Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Monday's AV vote

I was just looking at Monday's vote on the AV referendum bill. What struck me is how tribal the voting was. Every Labour, SNP and Plaid MP voted against. All the Lib Dems (and the single Green) voted in favour. In fact, it was only the Tories who split their vote with ten (right wing) rebel MPs voting against the bill.

I can't be the only person who's disappointed by the old politics of these three line whip votes. I just don't believe that every Labour politician is against electoral reform or that every LibDem thinks AV is any sort of substitute for proportional representation.

I know Labour have been whinging that the reduction in the number of MPs from one arbitrary number to a slightly smaller arbitrary number would go against them - but for the life of me I can't see the principled argument against equalising the size of constituencies is. This just seems like self interest and point scoring to me.

If this suffocating conformity is any indication of what the campaigns around the referendum will look like I'd rather look the other way thanks.

Of course this weekend in Birmingham the Green Party will be discussing its position on the referendum and it looks like there's going to be strong views on both sides. I'd like to encourage members to attend the Green World fringe on Saturday;


Amanda said...

I think the Labour point is that some constituencies that are low in voters are merely low in 'reported voters' due to resistance or understanding of the need to register. Representational equality is fine but does the electoral roll truly represent the number of constituents is the question to ask.

Jim Jepps said...

Well, I think the key question is does everyone's vote count equally? Also if we take somewhere like Holborn and St Pancras (where I'm typing this) Frank Dobson is elected from one of the largest constituencies in the country - but he also represents a disproportionately large number of unregistered people - and those who are not allowed to vote.

It seems to me that unless the argument is that the small constituencies also contain more unregistered people than the large ones (which is not the case) then it does more to muddy the waters than pursue a point of principle.

Of course if Labour were fighting for a national PR system it would by-pass this entirely and make all votes equal - but extending democracy in this way is not in the narrow party interest, so they never talk about it.

That's the way it seems to me anyway.

Jim Jepps said...

Hope that's not too ranty!

Peter Cranie said...

What we in the Green Party have to decide this weekend is how we are going to vote on this:

"Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the 'alternative vote' system instead of the current 'first past the post' system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?"

The arguments about the constituency redrawing will take place now in the Committee stage of the Bill and at the Third Reading, and we the voting public won't get a say.

Caroline Lucas has been absolutely spot on, proposing a genuine choice of systems, instead of a false choice, but it seems likely that is all we will get.

I've blogged on the AV in a couple of my previous posts. I think it will be a good debate at Conference, and whichever way the vote goes, I still think people have the right to campaign how they see fit as individuals.

Joe said...

Is there any prospect of an amendment to elect local councils by STV? Most of us live in wards that have three councillors already, so it'd make sense, especially if the referendum does pass. And I'd like to see the reasons if the LDs voted against it.

Jim Jepps said...

Joe, there's going to be an amendment on introducing PR as part of the ballot (which CL is introducing) but I don't think local councils are being included in this.

They have some form of PR in Scottish councils and I've been meaning to investigate how people feel about that there. It's certainly something I would support.

Anonymous said...

Peter is spot on about this - we need to fight for a real PR choice to be on the ballot, as Caroline Lucas has done, but if the question is framed as a choice between continuing FPTP and having AV, we should back AV.

I look forward to hearing the outcome of the debate!

Anonymous said...

Hurrah - The Greens will support the AV vote (see


Anonymous said...

I'm what you might call a disillusioned old Labour voter, or socialist if you like.

Quite why you think I would want to rank parties that I have no wish whatsoever to see anywhere near power is beyond me.

It's not exactly going to get me to turnout. Or can you vote for one party (and have no alternative) and still have that vote counted?

Jim Jepps said...

Anon: I believe under these proposals you can just vote for one party... although in Australia you have to vote for every single party standing in an order you prefer (which at least gives you the pleasure of putting fascists last or something).

Oh well. At least I'm not obliged to do anything in the campaign.

Whittso said...

Hey. On the pros and cons of whipping. I think you're wrong. It sounds like a positive thing if you have political parties full of 'free spirits' able to vote with their conscience, but frankly most people vote for parties not MPs. Parties need to be able to implement their agenda's to have effective government. The alternative is what you're currently wrestling with in the US where any bill gets tagged with 'pork' for domestic constituencies so senators and congressmen can always bragg about the money they've bought home, and a relatively small number of politicians accountable to a minority of people can wreck any chance of national climate legislation. [Putting aside the fact that on this issue the labour party have disappeared up their own arse.]