I won’t lie, I’m not great when it comes to politics. So when it comes to a potentially thorny issue such as changing our voting system from First Past The Post (FPTP) to Alternative Vote (AV), I’m looking for some straightforward indication as to which side of the fence I should be sat on. With that in mind, here’s a simple, three-stage guide.
1. Celebrity Support
Don’t really care about what politicians have to say? It’s ok, let celebrities do it for you! Support for the ‘No’ side of the campaign seems to be largely comprised of sportsmen, with the likes of cricketer Darren Gough and olympic rower James Cracknell getting on board. On the other hand, the ‘Yes’ campaign is backed by a variety of actors, comedians and musicians, including Colin Firth, John Cleese and Billy Bragg, to name but a few. I don’t really care much for sport in general, and while I don’t really care about actors either, comedians and musicians I can get behind. But arguably the biggest coup for the ‘Yes’ campaign is that Stephen Fry is on their side – and as anyone who’s ever seen QI can attest, he makes a habit of being right about things the vast majority of the time. Sold.
2. Political Support
Right, on to the more serious business of where the various political parties stand. The biggest opponents of AV are, unsurprisingly, the Conservatives, who are joined on the ‘No’ side of the fence by the BNP, The Communist Party, and some of the Northern Irish parties (The Ulster Unionist Party, The Democratic Unionists, and the Green Party In Northern Ireland). The Liberal Democrats are leading the ‘Yes’ campaign, and the Green Party (in England, Scotland and Wales), The Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, UKIP, and the remaining Northern Irish Parties (The Social Democratic And Labour Party, The Alliance Party, and Sinn Fein) are also supporting AV. Labour remain divided on the issue – current leader Ed Miliband is in favour of AV, but many Labour MPs are against the system.
As someone who normally supports the Lib Dems, my course of action is clear. To any non-conservatives who are still on the fence, think about this – if both David Cameron AND Nick Griffin don’t want it, surely it’s got to be worth voting for, right?
3. ‘Yes’ Campaign vs. ‘No’ Campaign
I’ve looked at the websites for both campaigns, and I can’t say that either of them left me feeling particularly convinced. Both are guilty of petty arguments based on outright lies, half-truths, or vague statements such as ‘AV is more/less Democratic’. That said, the ‘No’ Campaign does seem to be the worse of the two – I read an excellent piece recently that systematically dismantled every argument they had going, but I’m buggered if I can find it now (I will attempt to trawl my history for it later and add a link if I can). [EDIT: Little bit late as it’s after the fact now, but it’s here.] Considering that it took an external source to really hit the nail on the head for me, I guess I’ll have to call this one a draw.
Well AV, two out of three ain’t bad, right? In all seriousness, as I was voting in one of the most hotly-contested seats in the last election, I welcome the change. It might not have made any difference to my own vote, but I think it’s better for people to be able to have more say about who they want to elect, instead of feeling pressured to back a candidate that’s not their first choice. The ‘No’ campaign reeks of an old guard desperately hoping that they can cling on to power by maintaining the current system – personally, I think it might be time to vote for change. After all, isn’t that what you wanted, Dave?