Saturday 23 April 2011

AV (4); a point and a letter.

The "No" campaign has launched a new slogan: "Under AV losers become winners." Clever, but by this definition David Cameron is a loser: David Davis was first past the post in the first round of their leadership election.

My friend John Cole, described as a "thoroughly good egg" in a comment to a post on this blog (John is dying to know who made it) has a neat explanation as to why running races and choosing a representative are quite different processes , in the following letter to his local paper:


The ”No To A.V.” leaflet has a photograph showing four contestants in a sprint race with the caption “The Winner Should be the One that Comes First”. In this race the outcome is that the competitor originally placed second wins under the Alternative Vote system when other losers’ votes are redistributed. The implication is that such outcomes are intrinsically unfair.

An election, especially a parliamentary election, is not analogous to sprint race. The sole concern in a foot race is “who is the fastest” – speed is the only criterion. In an election, however, a variety of different policy stances (not to mention differing philosophies and values) are being considered. Hence it is valid for the voter to approve of much of what candidate A is offering, some of what candidate B is offering but very little of candidate C’s manifesto. The voter can thus legitimately rank choices between candidates.

First Past The Post, and its protagonists in the “No” camp seek to prevent the electorate operating in an adult fashion which can rank preferences 1,2, 3 etc. They wish to stick with a system which constrains the voter to pick one favoured candidate whilst rejecting outright all others. Life is not that black and white."


  1. The no campaign claim AV is complicated. Yet the Scots use preference order voting in local elections (in that case the system is STV, which reduces to AV where there is only one position to elect).
    St George day seems an appropriate time to point out that, in effect, the no campaign are saying that the English are too stupid to understand something the Scots, Irish and many others understand! Surely the country that can understand cricket and its Duckworth-Lewis rule (where the team with the lower total can win) has therefore a patriotic duty to vote yes!

  2. John is a keen cricketer and probably knows what the Duckworth-Lewis rule is but I'm afraid I don't.