Thursday, April 08, 2010

How should I use my vote in the General Election?

So. Four weeks of electioneering lie ahead of us. (I know, this announcement is a couple of days late on the Mabinogogiblog; I've been away in Dorset recently visiting friends).

Four weeks of shouty, excited politicians, trying to persuade us that their party is 100% right about everything, and that the other party is 100% wrong about everything.
Four weeks of excited, interruptive broadcasters trying to persuade said politicians that they are all 100% wrong about everything  (raising the question of why broadcasters should not take over the running of the country if they are so damn smart?)

Four weeks of voter delusion. Four weeks of fooling the electorate into thinking that they have the onerous task of choosing between CallMeDave(the Herod of our time) and PoorGord.

The fact is that the voters do not choose the Prime Minister. Under the crap FPTP system used in the UK and three of its ex-colonies, the voter does not directly choose the next Prime Minister, the voter does not directly choose the next Government, the voter only chooses the next MP for that constituency.  The vote does not go beyond the constituency border. The dysfunctional FPTP means that in a roundabout, indirect and imperfect way, the way the vote swings affects the number of MPs, whose numbers in turn determine the colour of the next Government, but there is no direct connection between the vote and the PM.

FPTP means that all votes that are not cast for the winning candidate are wasted. Thrown away. Discounted. Pointless. Unvalued. Futile. Senseless. Ineffectual. Pointless. Fruitless. Cast in vain. Worthless. Hollow. Disapparated. Not even recycled.

The only seats where there is a real choice to be made are the marginals. Some voters know this, which is why turnout is lower in safe seats.

Here, once again is my graph of a sample of 2005 general election results, showing that in safe seats, more voters do not bother. Turnout falls by 10% for every 12,000 increase in majority.

Amid all the punditry, all the synthetic "concern about lack of voter commitment", all the acres of newsprint, all the hour after tedious hour of election broadcasting, you would think that the highly-paid professionals would devote a blim of attention to this fact. You would think wrongly.
Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to spread the lie.

So, although the economy figures largely in this election, political reform, which must start  with electoral reform, must rank as highly.

So how do we vote for electoral reform?

There are two kinds of voter: first, the conviction voter, who will always vote for the party of their choice. Second, the swing voter, who is open to persuasion.

If you are a swing voter, you need to ask three questions.

The first question is to ask, "Am I in Brighton Pavilion?"
If you are registered to vote in Brighton Pavilion, your choice is clear: Vote Green, for Caroline Lucas, and make history by putting the first Green in Parliament. In fact, if you are a committed
Lib Dem or Labour voter, you should look at what you are doing, because your commitment may let the Conservative in.

If not in Brighton Pavilion, the second question to ask is "Am I in a safe seat or not?"
If you are in a safe seat, and of sound mind, then your choice is clear: Vote Green. Because Green is the only realistic political ideology, and is set to become the dominant political theme of the 21st century.   You will not get an MP, but if enough people do this and the Greens get say 10-15% in all safe seats, the idiot pundits may possibly sit up and take notice.

If you are not in a safe seat but in a marginal seat, then first I have to say, still vote Green, because this will cause the two parties in contention to green up their policies in order to get more of your vote next time.  However, I recognise that many will given the rare opportunity, will wish to influence the outcome of the election.

In this case, it is necessary to look at who is in contention. If the LibDems are in contention, then clearly, you should back them, because they are in favour of electoral reform. And who are we to disbelieve them?

If it is a Lab-Con split, then vote Labour, because they are in favour of voting reform too. Such is Labour's lack of brain, they favour the AV system, which is almost as crap as FPTP, and in some situations even crapper, but it can be converted into AV+, which is proportional.

Above all, never, ever, vote Tory, because
  • they oppose electoral reform
  • they are infested with climate change deniers
  • they will probably bring the recession back with their cuts
  • they have not read the Spirit Level, or if they have, they disagree with it.
  • they are the party of Big Business and Big Political Donations
There are some other circumstances where you could vote nationalist or for Salma Rasheed, apparently, but this blog has gone on quite long enough and I have to get out there and plant some seed, I'm really behind this year. And I have to put my Humanure composting toilet together.



Lucy A said...

Fantastic post!

I am personally terrified about the Conservatives getting power...

Glenn Vowles said...

Great post...mostly. I cant agree fully with this bit, though I am opposed to FPTP and I see your logic,

'FPTP means that all votes that are not cast for the winning candidate are wasted. Thrown away. Discounted. Pointless. Unvalued. Futile. Senseless. Ineffectual. Pointless. Fruitless. Cast in vain. Worthless. Hollow. Disapparated. Not even recycled.'

This only applies if the only point of value in an election is winning. I'd like to win. I see that this is the prime objective. But I also value the process of an election, which can be a big learning opportunity immensely valuable to the future.

DocRichard said...

Thanks Lucy.
Hi Glenn, I appreciate there is more to an election than winning, the process and the debate is important, and giving green voters an opportunity to show they exist.
The point I was trying to make is that FPTP does invalidate all votes not cast for the winner. With AMS, or with AV+, you can be in a constituency with a non-Green MP, but your vote does count, because it elects the top up MPs. So all votes count.

The "FPTP means that all votes that are not cast for the winning candidate are wasted." line is to emphasise that it is not just thr Green vote that is a "protest" or "wasted" vote - Tebbitt called it a dustbin vote, I recall - but all votes for an unsuccessful candidate have no effect on the outcome.

I think we should make more use of the Safe Seat argument.

Good luck with your campaign.

btw, I have been invited onto several hustings, despite having stood down. Not the Climate Change one, sadly. If you have a UKIP candidate, why not challenge them to a debate on Climate Change? I could second you.

Robert (Professional observer) said...

Perhaps broadcasters aren't running the country because they are broadcasters not politicians. They understand that a vote for them would be thrown away. Discounted. Pointless. Unvalued. Futile. Senseless. Ineffectual. Pointless. Fruitless. Cast in vain. Worthless. Hollow. Disapparated. Not even recycled.

You, on the other hand, claim to be a doctor I believe.

Robert said...

Oh, and another point.

Like every would-be politician you are arrogant enough to stick up a graph and then explain what it means.

An equally valid explanation for increased turnout in marginals is that they are the seats targetted by the canvassers. When Clegg visited an Eastleigh factory recently 80% of his audience claimed they would now vote LibDem.

DocRichard said...

Hello Robert, thank you for commenting.
Now why would canvassers concentrate on marginals? Because the vote has more value there? Yes, that would be the reason.

Are you saying that FPTP serves democracy well?

DocRichard said...

Robert take a look here:

DocRichard said...

Robert, take a look here;

David Cox said...

As ever, a good post.(Obviously I still think Liberalism is a realistic political philosophy)

What we need in this internet age is an online voter dating site. So for example a Green voter in Exeter can be matched with a Labour voter in Brighton Pavilion, or a Lib Dem in Exeter matched with a Labour voter in Newton Abbot, and swap votes. It requires a level of trust; however both voters would be using their votes to elect an MP of their choice (albeit geographically spread). Progressives are in a majority in the UK but divided, Conservatives are vertically all in one party which means a minority has been ruling us most of the years since the war.

Now as we are both sort of politicians and therefore are expected to talk sh*t, tell me more about your compost loo, my local allotment association have been quoted some astronomical sum (to spend a penny)– they need loos now they are teaching all the primary schools about growing. The link is to a site in the USA, is there anything more convenient this side of the Atlantic?

DocRichard said...

Hi David
You are very kind. It makes a change at election time for politicians to maintain standards of civility - all too often elections mean a descent into total rejection of everything someone from another party says, whether or not it it true.

I have a dim recollection that last GE there was a scheme of voter pairing exactly as you suggest. I don't think it came to anything - it is really hard to get people to change their habits.

Re composting toilets: I got the book from Joe Jenkins Humanure site (in fact he sent 2 books + his novel too) and also a compost thermometer. It is a simple system: I have just finished assembling the thunderbox today. It is dead simple: 4 x 5gallon buckets, a box, some sawdust/leaf mulch, and a compost heap. The compost goes hot, which kills all the pathogens within days, but it takes a year to fill a heap, and another year to make sure the pathogens are extinct. I will let you know how I get on.

Composting loos are the future, especially in arid countries. It is completely mad to crap into drinking water, then waste loads of energy cleaning it up again - of firing it into the sea to cause eutrophication. Thomas Crapper has a lot to answer for.

DocRichard said...

"Anything more convenient". I hope that wasn't a pun??