This may surprise you but I’m no good at arguments. Face to face I tend to forget everything I want to say or remember it far too fast and end up gibbering. To pre-empt this, today I will blog an argument I am due to have tomorrow. I will also add a disclaimer that I cannot imagine I’m going to say anything now that hasn’t already been said. But it’s easier if I can get it all down in one place. It is also kinder to people in the office tomorrow if we don’t sit and talk for half the day. So I blog instead.
An office colleague has asked to be convinced about why he should vote for AV. I am going to vote yes so naturally he wants me to put forward my arguments for it. The problem is, of course, that I am not voting for it so much as I’m voting against what we have now.
The current system ensures that a tiny population of people decide our elections. Many of us, myself included, have no power behind our vote. AV does not really improve this – it does a bit, but it’s still a rubbish system. Why am I voting for it then? Because that’s all the choice we’ve been given.
Referenda don’t come round in this country very often and they’re usually about something momentous. It is deplorable that this one is being treated with contempt. There is no debate. It’s a slanging match. More importantly, one side has a hell of a lot more private income than the other.
I will vote yes because I think the current system is untenable in a modern society. We need an actual debate, we need an actual choice and we need to be treated seriously. The problem is that any no vote doesn’t just become no to AV it becomes no to any kind of reform at all. AV needs to be the signal we send to say “we want reform, we’re not happy with the current system.” It has to be the start.
The undecideds and no campaigners will tell you that argument doesn’t work. “History will out. Just look at women’s suffrage” they say.
OK let’s. Women sustained a campaign over many years fighting for the right to vote. That’s the right to be treated like men. Fighting, protesting, writing letters, marching, being arrested, being force fed, being starved, released and recaptured, throwing themselves under horses, probably losing friends and relations along the way. And let’s remember that some of them died. All for the right to be treated equally. Because we are equal. The argument was also given a significant boost by the First World War where a hell of a lot more people died. That’s how history will out? Seriously? That’s what I should rely on? You’re kidding. (And let’s take this moment to express my frustration at how the sacrifices of women are heaped like hot coals on the shoulders of every female voter at every single election – like we should be grateful that the men have granted us the same rights as them. I am grateful, but I can exercise that right without the moral rectitude thanks very much.)
I don’t see how that’s going to happen. Special interests are too strong, people are being squeezed. History’s fights were sustained over many years and I think small steps towards a better system is all we can get. AV is a tiny step but let’s take it.