Skip

Let's
May 5, 2011 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Today, the UK is voting on a series of national and local elections along with a referendum on whether to adopt the Alternative Vote system. The referendum has caused fierce rows within the Coalition, with accusations of lies flying around, including the supposed high cost of an AV system. Most polls indicate that AV will not be adopted, spelling yet another potential disaster for the Liberal Democrats.
posted by adrianhon (89 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
More than accusations -- Blunkett has already admitted(£) that the No campaign is using made-up figures.
posted by bonaldi at 11:41 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bonus reading: Fields Medalist Prof. Timothy Gowers' incredibly thorough mathematical exploration of the merits of AV versus FPTP (spoiler: he prefers AV)
posted by adrianhon at 11:43 AM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


We also had a civil parish election for the first time in a long time. There are 19 seats and 20 candidates, and I could vote once for every available seat. So including the referendum and local ward elections, I had a majestic 23 votes available.

Awesome.
posted by Jehan at 11:44 AM on May 5, 2011


I'm pretty much assuming that AV has failed at this point, and between that and the mass display of stupidity that was the Royal Wedding have come to the conclusion that my countrymen are all idiots. In the event of a suprise turnaround I'll take it all back, well maybe not the bit about people who like the royals being forelock tugging inbreeds and peasants.

TBH I think the Liberal Democrats are fucked either way. If AV fails they'll have destroyed themselves for nothing, if it succeeds then they'll have destroyed themselves for a voting system that favours the party they used to be before they destroyed themselves.

/Gloom.

Oh, and if you've not voted and the polls haven;t closed vote anyway, pay no attention to me.
posted by Artw at 11:44 AM on May 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


Fucking fuck, fuck, fuck biscuits.

I've no idea whether this was lost because of a lack of Yes2AV propaganda, general indifference, negative No2AV campaigning, small c conservatism, media hatred of the idea or whether people just prefer FPTP. But this is so hugely disappointing for me.

I really wanted this, and it looks like we've completely squandered the chance to get a more representative parliament.

If you haven't voted yet - Get out there & remember, vote #Yes2AV.
posted by seanyboy at 11:45 AM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, and though I doubt the referendum will pass, I think it will be better than 60-40. The recent opinion polls showing worse results just feel off.
posted by Jehan at 11:45 AM on May 5, 2011




Oh - and I'm also hugely upset that my satirical #no2wv hashtag hasn't set twitter *ablaze*. I'm pretty sure at this point that the British Public are both stupid and have neither the sense nor the skill to fully and properly appreciate my comic genius.
posted by seanyboy at 11:51 AM on May 5, 2011


How the fuck would changing the voting system cost money? The LibDems should drop out of the coalition if this doesn't pass. There's no sense in having Cameron's austerity measures tied around like a boat anchor if you don't get anything for it.
posted by delmoi at 11:51 AM on May 5, 2011


As an American, I don't have a stake in this, but I'm grateful for posts like these so I can have a bit of insight into how things work in other countries.
posted by desjardins at 11:52 AM on May 5, 2011


I kept thinking the argument that AV was too "complicated" was dubious since it's actually way less complicated than say the plot for Inception and it also called the constituents idiots. I guess people don't really know when someone is calling them an idiot.

Although, a lot of my more liberal friends were torn because what they really wanted was PR and it wasn't clear which way to vote would get them closer to that.
posted by like_neon at 11:53 AM on May 5, 2011


Although, a lot of my more liberal friends were torn because what they really wanted was PR and it wasn't clear which way to vote would get them closer to that.

It's pretty clear which way to vote to get further away from it.
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although, a lot of my more liberal friends were torn because what they really wanted was PR and it wasn't clear which way to vote would get them closer to that.

It's pretty clear which vote would get the debate around voting reform shut down for a generation.
posted by Jehan at 11:56 AM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


How anyone can think voting for FPTP is the better route to PR is utterly beyond me.

It's like saying... "Need more change? Vote for the Status Quo."
posted by seanyboy at 11:56 AM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've always wondered about this system. Isn't a system designed to stop someone from holding a seat for life, anti-democratic because it is trying to impose a result upon the voters? What if the will of the voters is to keep an MP in for life?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:56 AM on May 5, 2011


Damn, I owe you a beer, Artw.
posted by Jehan at 11:56 AM on May 5, 2011


How the fuck would changing the voting system cost money?
The lie was based on the idea that we'd have to buy electronic voting machines for the entire country.

The recent opinion polls showing worse results just feel off.
I think they're off because they're based on how people would vote, if they voted. Which they won't because in the largest country it's only an unsexy council election (and some mayoral races and one by-election), while in most of the other three it's raining.

So turnout will be low, and only the more engaged will vote. I think most of the politically engaged are all more likely to vote Yes, but I still don't think that'll swing it.

Isn't a system designed to stop someone from holding a seat for life, anti-democratic because it is trying to impose a result upon the voters?
It's a system designed to more fairly reflect the will of the voters, which will as a side effect help prevent seats for life. If the will of the people is for an incumbent for life, they'll still get that.
posted by bonaldi at 11:59 AM on May 5, 2011


It's not designed to stop someone from holding a seat for life Ironmouth. That's just LibDem idiocy. It's designed to stop someone being elected if the opposition vote is split between similar candidates.
posted by seanyboy at 11:59 AM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've always wondered about this system. Isn't a system designed to stop someone from holding a seat for life, anti-democratic because it is trying to impose a result upon the voters? What if the will of the voters is to keep an MP in for life?
Says the guy who thinks it's "undemocratic" to require politicians not lie to constituents (because if they can't lie, then they're disempowered, and if their disimpowered then they can't fully carry out the 'will of the people'. derp.)

Anyway, as far as I know this has nothing to do with term limits, it would make it easier for people who don't want only one of two choices to have their choices reflected.
posted by delmoi at 12:01 PM on May 5, 2011


As an Australian (a country with the alternate vote) living in the UK it is somewhat surreal to hear the Nay-sayers claim it will lead to an erosion of democracy. It has made me strangely defensive.

The No campaign are gormless in their slanting of facts.

per example: their suggestion that Fiji (one of three countries in the world that have AV) plan to be rid of it conveniently leaves out the fact that the people who want to dismantle it are those involved in the military junta that took over in the 2006 coup.

Fortunately as a Commonwealth citizen I have the right to vote here. Helping the Motherland out..
posted by TheOtherGuy at 12:02 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think they're off because they're based on how people would vote, if they voted. Which they won't because in the largest country it's only an unsexy council election (and some mayoral races and one by-election), while in most of the other three it's raining.

So the paper's posted the results unweighted for likelihood to vote? Tsk, and probably only for the headline.
posted by Jehan at 12:03 PM on May 5, 2011


A few more points.
  • From the timetable, the first AV results come in around 17:30 Friday (BST), with the official results 20:00.
  • I think unusually by international standards, there are no threshold or quorum requirements. A simple majority of the votes cast is all that is needed.
  • Both sides are given equal, free TV airtime for "referendum broadcasts". Yes 1, Yes 2, No 1, No 2.
  • The Yes campaign have a slight funding advantage of £3.4m to £2.6m, and have two out of three party leaderships on their side.
  • Poll question was written by the independent electoral commission.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:03 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did not realise that the yes campaign had a funding advantage.

That makes me slightly more depressed. What the hell did they spend it on? Hemp clothing and mung beans?
posted by seanyboy at 12:09 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


> The Yes campaign have a slight funding advantage of £3.4m to £2.6m, and have two out of three party leaderships on their side.

Geez, if the U.S, with about 3x the population were having a national referendum like this I'm sure the funding levels would be two to three orders of magnitude higher.
posted by delmoi at 12:13 PM on May 5, 2011


The Daily Mail is against AV. Just sayin'.

Too late now, of course. It really is a shame how obdurately conservative British people are.

I voted "Yes" at precisely 7:01 AM today. Not that this makes me a wonderful human being. I was already.
posted by Decani at 12:14 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Geez, if the U.S, with about 3x the population were having a national referendum like this I'm sure the funding levels would be two to three orders of magnitude higher.

5x

UK ~ 60 million
US ~ 300 million

posted by Jehan at 12:20 PM on May 5, 2011


The strange thing that all Englishmen hold in their hearts, regardless of age or political affiliation, is the sure and certain knowledge that the country is utterly doomed.
posted by Jofus at 12:44 PM on May 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


The Daily Mail is against AV. Just sayin'.
The BNP is pro-PR, so what.

I'd be delighted to see AV, a less proportional system that would funnel votes to the major parties, fall on its arse (fingers crossed). Given that it's no improvement on FPTP, the key is to fuck over the Lib Dems and begin the unravelling of this coalition while we still have some semblance of a welfare state.
posted by Abiezer at 12:49 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Abiezer: if the AV vote fails then electoral reform will be off the table for a generation--and given that the last UK referendum was 36 years ago and wasn't about electoral reform, possibly longer.

Meanwhile the LibDems will dig their heels in, and since we have no way of removing them from government individually or collectively until they decide they're damn well ready to go, the welfare state is pretty much doomed.

But hey, thanks for stamping on the toes of the people who were trying to take a small step forward.
posted by Hogshead at 12:54 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I see no way that follows at all (unless you insist that being against AV is being against PR and allow this vote to mean a rejection of any change), or that the reverse wouldn't be the case - you've had this and that's your lot.
posted by Abiezer at 12:59 PM on May 5, 2011


Doomed, I tells ya!
posted by Jofus at 1:00 PM on May 5, 2011


Oh I like this from the report that Abiezer linked:

Fairness in representation is a complex concept, [...] and one to which the upholders of FPTP do not appear to attach great importance

I voted yes but am as pessimistic as everyone else. Both campaigns have been woeful. If AV fails, PR will not be even considered for as long as I can see to care about. I am tribal politically, though I try not to be, but it's daft to give up the chance of a fairer system just to give the Lib Dems a bloody nose. Perhaps this is what David Blunkett is up to, who knows?
posted by calico at 1:05 PM on May 5, 2011


Here's a nice guide from the Guardian about when the various results are expected in:

Thursday night

10pm: The polls close. Counting starts in most of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly seats, and in many of the 279 English councils where elections are taking place.

10.30pm: Sky News starts its election programme, Decision Time 2011, with Adam Boulton presenting.

11.35pm: The BBC's election programme, Vote 2011, starts on BBC 1, with David Dimbleby presenting.

Around 12pm: The first Welsh results and English council results are expected. Sunderland is often the first English council to declare.

Friday

Around 2am: The first Scottish results are expected. A large number of English council results are expected between 2am and 3am.

Around 3am: Results should be coming in thick and fast. Sheffield, a key Labour target, is one of the councils expected to declare around about now.

7.30am: Counting starts in the Leicester South byelection.

8am: Counting starts in the Northern Ireland assembly elections.

Around 9am: Counting starts in Northern Ireland and in the Leicester South byelection

Around 11am: Results start to come in from the small number of Scottish and Welsh constituencies that did not count overnight and from the 160-odd English councils counting on Friday.

Around 2pm: Results start to come in from Northern Ireland.

Around 2.30pm: The Electoral Commission is expected to announce the turnout in the AV referendum.

4pm: Counting of the votes in the AV referendum starts. The full results are not due in until around 9pm or later, but one side - the no camp, unless the polls are totally wrong - may well get more than 50% of the vote before then.

posted by adrianhon at 1:23 PM on May 5, 2011


Did not realise that the yes campaign had a funding advantage. That makes me slightly more depressed. What the hell did they spend it on? Hemp clothing and mung beans?

Too right. If they had more money, why did I get two No to AV leaflets through my door and nothing from the Yes campaign? I wanted to keep one as an ironic souvenir of the time the UK threw away its best chance in history to chuck FPTP (the history that's actually happened, not some fantasy future history when the direct beneficiaries of FPTP deign to offer us PR instead).
posted by rory at 1:44 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it possible that the polls will spur a shift in the opposite direction, by encouraging Yes voters to vote and making No voters feel that there's less of a need?

I'm curious about how a person's political engagement and likelihood of voting match up with their alignment too.
posted by lucidium at 1:48 PM on May 5, 2011


Perhaps this is what David Blunkett is up to, who knows?

Hearing No arguments from ex-ministers who had AV in their platform for 13 years in government has been hard to take. Labour had such a landslide in 1997 that they could have introduced AV as a simple act of parliament and would have had the political capital to get it through. It's a far less radical change to the UK system of government than devolution was.
posted by rory at 2:12 PM on May 5, 2011


Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown is not a happy chappy.

From the article: "The central proposition of this parliament stands: 'Is George Osborne's economic judgment right?'"

I'ld be touching cloth for the next four years if I depended on a 'yes' answer to that one.
posted by Jehan at 2:12 PM on May 5, 2011


Just heard a rumour that the SNP have totally run rampant north of the boarder... that'll be interesting
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:34 PM on May 5, 2011


Awesome VR goodness on the beeb! Plus, Dimbleby's tie?!
posted by adrianhon at 3:41 PM on May 5, 2011


My impression is that most people don't care much either way, and I can't honestly say I blame them. Amid all the competing claims for and against AV, the most cogent piece I read was Vernon Bogdanor's article in the Guardian arguing that AV would make very little difference:

AV will not, as its advocates suggest, do away with safe seats. It will make no difference in a constituency where an MP wins over 50% of the vote. Since so few seats will change hands, the system is unlikely to make MPs fight for every single vote; nor will it remedy the geographical imbalance of representation that is perhaps the greatest weakness of the first-past-the-post system. It will do nothing to ensure that Tories are better represented in Scotland and the north of England, or Labour better represented in the south.

The referendum is a botched compromise born of short-term political expediency. Like the Fixed-Term Parliaments Bill, it shows why politicians can't be trusted with political reform, or why it's a bad idea to rewrite the constitution on the back of an envelope.
posted by verstegan at 3:54 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


That map on the floor looked great.
posted by Harpocrates at 3:54 PM on May 5, 2011


The Yes campaign have a slight funding advantage of £3.4m to £2.6m

if the U.S, with about 3x the population were having a national referendum like this I'm sure the funding levels would be two to three orders of magnitude higher

As a comparison, prop 8 in California (half the population of the UK) spent $39.9 million (for) and $43.3 million (against).

So... yeah.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:05 PM on May 5, 2011


Just heard a rumour that the SNP have totally run rampant north of the boarder... that'll be interesting

Seems to be true according to the few results so far. While they're still some way from a majority, the more seats they have the more likely a independence referendum is. That'll really light some fires in England.
posted by Jehan at 5:33 PM on May 5, 2011


For those wondering why AV is "more democratic", perhaps this post from mefi's very own cstross might be of assistance.
posted by coriolisdave at 6:21 PM on May 5, 2011


The results in Scotland are staggering so far. Labour's safest seats are under threat -- including their leader's -- and the LibDems have lost their deposit in every seat so far. If the swing keeps on like this (it won't) the SNP could get an outright majority.
posted by bonaldi at 7:20 PM on May 5, 2011


It's Barnsley all over again for the LibDems... Something they should get used to, because it's going to be that way for them for a long while.
posted by Artw at 8:04 PM on May 5, 2011


AV will not, as its advocates suggest, do away with safe seats. It will make no difference in a constituency where an MP wins over 50% of the vote.

What if that MP gets 50% of the vote because their constituents are voting strategically? His premise has literally no basis in reality.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:43 PM on May 5, 2011


The Lib Dem's political strategy has always been to be all things to all people in order to get a toe hold in power and then force through PR as the price of coalition to ensure they have a permanent influence over government. However once in national power they actually have to help make decisions and so that strategy begins to fall apart. They historically do well during Conservative administrations as most of their extra votes are from disenchanted Conservatives posting a protest vote - although Lib Dem activists skew left of many Labour supporters, their voters tend to skew right of their elected representatives in Parliament and elsewhere. As they're in coalition with the Conservatives they can't reap the benefit this time, with the likely result of the next parliamentary election being a Conservative majority with the liberals once again reduced to a lump.

Given that the Liberals' monomaniacal support of proportional representation has always been naked self interest masquerading as moral principle (as it would mean a party with 15% support would always be in power, rather than nearly always in opposition) it speaks to the political skill of David Cameron that he's gained the support of the liberals in office while simultaneously, through the likely result of this referendum, taking it off the political agenda for a generation. It should be remembered that the Labour party were keen on PR before Tony Blair was first elected, but mysteriously lost enthusiasm as they kept winning elections via first past the post. It's also worth noticing that when parties of the right lose elections they look at themselves and ask where did WE go wrong, but when the left loses it's always because the people they proclaim to love so much are a bunch of stupid morons.
posted by joannemullen at 1:03 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Woah, SNP have done some sort of nina jedi moves in Scotland. Husband is Scottish and an SNP supporter but even he doesn't understand the sudden swing. We thought if anything, Labour would sweep. Anyone have insight on this?
posted by like_neon at 1:39 AM on May 6, 2011


Just back from covering the Edinburgh count for the Edinburgh Evening News, it was full of startled people - even the SNP seemed slightly amazed by the scale of it. All over the city, seats which people thought *might* have changed hands between Labour/Lib Dems have been taken by SNP candidates who weren't even thought to be anywhere near in the running. Well-entrenched Ed Pentlands Tory incumbent David McLetchie lost to an SNP candidate who hadn't even taken any time off work to campaign; Ed Southern incumbent Mike Pringle knocked into third place behind the SNP and Labour candidates - and so it went on. The rumours just seemed to get wilder and wilder through the night, and then they all turned out to be true.

like_neon - it seems to be a combination of the Lib Dem vote utterly collapsing as a result of disgust with the Westminster coalition, and the general limpness of Labour/Iain Gray during the campaign. The leaders have been a big factor, and Salmond's bold performance has contrasted with Gray's now-infamous "hiding in the sandwich shop" moment. A lot of people saying the SNP ran a much more positive campaign than other parties and it paid off. Others saying that it was a vote for the SNP but not necessarily a vote for independence.

I haven't slept for 24 hours and am winding down with a breakfast-time vodka and tonic, so if this doesn't quite make sense, I apologise...
posted by penguin pie at 2:13 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


It looks like the LibDem vote has completely collapsed in Scotland. The expectation in this event was that at least some of that vote would switch to Labour, but the reality is that it has gone almost entirely to the SNP (at least in the constituency vote, the regions will declare later). The early reaction and analysis seems to be suggesting that this is a reflection of the different campaign strategies of the SNP and Labour. The SNP had a stronger focus on Scottish issues and aggressively promoted their policy successes over the last four years. In contrast, Labour made a big deal of the Tory presence in the Westminster government and set themselves up as the natural alternative to this. They failed to really address the weaker areas of the SNP's record in Scotland, or to offer any substantive policy alternatives. A consensus seems to be forming around the idea that the SNP realised that people are quite happy to vote differently in a Scottish election than they would in a Westminster election, whereas Labour didn't get it.
The fallout will be interesting for Labour in Scotland, in that their leader Iain Gray has presided over an electoral flop, but ironically may have run a campaign so poor that he may survive it. He managed to hold his own seat by a handful of votes but most of the viable alternatives for the leader's post have been unseated, so he may keep the job by default.
As for the LibDems, they more or less blamed Clegg in advance of the election. One or two analysts have already pointed out that it only takes 5 MPs to trigger a UK national leadership challenge. So far this has only been thrown out as a casual observation, but if the scale of the final massacre is as large as it currently looks, it's an idea that could gain traction.
Personally, I am a little concerned that the upshot of all of this will be that the SNP end up with an overall majority and no effective opposition, which often brings out the worst in a government. Hopefully we'll get someone like Gorgeous George into a seat so that he can keep an eye on them whilst the other parties are getting their act together.
posted by Jakey at 2:23 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Others saying that it was a vote for the SNP but not necessarily a vote for independence.

I think that's true, and something that Labour definitely picked up on with their 'vote SNP and you're voting for a referendum!' election leaflets. The SNP's generally positive campaign focussing on their performance record worked well for them.

But, bloody hell. The SNP won five 'safe' seats from Labour here in Glasgow, and even constituencies like Maryhill & Springburn that stayed Labour are showing a big swing to SNP. Wasn't expecting anything like this.
posted by Catseye at 3:03 AM on May 6, 2011


the SNP realised that people are quite happy to vote differently in a Scottish election than they would in a Westminster election, whereas Labour didn't get it.

Yes, I was unimpressed with the tone of the Labour pamphlets I got, which seemed to be trying to re-fight a General Election we weren't actually having. As an Aussie, I'm used to making distinctions between state and federal politics, and would have thought that their long experience of the differences between council and national elections would have taught Labour the value of making that distinction at the Scottish level, but apparently not.

It seems it will take more than ten years for it to sink in that the UK moved to a defacto federal system in 1998, although without the benefit of a clear constitutional separation of powers that would have avoided problems like the Lothian question. If Blair's government had done it properly they could have satisfied more of the demands of those who are now considering Scottish independence instead.
posted by rory at 3:07 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


So all of the Lib Dem councillors here in Manchester are gone. All of them. And this wouldn't give me pause except one of them is my neighbour Tony Bethell.

I'm not really a big-p Political person. I lean really left on some things; a little to the right on others. I'm not a fan of really any party in particular and I'm certainly not a Lib Dem voter.

But Tony is also my binman, and he's a bloke I see ambling around the estate in his tracksuit. He's often seen standing on street corners talking to folk - being a neighbour, I guess you could call it.

Sometimes the 'local Lib Dem team' will send some campaign or promotional material through the post - there'll inevitably be a photo of them all in their suits. Tony always looks slightly out of place in a suit. Maybe I'm projecting because I see him leaning off the back of the rubbish truck every thursday morning.

Anyway, I don't know him. I've only spoken to him a couple of times. I don't even know his voting history or what he stands for - but I'm willing to bet a couple of quid that he's a just fine bloke who did a just fine job and the reasons that he no longer has that job are nothing to do with him personally but of the perceived and thinly understood limitations of his boss' boss' boss' boss. (If Clegg bears any relationship to him from a hierarchical point of view at all.)

I mention this only because I'm feeling a little whimsical this morning. Life is stern and life is earnest and, who knows, maybe Ian Whatever His Name Is from Labour is a 7 foot tall ginger unicorn who shits hospitals and libraries and will solve all the ward's problems.

I'll still shake Tony's hand next time I see him though.

Bah.
posted by Jofus at 4:15 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


lucidium: Is it possible that the polls will spur a shift in the opposite direction, by encouraging Yes voters to vote and making No voters feel that there's less of a need?

That's what I'm hoping for. I'm also hoping that young people see through the propaganda telling them to vote no to "punish" Clegg, and do the right thing instead. I mean, seriously, does anyone actually buy the logic that the best way to punish lying politicians is to vote to keep things the way they've always been?

Also: if Scotland gets its independence, I'm moving there in a flash. It'll never happen, but still...
posted by Acey at 5:06 AM on May 6, 2011


(as it would mean a party with 15% support would always be in power, rather than nearly always in opposition)

I'm not sure I understand; are you saying the above would be a natural result of AV?
posted by smoke at 5:15 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: if Scotland gets its independence, I'm moving there in a flash. It'll never happen, but still...

I wonder what would happen to me if Scotland got independence before i finish getting my citizenship (three years to go!) - sure, I live in Edinburgh but i'm a UK migrant - how would they settle stuff like that, I wonder?
posted by ukdanae at 5:40 AM on May 6, 2011


Argyll & Bute SNP win, only two to go. This is a landslide to the SNP. Not that they actually have a majority yet. How does that work with the Additional Member System? Presumably they'll get more additional members than anyone else but will the FPTP majority be enough to give them an overall majority in the hybrid system?
posted by GeckoDundee at 6:15 AM on May 6, 2011


This reminds me of the 1999 Australian Republic referendum. John Howard, who personally opposed a republic, allowed a referendum to go ahead gambling on the likelihood that there wasn't enough support in the community for it to pass, especially once legions of idiot monarchists and professional liars had spent months screaming about how it would cause the collapse of Australian civilisation (although Howard had the advantage of being able to select a lame, uninspiring model for the republic that nobody could get really exciting about, whereas AV is genuinely vastly superior to FPTP). The result: republicanism is off the agenda now and looks unlikely to be an issue again for decades. Looks like you screwed this one up, UK.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:16 AM on May 6, 2011


And the SNP win the last two seats too. What a result.
posted by GeckoDundee at 6:26 AM on May 6, 2011


Howard had the advantage of being able to select a lame, uninspiring model for the republic that nobody could get really exciting about

We were talking about that a bit in the Chaser thread the other day. Not everyone thought the model on the table in 1999 was lame; it was our existing system of government, without the Queen at the top, and with a tweak to how the governor-general-replacement was selected to minimise the risk of partisan appointments that currently exists. The whole point was to keep the president as a figurehead; if you directly elect them, they're no longer that, and you effectively don't have a parliamentary democracy any more. Which is fine if that's what everyone wants, but it's a much bigger deal than just getting rid of the monarchy.

But yeah, Howard rigged it by refusing to give us two questions, 'Do you want Australia to become a republic?' and 'If we become a republic, which of the following ways of selecting a president would you prefer?' Must have wanted to save paper, I guess. Or maybe he knew two questions would be too confusing for everyone. But hang on, the No to AV campaign has just pointed out that Australia is one of the only countries in the world whose voters are intelligent enough to handle the terrible complexity of AV, so that can't be right. Although they did frame it in language that implied Australians are too stupid to embrace the elegance of voting with a simple X, so Howard must have been right after all. Better vote no, just to be on the safe side. Oh look, we did.
posted by rory at 6:54 AM on May 6, 2011


If you ever needed a clearer indication of why FPTP is broken: Edinburgh Southern. (The constituency seats were voted on with FPTP, with the regional seats adding a bit more proportionality to the balance of seats in the Scotish parliament overall.)

I'm betting the lion's share of Conservative preferences in an AV vote would have gone to the LD candidate; the Labour candidate would have been eliminated next, and his preferences might have gone a bit more evenly towards SNP and LD; and the result would have been a close call, but probably favouring the LD candidate overall.
posted by rory at 7:10 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm betting the lion's share of Conservative preferences in an AV vote would have gone to the LD candidate; the Labour candidate would have been eliminated next, and his preferences might have gone a bit more evenly towards SNP and LD; and the result would have been a close call, but probably favouring the LD candidate overall.

Well, the Conservatives did say in opposition to AV that they wanted "strong and decisive" governments. Let's see how they like such a government in Scotland.
posted by Jehan at 7:21 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Guardian: Australian experience has been misrepresented in AV debate

Why on earth was stuff like this not getting published until 4.30pm on the day of the referendum itself?
posted by rory at 7:50 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments commence:

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray has already said he's stepping down in the autumn.

With many deposits lost, [Scottish LibDem leader] Mr Scott said his party's problems were down to the coalition government at Westminster


With an overall majority, the SNP are now committed to an independence referendum, probably in the second half of their term. If you think the scaremongering in the no2AV campaign was bad, wait until you get a load of the Chicken-Lickening that'll feature in the unionist campaign for that contest.
posted by Jakey at 8:12 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Guardian: Australian experience has been misrepresented in AV debate

Antony Green, who wrote that column, is a living legend in Australian election commentary.

Every election, without fail, I watch him and Red Kerry call the election. They call in commentators from both sides and Antony is an absolute wizard with data and will go down to the swing of individual booths in analysis.

Other TV channels try to match the coverage but the man is just too much of an Australian electoral institution. It's a pity his sage advice had to come so late in the referendum cycle.
posted by Talez at 9:03 AM on May 6, 2011


It;s currently 70%-30% against, FWIW.

Oh, and it's been pointed out repeatedly that Scottish independance basically means Tories forever for England.

/GLOOM.
posted by Artw at 9:52 AM on May 6, 2011


Oh, and it's been pointed out repeatedly that Scottish independance basically means Tories forever for England.

Well, I think the ramifications of Scottish independence will be much deeper. After all, it would mean the end of the UK and unionism as a political position. I can't imagine that English politics and political parties would stay the same as now.

But otherwise, plenty of gloom over AV. So far Yes is barely scraping above 30%, and we can only hope that the early declarations have been unrepresentatively strong No areas.
posted by Jehan at 10:29 AM on May 6, 2011


This is so bitter sweet. I'm glad Labour did well in England. Sorry that AV failed and the Tories held on to their seats. Happy for the Scottish, who clearly looked at the offerings from the 'English' parties and thought 'fuck that shit'.

And HA HA HA HA HA LIB DEMS FUCK YOU.
posted by Summer at 12:23 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh I don't know. I can't see much to be cheerful about at all. We won't get to revisit the way our politicians are elected for a very long time failing the kind of political earthquake that by definition can't be forecast. The Tories get to present this as a victory for their national policies. If the LibDems ever had any kind of moderating effect on the coalition (which was very hard to detect if they did) they emphatically won't now. Labour - who I feel are the party I should vote for but for whom I find it very difficult to make a positive argument - seem to be becoming irrelevant outside Wales.

Alex Salmond seems to me to be a remarkably good politician running a bright and committed SNP. I wish the national parties could call on that sort of talent and imagination. But you can call me an old reactionary but I think the Union is better for Scotland as well as the rest of us and I am not really looking forward to the dance towards a Scottish referendum.
posted by calico at 12:48 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


As much as I am sad that the AV vote failed, everyone who I voted for (in both the general and council elections) got in, so I guess if my guys won... who cares about AV? Or something? At least that's what I'm telling myself.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:48 PM on May 6, 2011


Clegg is a dead man walking. He can't cause a snap election by dissolving the coalition because the Torys will claim it's all his fault and the gullible electorate will go along with them and just hand the Torys a majority. Can't ride out the rest of the term because they're just going to be seen as giving lip service to the centre-left by merely rearranging the deck chairs on SS Tortanic.
posted by Talez at 1:34 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is a path the Lib Dems could go down. They won't, but they could. It's this: Right now, in terms of their own political futures they have nothing whatsoever to lose. If a general election were held tomorrow, it wouldn't surprise me to see every one of them lose their seats.

So, they may not be able to break the coalition, for the reasons Talez outlines, but they can add left-leaning amendments to absolutely everything, start minor backbench rebellions, and vote in unison only on confidence and supply motions. (More entertaining still, they can keep the Tories in power by voting for them in confidence motions, so that the government can fall only by its own hand.) Essentially, they make life so difficult for the Tories that the government has to choose between limping along, unable to get anything meaningful done, or bringing themselves down and leaving the door open for Labour.

It would be mean-spirited, and probably not very healthy for democracy, and they'd never do it because it would be like herding cats, but it would almost be worth it just to watch David Cameron squirm.
posted by ZsigE at 2:07 PM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


TBH at this point I'd be happy with the Lib Dems admitting that no one will ever vote for them again and simply disbanding.
posted by Artw at 2:13 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]




Though there is cheering news in that if you take the percentage of votes in the council elections and project it into a parliamentary vote then Labour would have a comfortable majority (largely because the Lib Dems would lose half their seats)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:30 PM on May 6, 2011


TBH at this point I'd be happy with the Lib Dems admitting that no one will ever vote for them again and simply disbanding.

If they removed Clegg and Alexander, I would vote for them again. But that's "remove" not "allow to resign". I want the rest of the party to show they strongly reject the coalition by getting rid of the worst offenders.
posted by Jehan at 2:40 PM on May 6, 2011


I think the chances of them straight up admitting that their plan of doing everything the Tories asked until there was a referendum was shit and didn't work are pretty slim.
posted by Artw at 2:44 PM on May 6, 2011


I just tried posting this in the new thread which was imho wrongly deleted.


In 100 years, historians will attribute the U.S.'s downfall to it's antiquated FPTP voting system.

By then, there will have been a massive democratic reforms in several of China, India, Europe, and South America that lead to combinations of single transferable vote, Condorcet methods, and deliberative opinion polls.

* STV (multi-winner IRV) largely resolves IRV's rather deep fundamental problems. Of course, Condorcet methods are still preferable for electing a single winner, like a president.

* Deliberative opinion polls are an extremely clever way to make referendums a viable system of government. In essence, they are jury trials for every law, probably replacing the presidential veto, queen's signature, etc. Researchers have shown that people who seriously watch a debate are 10--20% less stupid, but they mean like jury box serious, not american idol serious. Imho, deliberative opinion polls are a very good approach for the Chinese who seem reluctant to sacrifice their central power, but probably don't mind endlessly debating & retrying new laws.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:21 PM on May 6, 2011


In reply to a question in the old thread:

Am I reading that Guardian article correctly? It sounds like people are saying this failed -- in part -- because people don't like Nick Clegg. I don't understand that at all (I am an American).


During the last election Clegg and the Liberal Democrats were portrayed as the people ready to deliver us from the tired two-party back-and-forth of UK politics. Neither Labour - which had been in power for 13 years - nor Conservatives with their neo-Thatcherite policies were particularly palatable, and people voted for Clegg as the man who would moderate their excesses and usher in a new age of grown-up politics. (Or something similar, but you get the jist.)

Anyway, at the election, neither of the two main parties had enough seats for a majority, and the Liberal Democrats had a deciding number of seats. Sadly, they jumped straight into bed with the Conservatives when many of their supporters thought they would be more cautious. Regardless of what they may have achieved in moderating the Conservatives, Clegg is often portrayed as having allowed the current government to more-or-less introduce policies that shamelessly cut funding and hurt vulnerable people.

The AV referendum was supposed to be the Liberal Democrats' "payment" for entering the coalition, and so some people chose to vote No in order to punish their leader Nick Clegg. Some of this is pure spite, but others were reckoning on upsetting the Liberal Democrat party enough that they would depose Clegg, leave the coalition and cause a new general election. Either way, they weren't voting for or against AV on its own terms. Hence why recourse to arguments such as "it's the will of the people, dahling!" are pretty stupid and one dimensional when judging this result.
posted by Jehan at 5:22 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh FFS.

Fellow UKians remember - we are a terribly little and largely irrelevant country in the grand scheme of things, whatever your Nan or David Cameron may say, and our local political, uh, difficulties, are really not important enough to merit two simultaneous threads on the same thing. Can't blame the mods for closing that extremely active thread on the referendum results, much as it is annoying to the few of us who were bouncing on reload.

I was drafting a reply to this comment when the previous (subsequent) thread was closed. That's probably a good thing, though at least 1/3 of the words I was using were not derivatives of the word 'fuck'. I may have had a point but I forget. No. I definitely had a point, but it has got lost in the transition between threads.
posted by motty at 5:25 PM on May 6, 2011


Thanks for the explanation, Jehan (from my question in the other thread). It sure sounds like spite to me, or spite masquerading as too-clever-by-half political manoeuvering.

Or better still, like Judas not bothering to take the 30 pieces of silver. I mean, Lib-Dems have already acquiesced to a whole lot of Conservative shittiness, right? Might as well take the payment offered for your deeds.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:46 PM on May 6, 2011


Or better still, like Judas not bothering to take the 30 pieces of silver. I mean, Lib-Dems have already acquiesced to a whole lot of Conservative shittiness, right? Might as well take the payment offered for your deeds.

Aye, and the kind of people who voted that way are the ones who angered me most. I don't know if you have this phrase in the US, but in England we say it's "cutting off your nose to spite your face."
posted by Jehan at 5:51 PM on May 6, 2011


Yes, we do. Plenty of spiteful, nose-less people here in the U.S. too -- sneering at you as they press on the bridges of their eyeglasses.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:56 PM on May 6, 2011


The BNP is pro-PR, so what.

Well of course they are. That is relevant information too. I have no idea why you say "So what?"
posted by Decani at 7:03 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh dear. UK has some serious problems if this couldn't get up.
posted by vicx at 10:49 PM on May 6, 2011


As as a strong No supporter I'm obviously pretty happy about the AV result.

But I think we can all be reasonably happy about the turnout, a better than expected 41%. Even if we'd had a general election turnout of 61%, and all the additional voters had voted Yes, it would still have been a No victory overall. So we can be pretty sure that turnout didn't change the result.

I think we can also be proud of the way the UK handled this referendum. Internationally, it's common to try to nobble changes with unreasonable threshold or quorum requirements: none of that here. In many places, fundraising for expensive TV ads gives an advantage to the richest side: here, both sides had equal free airtime. The Yes campaign had a slight funding advantage of £3.4m to £2.6m, but there wasn't much in it. And with one party leadership endorsing No, and two endorsing Yes, there was no particular establishment advantage. So, we had a fair and even contest, decisively won.

I think we should be wary of trying to read too much into this result internationally though: all politics is local.

The effect of AV is likely to be more bland, centrist, consensus politics, since under AV a candidate needs to reach out for lower preferences for people across the political spectrum, while under FPTP he can energise his base and forget the rest.

The UK already has pretty bland, centrist politics, so there's not much point to AV here. But in the US, with its highly partisan politics, and the subsequent tendency to gridlock, there's a stronger case that AV would improve things. In San Francisco for instance, it seems to have reduced negative campaigning.

I think that rather than try to find The Best voting system, it's more sensible to ask "what are the actual problems we have here", and then look for a system that will fix those problems. Not only is that likely to give better results, it also makes campaigning for change easier. The Yes campaign here struggled to articulate in concrete terms exactly why they thought their system was better.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:53 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, so the Lib-Dems are probably dead for a generation. I'm in a Lib-Dem/Labour marginal - what happens to this? Labour safe seat for the next twenty years? It becomes a Conservative/Labour marginal? Probably the former.

So in fifteen years, when I've got a Labour government that has introduced detention without trial and other horrible acts and cheerfully presided over a huge boom and bust, who do I vote for? The Tory opposition? I just can't, unless they sort out their dislike of abortion and drugs-that-aren't-alcohol and other "social" issues.

I guess I'll see which way most of the Lib-Dems break, either forming the right wing of Labour or the left wing of the Tories, and go that way.

Unless, of course, the economy takes off and we have a successful foreign war - I mean, a conversation in 1980 would never have involved "when Thatcher gets a landslide victory in 1983", now would it?
posted by alasdair at 4:12 AM on May 7, 2011


I suspect that support for Labour and the Conservatives will continue to decline, but they'll continue to get in with less and less support because the rest of the vote will be so fragmented.
posted by Artw at 6:51 AM on May 7, 2011


« Older They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot   |   Mama Shaq! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post