Saturday, 30 April 2011

Train of the day

Here is the original (1970s) rolling stock on the Brussels metro, now looking slightly dowdy. When I first lived there in the 1980s, it took me a while to get used to the phenomenal speed at which these trains accelerate away from the platform, compared with the London Underground. Incidentally the service is much better now than it was then. At the time, the interval between trains was only 20 minutes in the evening -- hopeless for a city metro -- and it was being threatened with being closed down in the evenings altogether, under the then right-wing Liberal national government. Things got a lot better with Belgium's new federal structure, when in the early 1990s the new Brussels regional asssembly took over responsibility for local transport in the capital. Devolved regional government is good for transport -- look at Scotland and Wales recently, and indeed London compared with the rest of England.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

A very short film on what to do about the referendum

Hello undecided voters! If you watch no other video clips about voting systems, please watch this one by TV's Dan Snow:

Thursday, 21 April 2011

AV too complicated, innit?

I like this, from UncleMikey at (click on the image to enlarge):

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

"No to AV" and its campaign to deceive the public with a torrent of downright lies

I was just sitting minding my own business, watching International Youth Football from South America on Eurosport2, when a leaflet arrived, headed "Keep One Person, One Vote". That sounds reasonable, I thought -- but is anybody suggesting otherwise?

It turned out to be an astonishingly mendacious piece of propaganda from NO2AV. And there was the first falsehood right there on the front cover -- the suggestion that the Alternative Vote does *not* involve "one person, one vote".

Of course AV also means one person, one vote, and it has been pointed out a million times by now that under AV everybody has only one vote, which is counted again at each stage of the counting procedure, so all votes in each contest are counted the same number of times. Anyone who suggests otherwise either hasn't understood how the system works, or -- more likely in this case -- understands perfectly well how it works but is trying to deceive the public.

Most outrageous of all is that the leaflet solemnly regurgitates the barefaced lie that AV will require voting machines and hence extra public expense. How can they get away with this, when it has been formally clarified by the authorities that machines will not be used or needed? Isn't there anything in electoral law that forbids deliberately making assertions that are verifiably the opposite of the truth?

I was going to go on and point out all the other things that are wrong with this leaflet, at best deliberately misleading and at several points just plumb wrong. But somebody else has done the job for me, in graphic form, which you can see here.

One significant point not adequately covered is the scare story that AV will assist extremists such as the BNP. The fatuous Tory peer Baroness Warsi -- evidently not keen to have the issue clouded with mere facts -- has been pushing this line. It's not just wrong, it is the opposite of the truth. One of the main advantages, perhaps the only real advantage, of AV is that (provided people understand how to use it effectively) it *prevents* a poorly supported candidate "coming through the middle" and getting elected on a small percentage of the vote because opposition to him or her is split too many ways. That is how BNP candidates have occasionally got elected in local council elections under first-past-the-post.

The only way the BNP can get elected under AV is if either (a) their candidate gets 50% of first preferences, which isn't going to happen, or (b) the BNP gets quite a lot of first preferences and then also picks up most of the second preferences of all those candidates who have performed in the first count less well than the BNP. This also seems extraordinarily unlikely (because Greens and LibDems and Respect types are never going to put the BNP as their second choice, though I suppose a few UKIP supporters might).

So with AV we would be moving from a system under which the BNP can occasionally get elected by a fluke, to a system under which they have no real prospect of being elected at all. No doubt that is why the BNP is actively campaigning for the "No" side in this referendum -- a fact that seems to have passed TV's Baroness Warsi by.

The shameless gangsters at NO2AV have also put out a spectacularly misleading TV broadcast, clearly designed to confuse the viewer and provoke groundless fears. You can see a version of it, adapted to point out some of its faults, here.

I am not claiming here that AV is wonderful. Actually it is not a very good electoral system. There are much better ones, but they are not on offer in this referendum. The point to keep in mind for this 5 May vote is that, of the two choices before us, the present system, first-past-the-post, is plainly inferior to AV -- so deeply flawed in fact that almost anything, not excluding the tossing of a coin, might well produce a fairer result.

Two articles worth reading, among many on this subject: this by TV's Andrew Rawnsley, and this New Statesman editorial.

And see also this piece by Neil Harding on the agonies of tactical voting, which AV would make unnecessary.