Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How I'm Going to Vote

In the Elections for the Scottish Parliament

Until a few years ago, it was my intention to vote SNP for everything except the Scottish parliament, because I fundamentally don't agree with independence but do agree with most of their other policies, and because the Scottish parliament is the one venue where I think there is an actual risk they might be able to achieve independence.

So, it had been my intention to vote Lib Dem at the Scottish elections. That will not now be happening.

Despite the terrible confusion of being faced with a political party that actually does deliver (most of) what it promises in its manifesto, a political party that does at least stand for something (even if it's something I don't agree with), and a political party that genuinely does seem to be mostly competent, I'll be voting SNP this time. Granted, any one of the above should really bar them from any sort of serious politics, but...

My prediction: This election is really too close to call. I expect the Tories to stay pretty much constant, the Lib Dems to be all-but annihilated, and the various minor parties and independents to do quite well. But will we see an SNP majority, a Labour majority, another minority government (probably SNP), or something else?

My guess is that we'll see another SNP government, with a very small majority. But I'm really not sure - it depends on where those Lib Dem voters go.

On the AV Referendum

I'm actually a bit annoyed about this one. If we're having a referendum on the voting system, why are the currently-elected politicians the ones to determine the terms of the decision? That is, why do they choose that we can have the Alternative Vote or First Past the Post, but can't decide that we want some other, better system?

Frankly, the ballot here should have at least four options: First Past the Post, the Alternative Vote, the Single Transferrable Vote, or Proportional Representation. (Amusingly, the vote itself should probably be done on an Alternative Vote mechanism.)

As things stand, we'll probably end up with another referendum in five years, either because we gave the 'wrong' answer (no) this time, or because we gave the 'right' answer (yes) and they now want to take the next step.

Plus, the Alternative Vote is a grubby little compromise that really doesn't help much. As far as I can tell, it's main effect will be to strengthen the grip of the 'big three' parties on the House of Commons, and since those 'big three' pretty much represent the worst thing about our current politics, I can't see that being a good thing.

And yet, despite this, I'm going to be voting 'Yes' to the Alternative Vote. Because I believe it does represent a small step towards a better politics, even if we won't get to the end result for a decade or more.

My prediction: It doesn't matter; nothing will change.

If the 'No' campaign have their way and win the day, the coalition government will fall apart. Without the promise of the AV floating around, the Lib Dems will have no reason to stick with their Faustian pact. It may be that Nick Clegg and a tiny faction of Lib Dems will stay with the Tories, and possibly even join the Tories formally, which may just be enough to maintain a majority. But I expect the bulk of the Lib Dems to walk away.

If the 'Yes' campaign wins, things are even more interesting. I would expect the government to delay bringing it to a vote for as long as they possibly can (again, once it's passed, why would the Lib Dems stay in coalition?). When it does come to a vote, there is absolutely no guarantee that it would pass. And, indeed, it may be that a significant number of Tories rebel (possibly even finding allies of convenience within the Labour party!), enough to block the measure. Again, that might well be enough to split the coalition - especially if it was suspected the Tory whips were less than enthusiastic in enforcing the line.

I really can't see this coalition bringing about any significant change to the voting system.

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