AV: Who Stands to Gain?

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May 4, 2011 by Nash Riggins

According to the ‘No Campaign,’ the Alternative Vote (AV) Referendum tomorrow is not just about changing the way British citizens vote . It’s about the danger Nick Clegg is posing to future generations.

All this trouble over one of Nick Clegg’s ideas . Really? God bless him, but recent history indicates that Clegg couldn’t get his way over the Conservatives if his life depended on it. Throughout the past three months, Conservative solicitors have been exclusively funding an aggressive ‘No Campaign’ against the referendum; however, it is feared that voter-turnout for the referendum will be a record low: in London, as low as 20%. This has experts debating: how will this affect the AV vote? I would respond to this debate with another question: who cares?

At least half of the arguments both for and against AV are misinformed opinions. In opposition to AV, a warranted question of competition comes to mind; however, David Cameron’s assertion that school and hospital funding will suffer if citizens vote ‘yes’ in the referendum may be somewhat of a stretch. Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are hardly endangering the nation’s youth; in fact, if the referendum is passed tomorrow, it will offer relatively no change for voters . Even Clegg knows that.

‘Time and time again, the conservative doom sayers were proved wrong,” Clegg said in a recent speech. ‘The same will be true of AV. The world will not stop turning on its axis when voters write 1, 2, 3 rather than an X on their ballot papers.’

For once, Nick Clegg is absolutely right; there’s hardly a difference between scribbling an X beside a name and writing a number . In fact, it appropriately illustrates politics in its true form: a popularity contest. So if  the alternative vote is not a big change, why can’t Nick and David play nice?

The New Economics Foundation claims that AV would increase the amount of seats that typically change hands in every election from 13% to 16%. This would have meant that in the 2010 election, the Lib Dems could have potentially tacked on about a  dozen more seats at the expense of the Labour and Conservative parties.

Enter the No Campaign’s second argument against AV: it would lead to more hung parliaments. This may be marginally true; however, Conservatives against the referendum are also claiming that under AV, ‘the only vote that really counts is Nick Clegg’s’ and ‘we can’t afford to let the politicians decide who runs our country.’

Wait a second . Am I confused, or is that the system we already have in place? When citizens voted in their local Conservative MP in 2010, their vote was based upon how they felt about one person representing their community. However, thanks to Britain’s political system, they got more than they bargained for: a man named David Cameron in 10 Downing Street.

Ask most Americans who the leader of the US Democratic party is . I’ll go ahead and shatter your misconceptions right now by informing you that it isn’t Barrack Obama. In fact, her name is Debbie Wasserman Shultz, and no, there’s no reason in particular you should know who she is. My point?  Politicians shouldn’t rise to Head of State merely because they are popular amongst their political peers. If anything, I would focus on a referendum against this sort of appointment , not something as minute as AV.

Meanwhile, no matter the result of this pointless referendum, the rift dividing the coalition will only grow wider.

‘It is common knowledge that David Cameron and I disagree about this,’ Clegg has said. ‘I find it astonishing that the Conservatives say AV is good enough for them but it is not good enough for the rest of the country.’

Cue one of few valid arguments of the Yes Campaign: the Conservative party uses AV to sort out internal leadership decisions. Therefore, David Cameron is a complete hypocrite not to support the alternative vote . After all, without it he would never have become Prime Minister, as he failed to finish first in the initial rounds of voting in his campaign to lead the Conservative Party.

If David Cameron has taught us anything, it’s that the Alternative Vote will not hurt this country – it will hurt individual politicians who stand to be weeded out by future elections should the system be changed. Furthermore, we’ve heard straight from the horse’s mouth that AV will not be a massive overhaul in the system, prompting a democratic utopia in Britain. In fact, it may be too bold to label it even a baby step. Therefore, the referendum will mean virtually no change to average voters, and only a small change for the politicians who are fighting fiercely over it.

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