The Alternative Vote l And The End of Bin Laden
2/5/11 Peter Clifford –
THE ALTERNATIVE VOTE:
As I have said a number of times, democracy is not a perfect system but when embraced by the vast majority of a country’s population it generally provides the best protection for a free parliamentary consensus where unpopular governments can be removed by popular vote.
All political systems are open to manipulation of course and democracy is no exception. Here in the UK, arguably the seat of democracy, virtually every major government to hold power has redrawn parliamentary boundaries in their favour (it’s called “legal gerrymandering”!), so that they increase the chances of the majority of the votes going to their own candidates at the next election.
Until now in the UK we have had a “first past the post” system at elections i.e. the party that wins an absolute majority of seats, over all other parties combined, even by one, gets to form the next government (even though it may not be supported by a majority of voters).
Combined with the “legal gerrymandering” mentioned above, this has meant that unpopular and sometimes incompetent governments get to stay in power for several 4 year terms and/or for much longer than they should.
It has also meant effectively that the same two big parties get to run the country in turn for long periods of time, swapping occasionally from side to side with much the same long term result – a promising start (usually lots of promises!), followed by years of stumbling, followed by more years of a government that long ago passed its “sell by date”.
It was refreshing then to see the last election in the UK in 2010 so close to call that no party ended up with an absolute majority and in the end David Cameron’s Conservatives entered into a coalition with the Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.
Many people in both parties were not happy with this as it involved a large number of reluctant compromises on each side; but compromise does have the advantage of modifying and preventing the worst extremes on the right or the left from dominating the agenda, and that, in my view, is all to the good.
Part of the coalition deal between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats was that the Government would look at an another voting system and put it to a national referendum. There are a number of different voting systems and some are clearly better than others, but it is definitely time for a change rather than no change at all.
On May 5th we have a national referendum (as well as voting in District and Parish elections) on whether we should adopt AV, The Alternative Vote, as our new system of democracy.
While it is still not an ideal system (probably nothing is), it at least ensures that the majority of people in any given constituency have some sort of preference for the elected candidate and everyone’s vote counts.
Under the current system of “first past the post”, two thirds of MPs elected in 2010 did not have the majority support of their constituents – in other words most people got the MP they did not want! This cannot be right and is profoundly undemocratic.
The following points make the case for AV:
- Under AV redrawing of constituency boundaries becomes unnecessary ( money will be saved therefore and political gerrymandering prevented)
- Under AV extreme and diversive candidates/parties are less likely to gain power as they are unlikely to get many 2nd preference votes.
- The need for tactical voting is eliminated and voters know that their vote (even through a second or third choice) will count somewhere – every vote really does count under the AV system!
- AV lessens the need for negative campaigning, i.e. attacking other candidates, because you may need the votes of their supporters to get elected.
- AV is already used in the leadership elections for the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties and a form of it for the Conservative Party leadership election.
- AV is used in the House of Commons to elect UK parliamentary officials including the Chairman of Select Committees.
- Interestingly, AV, the Alternative Vote, is used by the committee that awards the Oscars, the Academy Awards for Best Pictures.
- AV has been used for more than 80 years in parliamentary voting in Australia.
- AV is already used by millions to vote in membership organisatons, businesses and trade union internal elections and in most Student Union elections.
- And lastly the AV system is used to elect the Irish President and in the USA for most City, Mayoral and district elections.
IT’ IS TIME FOR A CHANGE FOR A MUCH FAIRER SYSTEM WHERE ALL OUR VOTES COUNT AND WE ARE NOT STUCK WITH THE MPs WE DEFINITELY DON’T WANT!
PLEASE VOTE “YES” TO AV, THE ALTERNATIVE VOTE, ON THURSDAY MAY 5TH 2011
And lastly, whatever the outcome of the vote, I was amused to see that the “Yes” and “No” AV campaigns produced some unlikely bedfellows.
The “rabid” Labour politician John Reid appeared on the same platform alongside “solidly conservative” David Cameron and the “scruffy gentleman” Vince Cable (Liberal Democrat) appeared alongside “learner Labour leader Mr Who?” Ed Miliband plus better known comedian Eddie Izzard.
We won’t see this lot agreeing very often, if ever, again!
AND THE END OF BIN LADEN:
Ironically, Osama Bin Laden, who was killed by US Special Forces yesterday, was the antithesis of democracy in any form and the prophet of rule by terror, control and suppression, all in the name of Allah/God.
Few in the world, other than his supporters, will mourn the passing of a man that was directly responsible for the killing of least 3,000 people and indirectly for many more through his followers and affiliate groups.
Oddly, the pictures of him always struck me as someone who had intelligence, with quite a kind face and soft brown eyes – but clearly his actions and fanaticism don’t bear that out.
Just shows what religious extremism (of any sort) can do when you can go through life justifying your actions in the name of any remote and ultimately unknowable god.
While I am glad that the hunt for Bin Laden is at an end, I felt slightly “sick” watching the “celebrations” at his reported death infront of the White House in Washington on TV. No man or woman should have an untimely and violent death, though it happens everyday.
Like everyone else, Bin Laden was an innocent child once. The big question for me as a psychotherapist is what extreme anger, violence, abuse or terrror was visited on him as a small child to turn him into the international serial killer he turned out to be? An inability to deal with this leads men (and women) to turn their suppressed anger outwards.
And what outpourings of distorted anger, rage and violence will now be visited upon the innocent of the world in his name by his misguided followers? The world needs to be on its guard – very much so – I fear some difficult days lie ahead.
Until the next time,
Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com
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