Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Voting Alternatively

There has been a bit of political manoeuvring recently in this country about the method in which the people vote for the government. Pretty much since the establishment of free and fair democratic elections – the UK has used the “first-past-the-post” (FPTP) system. In a nutshell, this means that in an election, the country is split into constituencies and the people of that constituency vote for their preferred candidate (and only vote once). The candidate with the most votes wins the constituency and becomes MP. The party with the most MPs can then form a government (although as we learned in 2010, if you don’t have an overall majority, you might have to side with another political party). This seems fairly straight forward and on the face of it, democratic. However there are a number of reasons why this is not the case. Firstly, there is such a thing as tactical voting. If a person lives in a constituency where the seat could swing any way, but not in the way of your favoured party, then you can vote against the party you dislike the most by tactically voting for someone else. This means your preferred candidate does not get your vote but neither does the candidate you do not want. It is also not the most democratic system as the constituencies vary in size, and it is possible (and quite regular) that a government will not win over 50% of the vote, yet have the right to govern.

On the other hand, there is the alternative vote (AV) system. In this system of voting, you rank the list of candidates in order of preference (as I understand it, you aren’t obliged to rank all the candidates, in fact I don’t think you have to rank at all as long as you choice one candidate). Anyway, the votes are counted and if no candidate gets 50% of the vote, the candidate that finished last in that round of voting is eliminated, and their votes are added to the totals of the other candidate’s votes. This continues until one candidate has over 50% of the vote and wins the election. Again, the party which has the most MPs forms a government. This system is arguably more democratic because of the requirement to reach 50% of the vote in a constituency to win. However there are also critiques of this system. One of which can be seen by looking at the Ireland presidential election of 1990. Brian Lenihan won 44.1% of the vote, Mary Robinson won 38.9% of the vote and Austin Currie won 17% of the vote. Had this election been done using FPTP, Lenihan would have won as he was the most popular of the 3 candidates. However, under AV, because no candidate achieved 50%, Austin Currie was eliminated and the votes for him were redistributed. Once this occurred, Mary Robinson had 51.6% of the vote, while Brian Lenihan had 46.2%. This meant Mary Robinson won. Arguably, this is more democratic as Robinson won 50% of the vote but did she? I mean if it wasn’t for Austin Currie being eliminated, she wouldn’t have had those votes. It is a tough one.

What is the real tough one here for me is deciding how to vote. Unless something major happens, I will always vote for the same political party and chances are if we do change voting systems, I won’t rank any other candidates (unless it is compulsory). So for me, it really won’t make that much of a difference. What concerns me is that unless something is done to alter the constituencies in this country, no matter what the voting system is, there will be problems. I don’t think that a candidate winning a vote thanks to 2nd or even 3rd choice votes is fair, but arguably the system is more democratic as the views of the people are reflected more. Under FPTP, there is a winner and there are losers. Under AV, the views of the people are reflected more. I support the fact that the coalition government are aiming to reduce the number of seats in Parliament by 50 or so, and will change the size of some constituencies. It seems strange to have only the 1 MP on the Isle of Wight for example when it contains so many voters while other constituencies can be half the size. If voting regions are made more equal then the election results will be more reflective of the opinion of the country.

So I really don’t know which way I’ll vote when it comes to the referendum. I like FPTP as you vote for a candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins. It appears simple, easy and fair. The main critique with it is that the people who vote for the losing candidates don’t get their views reflected. Well, to me anyway, that can be answered with a simple statement. Sometimes – you lose a vote. It seems as simple as that to me and in the Ireland example I used earlier, not enough people voted for Mary Robinson as a first choice so to me she lost. Maybe I am leaning towards FPTP, but I can see the benefits of AV. People say there will be more chance of coalition governments with AV, and if that is true then I can’t support AV – but I think it is being peddled as an argument without much proof. All I really know is that I really dislike (and am confused by) proportional representation (PR). I am aware AV is closer to PR but isn’t fully fledged PR so maybe that is why it is somewhat appealing. I remain confused.

Anyway, what else?

People name their children all sorts of things. We covered a story on the RRP about someone who legally got their name changed as it was something like “Talua Does The Hula From Hawaii” or something (Dave can correct me if that isn’t exactly right). I also think certain names are stupid. I hear a number of stereotypical black names and think that people are just being racist by making those suggestions, but then I find out these names are real and some seem absurd. I also don’t approve of names that are characteristics rather than names (Desire? Passion? Oh do fuck off!) However a story has emerged from Egypt that a name has been chosen for a newborn baby in tribute of its role in helping the mobilisation of the people of Egypt in toppling Mubarak. The name is...Facebook. Now, I have a number of issues with this.

1. I prefer Twitter.
2. Facebook seems a somewhat stupid choice for a name.
3. Facebook is a social network – will there be children called MySpace next? (well probably not as MySpace is dying and you don’t want to name your child....anyway)

It is a sign of the 21st century though that children are being named after social networks. I mean, it isn’t the first name done in tribute to something and I’m sure it won’t be the last. It just seems a bit ridiculous.

Before I conclude this post, I feel a Pompey update is in order. Since my post, we beat Doncaster away. We have gone on to beat Barnsley and Crystal Palace at home. This means out of 12 available points, we have got 10 and kept 3 clean sheets in a row. That’s quite shocking considering how bad we were against Derby but I’m all for this improvement in the team. The Sky Sports News special report on Pompey was interesting as Chanrai said there were 3 or 4 very interested parties in buying the club. I imagine that if the club keep grinding out results then that will only make us more appealing in the long run. I hope one of these parties provides stability and the chance to get more players! We shall see, but I remain cynical.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. I shall return no doubt with a review of Foo Fighters at Wembley Arena. I hear they are only going to get a 75min set. For £48, that’s pretty lame! (I know part of that is the booking fee...but that’s not the point! I shall also have news of the next thing to do with Pompey, and I might just talk about Sonisphere and Wacken again. I might even throw some talk in about the debate over download day ticket/BOA. Until then....

Soundtrack – Summer 2011 playlist on Spotify + a bit of Genesis thrown in

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