On abbreviations alone we have a clear winner

I’ve not yet seen last night’s Dr Who so I’ll talk about the other burning issue on everyone’s mind.

I haven’t decided how I’ll vote in the referendum on how to vote. Both sides make some good cases. Both also make bad ones. Nothing winds me up more than people I agree with using bad logic to support their argument; because if you can’t find good logic to support it, what exactly does that say about your case?

Sad fact about FPTP: it does not guarantee the winner is the guy with the majority vote, whatever nice Mr Cameron might say. Not if they got 40% and their two opponents got 30% each. Do the sums. You can probably do that even if you are a Tory. You will get a guaranteed majority winner only if there are two candidates – and, nationally, if all constituencies are approximately equal. Which they are not.

Sad fact about AV: the most popular candidate is not the guaranteed winner – it may well be everyone’s second or third choice who gets in. But (and it’s a big but) thepolicies that candidate represents are most likely the policies of interest to the majority of voters. There’s a subtle difference but it’s an important one. Suddenly no seat is a safe seat; no candidate can just cruise in because they’re representing a constituency that has voted the same way since 1066 and the opposition needn’t bother turning up.

A strong argument against FPTP is that twice in my lifetime now it has delivered prime ministers with such a landslide majority, and the personal conviction to back it up, that they can and did do pretty well what they wanted, unopposed; and yet they did not represent anything like the majority of the country. If I knew AV would never deliver another Thatcher or Blair, that would count very heavily in its favour.

A strong argument for FPTP is that contrary to popular belief, it can even cope when you get a logjam in the political process and no one wins. Like, a year ago. Given that it still works in that regard, why change it? What is beyond dispute to me that FPTP has always, always delivered the government that was needed on election day. I will say that for Thatcher and I will say it for Blair, because in both cases the opposition was so untenable. And I say election day. It may well be that within a few years, months or even weeks it is no longer the government we need; but on election day, it always has been.

Meanwhile, there are more burning issues to tackle which will go a long way to making our parliamentary system fairer. Boundary reform so that every MP represents approximately the same proportion of the population. Sorting out once and for all the present cludge that gives some citizens of the UK two parliaments and some only one. Things like that. I have a sneaking suspicion AV is just paint on the cracks. FPTP is unfair. So’s life.

So, how will I vote on Thursday? Haven’t decided. AV has the better publicity but it will take more than clever cat videos to win me over completely and they have four days in which to do it.

Day 16: a picture of someone who inspires you

Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias, a.k.a. King Juan Carlos of Spain. He inspires me greatly.

Spain today is a surprisingly stable constitutional monarchy and a Parliamentary democracy. For forty years, overlapping well into my lifetime, it was a fascist dictatorship. However throughout that time it was officially a monarchy, the king having been overthrown in the 1930s, and Franco carefully groomed the heir to the throne as his personal heir. When Franco died, Juan Carlos took over with all the powers of the former dictator.

Which he then proceeded to give away. Within two years, elections to a new parliament; within seven years, a socialist government, and an attempted coup en route which failed largely because the king publicly announced support for the legitimate powers that be.

It can be argued that even if he had tried to keep the dictatorship, he would have failed; the time for those things had passed in Europe. Spain now would probably be a republic, eventually democratic after a lot more blood and tears. But that happened peacefully and without tears, except for maybe a few on the far right sobbing into their sangria, but who cares.

What a guy.

Political pensées

I’m currently feeling quite well disposed towards our elected representatives in Westminster so I thought I’d mention it while it lasts.

There are of course drawbacks as well. Things like the expenses scandal are just background noise by now: no, current reservations centre around the Hoff’s new buddy.

  • Guess what – he’s making the rich richer. He is not an evil man and he’s not doing it for the sheer thrill of putting money into his friends’ pockets. Thatcher was motivated by spite and ideology in equal part; with Dave it’s just ideology, sadly misplaced. He is sincere in his belief that everyone benefits by making the rich richer, just as his predecessor but one was sincere in his belief that you can create paradise on earth with a web of ever more restricting legislation on every aspect of human affairs that will be perfect if everyone only obeys it in exactly the spirit they’re meant to. And they’re both equally wrong.
  • The Big Society: see above. Lovely idea and fine in a world where everyone is as Dave would like them to be. Which they’re not, as brilliantly put by Philip Pullman in a speech mostly about libraries but covering other bases too.

At the moment that’s still more plus points than minuses, which is a nice feeling.