Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
Click on the picture link in the sidebar to read an extract of my first novel, which was published by Paradise Press in August 2012.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Alternative Vote Hoop-la


There's a lot of news coverage in the UK around the upcoming referendum on the "Alternative Vote". The Tories are strongly against it, because they judge it will disadvantage them. The Liberal Democrats (in the same governing coalition) are of course strongly in favour, as are the Labour Party, perhaps because they wanted to persuade the Lib Dems to go into coalition with them, perhaps because they think it will favour them.

In essence, it's a no-brainer. Say you're in a constituency out in the countryside, where Labour are always going to come a poor third. But you're a socialist at heart. Do you vote for the Lib Dems and hold your nose, or waste a vote? With the Alternative Vote, you could put Labour first and the Lib Dems second. Your voice is heard and your vote is given to the Lib Dems as the second best, after the Labour candidate is eliminated. (Swap all that over if you're a Tory in a Labour safe seat.)

A lot of the agenda focuses on the need to retain the link between an MP and his or her constituency. Well, I'm all for that. But what we really need is proper proportional representation. Duh, how difficult is that to organise? Even if they keep "first past the post" or move to "alternative vote", it's still non-proportional. Whatever the system within a constituency, surely the obvious solution is to give each elected MP in the Commons a vote worth the total popular first preference vote for their party in the election, divided by the number of their MP's returned. Essentially a "card vote" familiar to followers of Labour Party conferences. The link between constituency and MP is retained, but the overall vote in the commons available for each party reflects the total vote cast for them in the election. Parties not winning a single seat don't get to participate. If they get just one MP then she or he gets a disproportionate number of votes in the Commons, but not bigger than the popular vote cast for their party, which is only fair (isn't it?). That's one of the other arguments against AV btw, that it would let in smaller parties.

Obviously we don't want to end up going down the Belgian route, where they returned such an evenly split parliament this time around that they've been unable to form a government. (Four main parties all split into Flemish and French speaking factions, so eight equally sized parties and less motivation for the Flemish/French parties to cohere recently.) Interesting to note in this regard that I spotted a graffito on a wall next to the Police Station on rue St. Léonard when I was last in Liège saying "Soyons Ingouvernable". (Someone helpfully added the necessary final "s"--not really visible in the pic. Given the use of the subjunctive "soyons" (let us be), the failure to add the plural agreement at the end is surprising.) Haha, there isn't any Govenment in the first place! (maybe this is better as a new post)

And, whilst we're re-writing the electoral system, why not hold elections in constituencies on a rolling basis, re-calculating the votes per MP after each one? Then we'd not have to have the nonsense of a general election every four or five years and we'd get a regular performance check on a government every so many weeks. Given the high turn-out in by-elections and the resources directed to them, the percentage of the electorate voting might even go up?

Anything which is more democratic, or which will keep instinctively homophobic parties out of power is top in my book. I vote on Gay Rights first, education second, humanitarian policy and intercultural awareness third. The economy comes in a poor fourth.

As a sideline, if this rips open the governing coalition, so much the better. The Lib Dems signed up to the coalition for a referendum on AV, if it doesn't happen, they're going to get mightily pissed off. If they then shaft the multi-millionaire Tory cabinet forcing austerity on the rest of us and re-align with Labour, I'd be only too happy!

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