Archive for the ‘Alternative Vote (AV)’ Category

Referendums

Jeudi, juin 27th, 2013

British Conservatives in Paris members and friends debated the following motion on 25th June, 2013. A brief summary is given of the main points made by the speakers for and against the motion.

Motion:
The referendum as an instrument of government is incompatible with parliamentary democracy.

For: Robin Baker (Proposer)
The debate in the UK for a referendum on EU membership ignores the associated impact on British democracy. Sovereignty of Parliament is the key constitutional issue here. A referendum should not be an instrument for key decisions on major issues as this is the role of Parliament for which such a mechanism already exists. Referendums are no way of measuring public opinion and indeed have been referred to as the device of dictators, whereas legislation passed by Parliament can be more easily reversed.

Against: Alex Carroll (Proposer)
Parliament represents the opinion of the people voting for MPs only on the day (last time they did not vote for a Coalition). People deserve a direct say from time to time and particularly on EU membership with many MPs for and against in all the major parties (even Europhile Labour). Sometimes trust the people to decide, most of these having some education. A referendum can, therefore, be a rarely used, instrument to demonstrate the will of the people (including the silent majority). Remember, there are no rules binding MPs to accept a referendum decision taken.

For: Michael Webster (Seconder)
The referendum is the tyranny of democracy. An EU referendum with its potential negative impact on Britain’s EU trade and seat on the UN Security Council (with France/UK representing the EU) is difficult for the average voter to understand. The public can be fickle and quickly influenced by events, with referendum decisions sometimes difficult to undo e.g. as California finds with its tax laws.

Against: Dominique de Biasi (Seconder)
France’s presidential democracy refused a referendum on « mariage pour tous » even though the people were demonstrating in the streets. The people should be allowed their democratic say through a referendum on such an emotional and divisive issue which also impacts personal religious convictions.

Result
Following some lively interventions from the floor both for and against, the motion was defeated with 8 votes for and 12 votes against.

Join the debate
How would you (or did you) vote and why? Join the debate by clicking on the ( ) comments link below and sharing your thoughts.

National Health Service (NHS) Reform Setback

Jeudi, juin 16th, 2011

So the Coalition government has had to step back from its proposed reforms for the NHS, having considered it best to accept the recommendations of its independent commission. This has the benefit of keeping the Liberal Democrats happy and saves the face of Nick Clegg their leader and Deputy Prime Minister. The main concessions then appear to be to:
• Limit competition from the private sector.
• Involve hospital doctors and nurses together with the original General Practitioners (GPs) on commissioning panels for care and managing the associated budget.
• Have no fixed deadlines for implementation of changes.
The government is spinning the outcome as positive saying that health professionals are now back on board (where they should have been before launching the initially proposed reforms of course!) with the proposed changes having the support of patients and professional bodies, as well as back-bench Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs. The legislation is said to have been improved by such scrutiny with the Liberal Democrats claiming a lot of the credit, despite the Coalition only trying to build on what the previous Labour government had started to try and do i.e. to involve the private sector to meet demand over and above what the public sector could support.
One Liberal Democrat back-bencher commented that their efforts had mitigated the effects of untrammelled competition and if local communities did not want competition, they would now be able to call their local health commissioner to account. However, other feedback from the medical profession saw it as now more like a dog’s breakfast!
After all this we are now left with the situation as Nick Robinson the political correspondent of the BBC put it, if the general public did not know before how the NHS worked, they certainly do not understand now:
• how the NHS would have worked with the originally proposed reforms or
• how the NHS will now work in the future with these changes.
If the general public does not understand the problem of the NHS, it becomes an almost impossible task to convince.
The main issue seems to be a broad public unease about profit-making by the private sector in the provision of public services and this includes the Liberal Democrat partners in the governing Coalition, with Nick Clegg calling on Monitor, the health regulator, to promote collaboration among providers rather than competition. However, the UK is unusual among rich democracies in how little private involvement there is in public service provision with e.g. only 4% of acute-care beds provided by private companies. Given that the German economy is held up as a successful example and driver for the European Union of Member States, it is instructive that (according to The Economist of 21st May, 2011) the proportion of for-profit hospitals at 32% already exceeds the 31% of publicly-run ones, with the rest operated by charities and voluntary organisations.
It is ironic that the original idea of putting the care budget of the NHS in the hands of GPs (such family doctors being private operators since the foundation of the NHS in 1947), was aimed at reducing the high cost item in the NHS budget of hospital care by their also finding lower-cost solutions sometimes only involving primary care and not always hospital beds e.g. for elderly patients.

Alternative Vote (AV): Coalition Tensions

Mardi, avril 26th, 2011

The upcoming May 5th Referendum on the Alternative Vote was always bound to create major tensions between the Conservative & Liberal Democrat governing Coalition partners, the two parties in fundamental disagreement over the Yes/No referendum issue which leaves no room for compromise. The rather lacklustre campaigns of both sides up to now have suddenly burst into life with each attacking the other, whilst still seemingly not exactly engaging with the possibly even more confused voting public, whose turnout in turn could remain at the normally low levels of the local council elections taking place at the same time.
Certainly the No campaign claim of only Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Australia using the AV system could be considered misleading when at the same time this fails to mention the around 30 countries, including France with its presidential elections, that use the 2-round (run-off) system which is a variant of AV. Also the additional costs associated with electronic counting and validation of the successive rounds of counts required for AV, might only be necessary if final results were still expected on the Friday after the 10pm Thursday closure of polling stations. Otherwise, the current manual counting system could suffice if results were instead declared over the weekend, with additional costs involved only from the increased counting staff hours involved. This of course tends to contradict the assertion of the Chancellor, George Osborne, and which is also disputed by the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, that expensive new machines will be needed to count the votes in an election under AV.
However, both sides need to appear to aggressively differentiate themselves from each other within the Coalition, to appease their traditional voters whilst accepting that it is in the interests of neither party for the Coalition to collapse after 5th May. With their tough deficit reduction programme, the Conservatives need the 5 years of a fixed term parliament to allow time for sacrifices now to make way for later benefits in the mind of the electorate. Similarly, the Liberal Democrats know that a general election now would lead to heavy losses and they need a 5-year plan for recovery of their identity, to prove that they are not only distinct from both Labour and the Conservatives but also fit to govern.

Referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV)

Mardi, avril 5th, 2011

THE ALTERNATIVE VOTE
I don’t believe their argument so why will I still vote no?

As one of the few members of British Conservatives in Paris who is allowed to vote in next month’s referendum, I have looked at all the arguments with attention. The principal one expressed in the Conservative No to AV campaign is that AV is an unfair system that gives some people more votes than others. But does it? Certainly not in my view.
The way the AV system works is that voters rank the candidates in order of their preference. So in the first count, the equivalent to the first round in French elections, everybody’s vote is counted once. If one candidate has more than 50% of the votes, he is elected just as he would be under the current first-past-the post system. If no candidate achieves that, then the candidate with least votes is eliminated and his votes are allocated to the second preference of his voters. Is that unfair, does it mean that that his supporters have voted twice while supporters of the other candidates can only vote once?
I do not think so. In the second round, votes from every elector, except those who voted for the eliminated candidate and did not express any further preferences, are counted. So every elector who wishes votes in the second round and all their votes are counted. The effect is just like the second round of an election in France, where those whose first choice is still in contention vote, presumably, for that candidate again and those who first choice did not get through to the second round have to chose someone else. Is that unfair, does it give the latter voters more votes than the former?
Of course the differences between the proposed AV system and the second round system used here, is that in France there are only two rounds and, in between them, there is a period for further campaigning and for the negotiation of electoral pacts. In the UK under AV the electoral rounds continue, with the lowest scoring candidate being eliminated each time, until one candidate has secured at least 50% of the votes still being cast. It seems to me that one could make out a good case for arguing that the AV system proposed for the UK would be fairer and better than the two round system used here, in that the results would be known more quickly and the electors under AV would get more choice.
What could be regarded as unfair is the fact that, under the present system, unless one votes in a marginal constituency, one’s vote is, effectively, wasted. I could vote Conservative in a constituency like Bolsover, and a Labour supporter could vote where I lived in Esher and Walton, but in either case we might just as well have stayed at home. AV would resolve that.
But I will, even so, vote no. Why?
Well I have to admit that there are other arguments advanced by the no campaign that have more validity than the one discussed above. There is the expense, although one could argue that democracy is above price. There is the delay in obtaining the result; that of course could be obviated by the use of electronic voting terminals, but American voters, at least in the State of Ohio, have learned the disadvantages of that.
I will vote no for a different reason, and one that I am disappointed, although not at all surprised, to find ignored on the No to AV website. Those who vote yes, will be voting for a step into the unknown. We do not know how the AV system would work out in practice. We do not know whether it would result in a more, or a less, proportional election result; I have seen both argued. We do not know which party would benefit, whether it would be the Conservatives, Labour or Lib Dem. We do not know whether it would give us better or worse governments. But were the country to vote yes, it would probably be an irrevocable step. MPs elected under such a new system and owing their seats to it, are most unlikely to agree to revert to the former one even if the country in general thought the results a disaster.
Had we been offered the chance to vote for a change to AV with the assurance that, after two AV general elections, there would be a second referendum giving us the opportunity of returning to first-past-the-post, I would have voted yes. And sometimes I wonder if that is why we were not given that option.

Robin Baker

Swing Voters Poll

Mercredi, septembre 29th, 2010

According to Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative party can gain from voting reform. It would be in the marginal seats that the Alternative Vote (AV) system would make a decisive difference, should the public vote yes for AV in the referendum planned for May, 2011.
Samples of 1500 people were interviewed in each of the following four groups of marginal constituencies:
1. The 50 most marginal and Labour-held with the Conservatives second.
2. The 50 most marginal and Conservative-held with Labour second.
3. The 25 most marginal and Liberal Democrat-held with the Conservatives second.
4. The 25 most marginal and Conservative-held with the Liberal Democrats second.
Under the current first-past-the-post voting system, Labour would now gain 28 of the seats where it was in second place to the Conservatives (group 2 above), due to a 4-point drop in the Liberal Democrat share exclusively benefiting Labour.
For the 25 Liberal Democrat-held seats (group 3 above), a dramatic 15-point fall in their vote compared with the general election hands all these seats to the Conservatives plus a further 5, the total of 30 new Conservatives then still two more than the 28 lost to Labour (in group 2 above).
Under AV the results are less dramatic. In Conservative-Labour marginal constituencies (group 2 above), while Labour voters were much more likely to give their second preferences to the Liberal Democrats, the latter were in turn more likely to give their second preferences to the Conservatives, although by a smaller margin. Overall Labour would gain 16 Conservative seats from group 2 under AV.
The effect of AV on group 3 above (the 25 Liberal Democrat-Conservative marginal seats) was that the Liberal Democrats were significant beneficiaries of second and third preferences. However, they were also so lacking in first preferences that the vote transfers only served to narrow the Conservative gains under first-past-the-post to 19 new seats under AV.
The overall result under AV would still leave the Conservatives (with 19) three seats up on Labour (with 16), compared with their two seat advantage (from 30) over Labour (with 28) under first-past-the-post.
This analysis of course takes no account of the effects of the proposed reduction in the number of constituencies (see article under Categories/Chairman’’s Blog/Electoral Bias in the right hand column index), other possible changes in voter behaviour under AV (see the article under Categories/Chairman’s Blog/Alternative Vote in the right hand column index) and a surge in support for the Liberal Democrats compared with their current low standing in the opinion polls.
For full details of this Swing Voters Poll, go to www.lordashcroft and click on Latest News.

Alternative Vote (AV)

Vendredi, août 27th, 2010

The Alternative Vote (AV) system in Australia produced a hung parliament in their recent election, whilst first-past-the-post (in contrast to the UK election) would have resulted in a clear Conservative victory.
AV changes voter and Party behaviour. In the UK the Liberal Democrats would expect to win a lot of second preference votes under an AV system but AV can also encourage votes for other parties such as the Greens (now the third force in Australian politics with Labour owing 8 of its 70 or so seats to the second preferences of Green voters). This is because such voters have the luxury under AV of significantly reducing the possibility of a wasted vote by e.g. choosing a Green candidate first and a mainstream party as their second choice. The main parties also have more flexibility to move towards the centre e.g. the Conservatives could be more confident of securing most right wing second preferences and can compete more actively for the middle political ground. Similarly, Labour could count on being the second choice of e.g. left wing Liberal Democrat voters, as it targets voters in the centre.
Overall, therefore, although AV could still favour the Liberal Democrats in the UK, the party might also find itself pushed further from the centre ground by both Labour and the Conservatives, opening up the fracture between its right and left wings.