End pause

by Michael

It has been a few months since my last post and while they have not been uneventful (second daughter arrived, left a job, started a job, etc) I will just resolve the issue of the previous post before launching into an account of the changes in my life – not to mention the wonderful day I have had, which began with mowing the lawn and harvesting cherries from the tree in our garden and ended with eating those same cherries in a clafoutis of my own making. Domestic bliss!

Anyway, I have to thank my friend Simon for responding via Twitter to my long and windy post (‘Yes, I am voting No’) about the AV referendum in April. He made some very good points, not least that I was railing more against PR than AV, which I was not really addressing as we approached the vote. I was sincerely torn when I got to the ballot box on the morning of 5 May: I’d thought my mind was made up against AV but it was tempting on the one hand to vote for change (rather than the imperfect status quo) and on the other to vote in favour because then I could have posted a blog titled ‘No, I voted Yes’ and the symmetry appealed….

However, I voted no, as did the majority of voters who voted. I take no pleasure in being in the majority this time. I hope we get a chance in the future to vote for significant change – or, which would be more democratic, to have a voice in the debate about what changes we should make. Reducing the argument to ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to AV was a shame. It removed any nuance to the debate and instead we found ourselves pretty quickly in the (literally) negative ‘Don’t be like them’ politics of the binary choice.

(I like to imagine that most of us would not want to answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, but rather ‘Yes, but…’ or ‘No, but…’ – these were not practical options on the ballot paper and for me, this highlights the error of putting such a simplistic question to the electorate.)

I was not certain of my choice; there were strong arguments in favour of a ‘Yes’ vote. But for me, those arguments were not about the superiority of AV versus Most Votes Wins (MVW) but a political choice about who you support in the current political climate, and a tactical choice about how to effect change for the better in the future. In the end, I answered the question on the ballot paper: ‘do you want AV?’ (I paraphrase.) I did not.