Thursday 23 December 2010

Yes to fairer votes

Apparently Ed Milliband, who supports the reform of the electoral system , has suggested that it would be better if Nick Clegg kept out of the referendum campaign. He's probably right, but illustrates how unsuitable referendums are for making political decisions - people are likely to vote on something other than the question asked.

On Thursday I had my first session of training for the "Yes to Fairer Votes" campaign. This was again by telephone (for which I had to pay) and lasted an hour. The session was led by Alice, who asked each of us (there were about a dozen people on the line, plus a deep throated mystery voice which kept saying "X has joined the conference" or "Y has left the conference") to tell our "personal story" of why we wanted fairer votes.

Alice's story was that two years ago she had been incensed because a friend of hers was living in sub-standard housing whilst pregnant and the MP just didn't care. This didn't strike me as being particularly relevant to electoral reform for the Westminster parliament, since such problems should be dealt with by social workers and local councilors. I want MPs to be preoccupied with the great national and international issues, and holding the government to account in an informed manner, not earning brownie points by working as highly paid welfare officers for their constituencies.

The theme of the training was that, by telling our personal stories, we should convince people that AV would make MPs work harder and abolish jobs for life (ie safe seats). It is true that under AV there will be fewer safe seats but they will hardly be abolished. My own personal story, when asked, was that I believed that AV would enable people to vote more honestly, be fairer and produce a more representative parliament which would encourage parties to work together. Not quite so sexy as a pregnant friend in a rat infested house, but more honest, I believe.

The campaign is to be carried out by "phone banks". Knocking on doors and leaflets are old hat. My comment that I find "cold calling" by telephone intrusive and that it created in me a negative reaction was brushed aside. "Was not door knocking also intrusive?" Well, yes, but at least the canvassers had shown they were concerned enough to get off their backsides and pay a visit rather than pester from the comfort of their own homes (or a phone bank centre.) Phone banking has, apparently, been tried an tested, was used by both President Obama and Ed Milliband and is the new sliced bread.

In my view the great advantage of AV over First Past the Post is that it ends the need for negative voting (aka tactical voting - voting for a second choice in order to keep out a third choice.) With AV we shall be able to vote positively for our first choices and use our second choice for the "keeping out" option. This, rather than the dubious advantages of MPs scrabbling even harder as social workers, should be the spearhead of the campaign.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the point about telephone calls. I fear it'll do more harm than good.
    Timing is also critical, both macro and micro.
    Oh, well...