Monday, 21 March 2011

The Alternative Vote #1

Forget the YES and NO campaigns - let me introduce to you the DON"T KNOW campaign!

I'm referring to the referendum, to be held on May 5th, in which the British public can decide whether to change the electoral system from 'First past the post' (FPP) to the 'Alternative vote' (AV). 

Have you decided how you will vote, or whether you'll even bother? The YES and NO campaigns have obviously made up their minds. Unfortunately, their campaigns, fronted by superficially appealing posters and flashy promotion, provide frustratingly little information from which the ambivalent person can make an educated decision.

The NO campaign recently claimed that switching to AV will cost £250 million, a frightful sum in this time of austerity. A look at the detail, however, reveals that their claim is a gross overestimate. Half of their estimate comes from the cost of the referendum and educating the public about AV. The other half accounts for the purchase of electronic voting machines, but there are no plans for these to be bought! More technically, the cost of the referendum (£90m) is a 'sunk cost' and should not be included in the cost of AV.  Ignore their posters and ask yourself whether £30m, not £250m, is too much.
Both crusaders are guilty of trying to lure voters through celebrity support. Who's more appealing to you - William Hague, Kenneth Clark and Esther Ranson, or Joanna Lumley, Colin Firth and Eddie Izzard? Hang on, how is this relevant?

Keep an eye out for the next posts in this mini series in which I will attempt, with the expert help from friends and colleagues, to explain how AV works, and what the arguments for and against it are.


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