Yes to AV
This May we will be given the chance to change the way we elect our MPs. The current First Past The Post (FPTP) system is clearly not working. MPs are getting elected with less than 30% of the vote, meaning that 70% of the electorate are totally disregarded.
When the outcome of elections is decided by only 10,000 people in marginal seats, something is clearly wrong.
Students are seen as idealists; now AV isn’t necessarily ideal, it isn’t totally proportional, but compared to FPTP, it is the better system. AV will ensure one of the few positives of FPTP – the single member constituency link, but it will ensure MPs have a proper mandate.
The fact that MPs have to get 50% of the vote means that they can’t rely on safe seats anymore and just expect their core supporters to return them to power. They will have to go out there and appeal for the votes of different people in their community, including students who have been regularly neglected by MPs.
A lot of first time voters at last year’s election will be disillusioned that their vote didn’t count as much as the vote of someone in a marginal. No wonder young people lose interest in politics. I know because I personally felt disenfranchised when the election results were announced.
MPs will have to think twice before voting for an increase in tuition fees. They will have to think twice when considering cuts to our education; they will have to engage with us before going to war. MPs will have to work harder.
The question that many students will ask is why are we spending money on a referendum when we face huge cuts to our education. The fact of the matter is that holding the referendum at the same time as the local elections makes it cheaper. The cost for the referendum whichever way you vote is going to be the same. The lies being spread by the No side are just that: lies.
It isn’t going to cost us £250 million. Vote counting machines will not be needed, they didn’t need them in Australia in 1918 and the Electoral Commission has said we won’t be buying vote counting machines. The Treasury has produced a letter saying that the cost of the vote in the next general election will not be any more that the last one we held under FPTP.
Baroness Warsi says that AV would let extremist parties in. False. Under Single Transferable Vote (STV) there may be a chance of BNP gaining seats but under AV, they have to gain 50% of the vote or more in order to be elected. Under FPTP the BNP can be elected with less than 30% of the vote. This has happened. AV raises the bar, so locking out extremists.
Ultimately this is our chance to have a say on the way we elect those who govern on our behalf. It’s time for the student voice to be heard, it’s time to say Yes to AV.
No to AV
I have listened to both arguments and acknowledge that there are pros and cons from each side but I am, nevertheless, voting No to AV. My vote for No is a simple decision and it centres on one overriding factor: money.
Various figures have been circulated in the press (most probably exaggerated by the No Campaign and minimised by the Yes Campaign) about how much the implementation of a new voting system will cost the British tax payer. The No campaign, for example, estimates that the referendum could cost up to £250 million.
The exact figure, I believe, is irrelevant because what I can be confident about is that a substantial sum of tax payers’ money will be needed for a new voting system and, to contradict Eddie Izzard, I am also certain that the cost will be much greater than simply buying more pens!
The main argument from the Yes campaign is that it is fairer than the first-past-the-post system. In response, I give you this very simple counter-argument: what is fair about spending the public’s money – the public who are, quite frankly, suffering enough – on a voting system rather than on, for example, vital services?
The money that is needed for voting reform, as all three main political parties agree, is in short supply; regardless of who you blame for the budget deficit, the fact remains that government spending is being reduced and cuts are being made across the country. I have to therefore agree wholeheartedly with the No campaign’s slogan that “the simple fact is our country cannot afford AV.”
And finally let’s not forget the next general election is four years away. Thus, I don’t believe that AV is fundamentally wrong but I do believe that this is the wrong time for a referendum.