To my mind, the greatest advantages of the Alternative Vote is that it does away with wasted votes. There are others. Wasted votes, where you might as well have not bothered going to the polling station lead to apathy and practical disenfranchisement. This is not good for the UK, it’s not good for politicians and it’s certainly not good voters.
A wasted vote is a vote that does not influence the outcome of the election. A wasted vote is a vote where the voter might as well have stayed at home. I don’t mean that everyone should be able to vote for the winner but every vote should actively determine who that winner is.
At the moment many votes are cast for candidates who don’t finish in the top two or three. They have no effect on the result. This is an increasing trend. The percentage of people not casting a vote has increased from the teens in 1950 to peak at over 40% in 2001. 40% of people didn’t bother to vote. That’s more than most MP’s get.
Why are so many people not choosing to vote? One of the reasons is that their vote is wasted. An increasing number of people who do vote are not voting for one of the two main parties, up from 12% in 1945 to 35% in 2010.
The problem of vote splitting means that MP’s only have to cater to 30-40% of their electorate. The fact that 500 of 650 seats are so safe that they never change hands means that parties don’t have to cater to most of the country.
Your votes don’t count. Your opinion doesn’t matter. You don’t matter
If your vote is wasted why would you bother voting?
Why would you bother caring?
This practical disenfranchisement of the British people has three main effects.
Firstly it breeds apathy. Apathy leads to extremists winning seats. It also leads to poor quality public servants. As Adlai Stevenson used to say, “Your public servants serve you right. Indeed they serve you better than your apathy and indifference deserve” Politicians with a small share of the vote, as low as 29%, can be elected, and claim a mandate to do whatever they want. Can you do anything to stop them? Under First Past the Post even the very attempt might make things worse.
Secondly, disenfranchisement leads to all politician being alike. Not so much in their political views but in their view that they don’t have to listen to you. They have a job for life, why not just do what they like.
Thirdly, with politician able to win seats on fewer than 1/3rd of the votes they have no incentive to deal with the Big Issues. So long as they keep their Party bosses and their tribal voters happy they have a seat and a salary and expense account and the chance of a ministerial car. Issues that matter to everyday voters are ignored. Wars are declared, electoral promises broken, jobs destroyed.
Voters declare a plague on all three of your houses and hunker down to expect the worst.
In short, voters and politicians start to ignore each other.
What can be done? Well, the Alternative Vote makes more votes count. Every vote in every constituency can go towards deciding how is ultimately elected the MP. The Alternative Vote makes more seats more marginal. More and more of our voices will have to be heard and listened to for an MP or a Party to stand a chance of being lent our power.
I hope that by forcing voters and MP’s eyeball to eyeball again we can finally get the new politics we’ve heard so much talk about but seen so little action. However, you must be the change you want to see in the world. If you want a change to the way we do politics in the UK you have to vote Yes and join us in campaigning for the Alternative Vote nationally or in Edinburgh