband purely to help my number 1, Ed.

    Ok but thats also wrong isnt it because we all know that there is a 50% threshold and the major parties will quite rightly tell their supporters there is no point voting for a smaller party that doesn’t have a snowball in hells chance of reaching 50%. AV does nothing to materially improve the prospects of smaller parties seeking an MP.

    In my eyes they are at best as worse as each other which AV not worth supporting in that regard and at worse its actually worse than FPTP and will damage progressive politics and that makes it worth voting down.


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