Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A Viable Alternative?

Just a quick note here about the whole AV (Alternative Vote) debate going on here in the UK. I'm voting 'Yes' btw.
My initial thinking was, being a bit of a Leftie and living down here in Southern England, voting has often seemed a bit futile (except when I lived in Brighton or Lewes, which are Green and Lib-Dem respectively). Look at the map - it's almost all Conservative down here and yet I know almost nobody who votes for them. I'm not crying electoral fraud, it's just how it is, at least under the first-past-the-post electoral system. We lefties simply have no voice in Parliament down here. So initially I just thought they needed a bit of a shake-up. What the heck, I thought. It's all anarchy.

One of the problems I suspect is that being left of centre is not a simple either/or situation. There are all sorts of shades of opinion and debates going on about public services, human rights and the environment. The debate is ethical and ideological as well as economic. On the other hand, I don't think I'm terribly wide of the mark if I say that being Conservative is relatively simple - It's the economy, stupid. Conservative voters basically just want to know how much tax they'll have to pay. As a result the left wing vote is always to some extent split between Labour, the Lib-Dems and the Greens, where the right-wing vote really isn't.

So my support for AV now is based on the idea that Labour voters are likely to put Lib-Dem or Green candidates second and third on their ballot slips, Lib-Dems are likely to put Labour or Green, Greens would likely put Labour or Lib-Dem. None of them is likely to put Conservative as a second or third choice.
I'd concede that the Conservative vote might to some extent be split by those who like to blame foreigners for everything (As if the British Government never passes stupid laws. As if British people would never work illegally or claim benefits they were not entitled to.) and who therefore vote for UKIP or the BNP but they're frankly a bit of a joke, at least down here. Most right-wing people here trust the Conservatives to bash the EU and the immigrants.

What this means, if I'm on the right track, is that under AV, left-wing voters might be more likely to get the representation at the polls that they actually warrant. I have no idea how many more non-Tory MPs this would give us in parliament, but it's got to help. It might at least mean that the Tory candidates can't ignore us if they want to stand a chance of getting that second or third place on the ballot slip.

Sure it would be nice if we Lefties could get organised, stop squabbling among ourselves and form a big single-minded party like the Conservatives, but the whole Conservative way of thinking is based on the simple-minded notion that politics is a simple us/them, red/blue, dumbed-down tabloid sound-bite, first-past-the-post competition.
It's not, or it shouldn't be.
That view of Politics gets them into power, but it doesn't make them right.


Vincent said...

Well, Steve, with the greatest of respect, I think you have Conservatives wrong! My own conservatism has nothing whatsoever to do with the economy or us/them, or intervening in other countries, or limiting immigration.

It is based on a respect for history, and for the essential trustworthiness of most people’s instincts. So that Government shrinks to the smallest size necessary to protect its population and maintain fairness. Not to lead us to any promised land.

Steve Law said...

Well obviously it's a generalisation. I think there's an old style conservatism that's more about history and decency which I can definitely respect but I don't see a lot of it among the politicians or the right-wing media, nor in the working class Conservatives I grew up with who were all staunch Thatcherites.
I agree that government should be as small as possible. I don't know any Lefties who think it should be bigger than necessary, but opinions about what is possible and necessary differ wildly.
People's instincts... Hmmm. Problematic. I think education and upbringing are a big issue there.