Yes to AV, No to AV, Three Potato, Four.
A couple of years ago, I lost some of my hearing. My ears just wouldn’t pop after a flight and my impression of Greg Louganis, diving off a rock later that day, didn’t help. I discovered an interesting fact. When you have hearing problems and people have to repeat themselves, they do it backwards. So my friend would say “Where shall we have dinner tonight?” and when I responded with “Pardon?” he would gesticulate a lot while shouting: “TONIGHT! DINNER! WHERE?”. Places with a lot of ambient noise were particularly difficult and frustrating. Thankfully, the effect was temporary.
I have a more persistent feeling of frustration observing the “Yes to AV, No to AV” debate. Only, in this case, the shouting obscures something important which remains unsaid by most politicians. So, for those of you who are still hard-of-hearing, let me try and turn down the ambient noise of bullshit.
A lot of research has been done on what the result of the 2010 election would have been under AV. Figures show slight variations (for a detailed academic paper on the matter, see The Oxford Journal of Parliamentary Affairs), but all broadly agree that Labour and the LibDems would have had many more seats under AV and the Tories fewer. And so, Labour and the LibDems support the “Yes” campaign, while the Tories say “No to AV”.
Their support, however, is apparently entirely unrelated to the potential political gain. Instead they all make complicated constitutional arguments. They enlist celebrities, who have better things to do (like reading their scripts and asking “is this funny?”). They print posters of likeable bobbies in need of back-up; posters of camouflaged soldiers in need of bullet-proof vests; posters of helpless baby girls in need of a maternity ward – the implication being that, if you vote yes, you might as well step forward in a black hood and light her last cigarette. How strange is the choice of these three images! All three could carry the motto “No to Savage Cuts” instead of AV. Sorry – savings.
Of course there are valid constitutional arguments for and against both cases. But how can we trust, respect and listen to what any of them are saying when not one of them has the balls to articulate that both campaigns are essentially self-interested? It is like listening to the Pope’s ecclesiastical arguments on why he supports a “Yes to Catholicism” campaign. And the overwhelming feeling with which one is left is that who is elected and under what system is totally irrelevant until one of them decides to go out on a limb and change the political climate in this country. By being honest with us.
So, I say to the politicians: You want savings? Save your campaigning money. Donate it instead to get your imaginary little baby girl her imaginary maternity ward. And I say to the voters: If you loyally support a party, look at whether they will do better or worse under AV and let that inform your vote. And if you don’t support a party, spend a little time to examine the proposed system and its constitutional implications and think for yourself.
Then, perhaps, we can concentrate on the real issue: the lack of integrity and quality in today’s political discourse. So that maybe one day, we can stop feeling like the folks who get through to the X-factor telephone vote, only to hear the automated message “the lines are now closed, but you may still be charged for this call.” So that whatever the mechanics of the election, we can start being genuinely represented.
Instead of having lies shouted at us, backwards. BACKWARDS! SHOUTED! LIES!