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Why vote ‘Yes’ on May 5th?

February 4, 2011

Why Vote Yes on May 5th?

By James Gibbon

Firstly, let me begin by saying that the system we live in, the system that governs the factors that decide a lot of the ways how we live our lives is broken. Democracy means that politicians won’t always make decisions that we like, we elect them as representatives and they should not be puppets and they should be allowed to use their own judgement. There is not a problem with that. However, when less than half of the population wants them doing that job, when only 60% turn up to the polls because they believe that their vote won’t count, that is a huge problem. That is where a country stops being a democracy and being an MP starts being a guaranteed job for life for a disturbingly high number of politicians.

 

I think one of the best ways in which to prove that AV is right for the UK is to show how weak each criticism of AV presented by the No campaign are; criticisms which are misleading and, in some cases, just plain false.

 

1.)                AV is only used by three other countries: Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

 

Firstly, each country is unique. Just because one system works in one country doesn’t mean it will in ours. Therefore, it is irrelevant how many countries use it, all that matters is that it is right for our country. Secondly, it is completely hypocritical to criticise the choice of AV as it was the Tory Government which limited the British people’s choice to either AV or First Past the Post. We don’t claim that it is a perfect solution to iron out all the unfairness in British politics today but it is a small change which goes a long way to making our democracy stronger by being able to hold our government to account more efficiently. To try and mislead voters with xenophobic scare mongering shows a desperation which comes only from trying to promote something that the opposition know is wrong. (I refer specifically here to an article by Jane Kennedy who wrote “Of course it’s a safe system. They use it in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Australia. OK, they’re the only three nations that do. But why not make Britain the fourth of this illustrious group?” The sarcasm and arrogance used undermined an already weak argument)
It’s also worth noting that the majority of the countries that use FPTP do so because it’s a result of a painful hangover from the days of the British Empire.

 

2.)                The fact that supporters of minor parties may have their votes counted several times, while those supporting mainstream candidates have theirs counted once, is deemed fair.

This point made by the opposition shows either criminal levels of falsification or criminal levels of stupidity. Either way it is criminal. The way the system actually works (for anyone interested in facts, not protecting a system that allows for a secure lifestyle and a job for life at the expense of the British people) is that after the first round of elections if no one has a clear 50% majority then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and the election is run again, this time discounting the first preference votes of the people who voted for the lowest candidate and counting their second preference instead. Everyone’s votes are counted the same number of times. It just means that supporters of major parties are more likely to keep their first preference for longer. The process is repeated until a clear 50% majority is seen. This can hardly be deemed as unfair to any voter. It merely gives minority parties a bit more of a fair chance at getting elected, and will be more representative of the views of constituents.

 

3.)                The AV system embeds hung parliaments into the electoral system.

I would love to see the proof for this. The fact is that hung parliaments, whilst certifiably can become more likely under proportional systems (one of which AV is not), happen for numerous reasons. For example, as was previously mentioned Australia uses AV. Australia has had only one hung parliament since 1945 to our two. In contrast, Canada which uses FPTP has had three successive hung parliaments. And finally, in the event of a hung parliament, AV would show much more clearly how the government should be formed with a simple analysis of the facts. There would be no ridiculous bidding for the Lib Dems support as seen in the aftermath of the last election.

 

4.)                The fact that votes may switch back and forth, seemingly randomly, between numerous candidates on one ballot is apparently equitable.

I find it insulting that the opposition think that the voting population vote randomly, and so should you. If this does occur, I find it hard to find what is wrong with this. There is one key word in the above statement and that is “seemingly”. Votes don’t swap for random reasons. Voters do not walk into a voting booth, close their eyes and see what happens. It does not matter about the process, the result is a fairer, more representative and generally more suitable candidate gets elected at the end of it.

 

5.)                It’s confusing.

No its not. I believe the voting public have the capability to count to 10. Heck I bet some of them even know their ABCs. The fact is that even if they don’t feel they can make an informed decision on all candidates and only want to vote for one then that is absolutely fine, their ballot will still be valid. The bottom line is, if they can be trusted to be a member of a jury; weigh up a field of evidence and decide upon the fate of a fellow citizen from a completely unbiased and neutral standpoint then they can be trusted to make a list of preferences from 1 to 5 or even more. Furthermore, to suggest that people will be confused and accidentally vote in the BNP or any other abhorrent party is ridiculous. If someone doesn’t want to vote for a party they don’t have to.

 

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Meet Fiona Hall MEP

January 12, 2011

On Friday (14th) , Fiona Hall MEP will be dropping into the office from 1-2pm to chat with volunteers, take a few photos and maybe make a few calls. It’d be great to have North East ‘Yes’ supporters out in force to raise the profile of the regional campaign.

To register for the event, click here or email us at northeast@yestofairervotes.org.uk

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Newcastle Street Stall

January 7, 2011

Following Novembers hugely successful street stall, we’re looking to build on it by holding another one!

On January 22nd, we’ll be setting up camp on Northumberland Street (Just outside Next). Our brilliant team of volunteers will be braving the January elements to spread the word about Fairer Votes in Newcastle. We’ll be there throughout the day (11.30 – 4.30), talking to members of the public and answering any questions they might have about our cause.

We’re always on the lookout for passionate, enthusiastic individuals to contribute to the campaign in any capacity and the street stall is a great way of getting involved. You can meet the team, get a feel for the campaign and discuss new ideas. It’s an excellent way to make friends and being part of such an active, vibrant campaign is a lot of fun.

You can view details and sign up to the event here

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

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First Past The Post is past its best

January 6, 2011

We’ve welcomed the latest damning evidence on our failed voting system: The worst of both worlds: why First Past the Post no longer works

The IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) report concludes that the North East is one of the worst regions in the country in terms of the number of votes wasted. Almost three quarters of MPs in the North East did not secure over 50% of the vote in their constituency, meaning that tens of thousands of people in the region have not had their voices heard.

The IPPR report concludes that unless we change our voting system we can expect at least some of the following, all of which profoundly undermine the case for sticking with it.

 

  • Indecisive election outcomes are more likely with the current system: we can expect more hung parliaments
  • Increasing number of MPs will be elected without majority support in their constituencies
  • Election outcomes will be decided by a tiny number of marginal seats, meaning increased political inequality across the UK
  • An increasing number of voters will live in safe seats cut adrift from political activity and neglected by the main parties
  • Britain will become increasingly divided, with governments formed that lack wide-spread support across the country

 

 

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Changing the World

December 17, 2010

By Milena Popova – Volunteer

I have a confession to make: I’m a huge West Wing geek. One of my favourite moments is when President Bartlet hires Will Bailey at the end of the fourth season. The President says: “There’s a promise that I ask everyone who works here to make: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Do you know why?”

And Will replies, “Because it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The Yes to Fairer Votes campaign office in Newcastle is hardly the White House, but that statement is as valid here as anywhere else.

Sometimes, when you’re really really passionate about something, it’s very easy to feel that you’re the only one in the world who cares, that no-one else feels the same way, and that you’re swimming upriver. When I first got involved with the Yes campaign, I felt that way. I checked for local Facebook groups, I checked all of the affiliated organisations like Take Back Parliament, but somehow the North East seemed terribly under-represented. Since then, though, we have reached out to campaign supporters across the region and we are starting to build a solid network of passionate and committed volunteers across the region.

Every time I speak to a supporter – on the phone, in the office, or at campaign events – I am struck by the passion I encounter for electoral reform. People are tired of MPs who have jobs for life and no incentive to actually represent their constituencies. They are tired of not being able to vote for the party they actually support and having to vote tactically. They are tired of having their votes wasted. And they are jumping at the chance to have a go at changing the world.

I hear a lot of first-hand accounts of how our current electoral system lets people down. My own MP, a former cabinet minister and Labour whip, is in a seat so safe that he won’t even turn up at campaign events if there are other candidates there. Unlike one of the MPs down the road, my one at least holds a surgery – once a month, and in public. Last year, when the government pushed the highly controversial Digital Economy Bill through the wash-up process before the general election, I tried to get in touch with my MP: I wrote three separate letters, and called both his Parliamentary and constituency office twice, to no avail. This is how our democracy lets us down because MPs like mine can get elected with only 42% of the vote – or even less!

But I’m digressing. What I really want to get across is how amazing it is to be able to come together with a group of like-minded individuals and change the world. Every time I have reached out to our volunteer network and asked for help I’ve been overwhelmed by the response: whether it’s been for a street stall in Newcastle, our phone bank, or our campaign launch even on the Millennium Bridge, people have happily given up their time, travelled long distances, battled the snow, and tried something new they’ve never done before (anything from telephone canvassing to giving television interviews!) – all for this campaign.

We come from all walks of life, all ages, all political backgrounds. We are a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens, and we’re changing the world.

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Newcastle & Gateshead say ‘Yes!’

December 11, 2010

Today we held the North East office launch, the focus for the days activities was the Millennium Bridge. Our team of 25 volunteers headed onto the bridge and unfurled a ‘Yes’ banner over the side, with the famous Baltic Gallery in the background.

Locals and Christmas shoppers stopped to enjoy the spectacle and our fantastic volunteers were happy to explain what we were doing and why. The launch was covered by BBC Look North, one of our activists kindly agreed to talk to the camera and tell the BBC why he was supporting the regional campaign for Fairer Votes.

Afterwards, we headed up to the office and consumed an impressive amount of tea, coffee and mince pies, many volunteers stayed on throughout the afternoon to help with our ongoing telephone campaign. They made calls to potential volunteers, drumming up support for the regional campaign.

It was a day to remember and we’re so grateful to all our brilliant volunteers who made today so spectacular.
Don’t forget to follow us @YesInMayNE and join our Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_100995989974083

Volunteers gather on the bridge

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Upcoming Office Launch

December 7, 2010

We’re in the second week of the North East campaign and we’re more than busy. Saturday saw the launch of our telephone campaign (the phonebanks were also launched at a national level) which was a wonderful event. We had volunteers of all ages from all over the North East who came into the office to lend a hand. We got through to plenty of people who were really enthusiastic about helping out and spreading the word.

Our next big event is our official office launch which is taking place on Saturday (Dec 11th). The launch will be running in tandem with our ongoing telephone campaign and there’ll be a brilliant photo op just outside our office, metres from the iconic Millennium Bridge.

We’re looking for as many people as possible to turn up so we can make a real splash (hopefully not literally) on the banks of the Tyne. To register for the event, click here.