Tag Archive: Referendum


It’s taken me a long time to decide how to vote in this referendum. I know I’m in the reform camp – when an election system allows people to be elected and have total governance with barely a third of the vote, there’s something wrong with that country’s democracy. So many people in so many ‘safe’ seats will never have their voices heard. Can this be democratic?

So, I want a change. But not to Alternative Vote (AV). Of all systems, not AV. It’s arguably the worst reform we could have, barely better according to some commentators, and actually regressive for some others. Much better may be a shift to AV+ or STV. But…

There is a camp of progressives campaigning on the “No to AV, Yes to PR” (Proportional Representation) vote. I’ve been tempted to their side. But I can’t. I’m voting Yes to AV.

We can’t pass up this chance. This is the one time in a generation when the PR camp is positioned strongly enough to force some form of change in our voting system. We need it – we have to get rid of First Past The Post, at any cost. If we vote no, the FPTPers will close the door forever. At least this way we can keep our foot in the door. If we lose… then we may have lost.

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It’s been said that AV can’t be a stepping stone to further PR. I’m not so sure. Yes, no country has switched between AV and PR, but why can’t we be the first? Is our electoral mindset, in the 21st Century, really that set in stone? I’m hopeful it’s not.

It’s a pretty easy system to understand – as Johann Hari recently discussed, if you understand X-Factor, you can understand AV. When people have the FPTP mindset broken, by demonstrating that the alternatives are no so scary – then, and only then, can we have a fully mature debate on the nature of which is the best electoral system for Britain.

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We can keep moving forward. Lord Forsyth’s recent somewhat-xenophobic comments on the vote being “rigged” for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’s more pro-AV voters, brings to mind the whole devolution argument. Despite a shift to Parliaments and Assemblies in the Celtic nations of Britain, this hasn’t stopped the debate.

The debate has moved further on the axis from highly centralised London-centric government towards independence, but we haven’t found the right balance between homogeneity and independence. The debate continues, with camps at either end pulling at the electorate.

Just because we move to AV doesn’t mean the progressives can’t stop pulling towards Proportional Representation in the UK, just like Salmond can call for Scottish independence. If we lose, the fight may be over. If we win, we can keep fighting, and get the system Britain needs.

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I’ve often heard a quote of Winston Churchill’s used to attack AV. He called it a system where the winner is decided by “[t]he most worthless votes for the most worthless candidates.

And of course, that clears up the debate. The great Churchill’s wonderful talent for aphorisms has saved the day, much as he did in WWII. Mind you, that ignores that he thought Gandhi “ought to be laid, bound hand and foot, at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new viceroy seated on its back” for trying to steal away the jewel in the Empire’s crown. Frankly, Churchill was not exactly the best quotationist to talk about liberal democracy.

Don’t take Churchill at face value. He claims that there are worthless voters and candidates – but there are no worthless voters, votes or candidates in a democracy. Every voter, every citizen has worth. Every one is important, no matter their choices.

If these voters are “worthless”, then we have to give them worth, to truly make it one person=one vote. Every vote must be heard, no matter what candidate it is for. If they vote BNP, or any other party, that the mainstream political set believe should not be allowed power, we can only deny them power by engaging them, head on, exposing the lies and hatred for what they are.

In safe seats we have worthless voters, whose voice is never heard. Where the BNP may win seats, we have voters who feel worthless. We have to give all these people worth.

Every voter has worth. Every vote has worth. But First Past The Post leaves us with worthless votes, not AV It’s time for change. It’s time for an Alternative Vote.

Caroline Lucas keynote speech at the autumn co...

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A letter in the Guardian from Sunday, arguing the main reasons why any British progressive, regardless of party politics, must support AV – summary offered here by the Letters From Europe blog.

If you are a centre-lefty like myself, just remember this – the Tories have regularly dominated politics in Britain, despite only being elected with 50% of the popular vote in 1900 and 1931. Every other time, left-wing infighting between Labourites, Liberal Democrats, Greens, and the Left Nationalists of the Celtic nations, have led to the Conservatives benefiting. We can’t let that continue any longer….

While not as entertaining as when explained to cats, the Guardian nonetheless has perhaps the most “authoritative” defense of the alternative vote system. It is signed by Labour shadow business secretary John Denham, Lib Dem energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne, leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas. I have long thought the British system – like the American – is thoroughly dysfunctional and undemocratic, robbing much of the elector … Read More

via Letters from Europe

Stormont Parliament building outside Belfast, ...

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In a recent interview with the Daily Mail, the former Scottish Secretary for the Conservatives, Lord Forsyth, tried to raise fears about the Alternative Vote (AV) referendum being a threat, not only to First-Past-The-Post (FTPT) voting, but also to the union of the United Kingdom itself.

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The Icesave logo, advertising it as "part...

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Yesterday’s referendum in Iceland on whether or not to back back the UK and Netherlands after the collapse of Icesave in 2008, has been met with a resounding “no”. After 70% of ballots were counted, 57.7% were against, with 42.4% voting for repayment of debts. This is, without doubt, a huge embarassment to Reykjavik.

This referendum was the second of its kind. The first repayment plan was rejected and better terms for Iceland were negotiated. Under this second referendum, Iceland’s debt would be gradually repayed until 2046, at a three per cent interest rate on the 1.87bn euros it owes the Netherlands, and a 3.3.% interest rate on the remainder, which is owed to the UK.

This may be a “shock” for Johanna Sigurardottir, Iceland’s centre-left Prime Minister, but I would replace that with “disaster”. Economically, it is already in dire straights – it has been forced to accept a £2.8bn bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Prolonged uncertainty in the Icesave dispute can only hamper Iceland’s economic recovery. Its ability to borrow on the financial markets and further downgrade Iceland’s credit rating. Fitch is already calling it “junk” and Moody’s warned in February that it would follow if this referendum voted in a “no” vote. Anyone want to call them and check?

It would also prevent Iceland’s accession to the EU – with unanimity necessary in the European Council for permitting the accession of new states, the UK or Netherlands could easily prevent Iceland’s entry, just as Greece and Cyprus threaten to block Turkey’s. However, this should not be of major concern for the EU itself. Nice as it would be to have another rich, Western nation join the EU (one guaranteed to be a net contributor, if not at first), and a probable Eurozone candidate – we can’t escape the fact that only the Social Democrats in Iceland are in favour of membership. Can the EU suffer another Eurosceptic country joining the EU?

Danny Alexander, Britain’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has said “it now looks like this matter will end up in the courts”. Jan Kees de Jager, Dutch Finance Minister, claimed “the matter is now in the hands of justice”. If the case is to go before the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Court, the process will doubtless be a lengthy one.

Voting has just begun in a week-long referendum amongst Southern Sudanese, on whether or not they should leave Sudan and go it alone.

Following decades of violence, it’s hard to see how the people of Southern Sudan will not vote for independence. As the deserts of the north make way for grasslands, forests and swamps of the south, the people change as drastically as the landscape. The predominately Arabic-speaking Muslim northerners are totally different from the tribal Christian or Animist southerners. In the north, 50% or more of children complete primary school, whereas this figure drops to closer to 1% in parts of the South. Infant mortality nearly doubles if you travel between Khartoum and Juba, capitals of each part of Sudan. Over 2/3rds of people in the northern Khartoum, River Nile and Gezira states have access to piped drinking water or pit latrines, as opposed to under 20% of southerners without any form of toilet.

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