AV or not AV, that is the question? No, it’s NOT the question.

Thee Faction have been enjoying playing songs live from our new LP: and today, in the London sunshine, have been enjoying the comradely spirit of International Workers’ Day on the May Day march (and agitating for broadcast news NOT to refer to the marchers as “protesters”, this is a loaded word and not applicable today).

We have been asked, during these events, our views on Thursday’s (May 5) referendum to slightly fiddle with the voting system.

News media have piqued interest by desperately looking for conflict to make it relevant to their agenda/narrative – this has lead to some cheap Clegg-bashing which has (once again) helped Cameron.

We ask you to look at the evidence and make up your own mind.

We have been looking at some studies from the University of Reading (UoR – a politics department our very own Baby Face may or may not have once been employed as a lecturer in, depending on which rumours you believe) and the University of Essex (UoE). We have concluded that both sides of the campaign have been talking a vast amount of crap (presumably to make the vote more interesting).

Here are our conclusions.

AV is not very different to “First Past the Post” (FPtP). Both are “Majoritarian” – i.e. they produce a majority for a Capitalist-supporting party in Parliament. AV is NOT going to profoundly change our electoral system.

The debate has been tainted by exaggerated, false and confusing claims on both sides.

Let’s look at some claims of the “Yes to AV” campaign first.

The “Yes” campaign is driven by the claim that MPs will need 51% of their constituents onside and therefore will be more responsive and “work harder” – that AV will therefore reduce the number of safe seats, which they say has some sort of correlation with “lazy” MPS. There is a grain of truth in this, but the simulations from the UoE and the UoR show that this is minimal; that less than 5% of safe seats would become marginal. Over a third of MPs get over 50% of the vote anyway, so wouldn’t have to bother to “work harder” to get your vote. Almost another third are so close to 50% it makes no odds. The long Australian experience of AV suggests there is excitement in constituencies where the winning candidate gets less than 35% – there are very few of these in the UK .

The “Yes” campaign claims that AV will mean that MPs will be better behaved having worked so hard for your vote (see above). We can’t see any evidence for this and don’t believe the Yes camp has a crystal ball. If one looks at analysis from the UoR one sees NO correlation between safe seats and the expenses scandal. We didn’t hear anyone during said scandal saying “gah, if only we had AV, that’d prevented this”.

The “Yes” campaign and this referendum were driven by the Lib Dems. One of the major policies of this party is electoral reform, but it’s a proportional system they want. Nick Clegg has described AV as “A grubby compromise”.

The “Yes” campaign claims that AV will lead to less “landslides” from parties gaining less than 50% of the “popular vote “ e.g. Mrs Thatcher in 1983 or Mr Blair in 1997. The UoR study shows this kind of landslide would actually increase, and that the results of these elections would have been even more disproportionate.

The “Yes” campaigners argue that AV (for all its faults) is progressive and that a change in the system will make further changes easier. We’re not sure about this. We suggest that a move to AV will make no difference; and therefore will exhaust the appetite for reform – surely a change should be undertaken only for a system that can be defended on it’s own merits?

Let’s now have a look at the “No” campaign.

The “No” campaign says AV attacks the notion of “one person one vote”. No it doesn’t. We in the guild admit to being slightly snobby about a voter who isn’t firmly committed to one candidate; but 2nd/3rd preferences are not a second/third vote; it’s nonsense.

The “No” campaign argues that AV will give more credence to extremists. This is the most persuasive left-wing argument against AV, but we see no evidence for it. According to the UoR and UoE studies extremists may garner more votes but will not gain more seats. They’re unlikely to pick up 2nd/3rd preferences.

The “No” campaign claim AV would cost £250 million. This is massaging the figures! That figure includes the £91 million this unnecessary referendum is costing in the first place, and the expensive “counting machines” the No campaign claims are needed are probably not needed – we can cope with bigger paper ballots (we manage OK with the big sheets from the European elections).

The Tory and Labour MPs supporting the “No” campaign claim the AV system would help the Lib Dems and lead to coalitions. There is obviously a grain of truth in this which is why the Lib Dems are supporting the “Yes” camp – but as mentioned earlier having looked at the evidence from the UoR and the UoE we believe the Lib Dems would gain at most 32 extra seats, which wouldn’t lead to loads of coalitions, and there would still be all the usual safe seats.

So that’s all the bullshit taken care of. This referendum is meh. For what it’s worth Thee Faction will be voting “No” as we believe the argument that AV is better than FPtP has NOT been made. And it’s time to deal with REAL ISSUES.

In conclusion; we are being treated as children, as usual. There are far bigger issues on which we could be having a referendum: scrapping the civil list, reform of the House of Lords, lowering the voting age to 16, localised power of councils, elected Mayors, right-to-recall-MPs legislation…all decisions we won’t have a say in.

Therefore, comrade, our energies on May 5th must be focused on  supporting local candidates from Socialist parties in their campaigns on REAL ISSUES in the local elections, against pernicious capitalism, cuts and privilege.




  1. The best reasons I can think of for voting either way are for AV.

    First, a “no” vote will no doubt be spun as meaning that there is no appetite for any change to the electoral system.

    Second, FPTP is biased against parties who have similar views to each other, and in favour of the “more different” party or parties. AV is not.

    Third, and based on the same feature of AV as the second point, it should make it harder for party whips to keep the few MPs who do actually have integrity and minds of their own in line – by removing the problem of the “split vote”, it should mean that there will be no chance of a “rebel”/”unofficial” candidate’s standing allowing the opposition to win the seat.

    This should make it harder for the “in-crowd” in any party to blackmail candidates or MPs into following doing their bidding (on pain of not being selected to stand as their party’s official candidate), as neither the party nor the candidate stands to lose if the candidate stands as e.g. “unofficial labour”.


  2. Thee Faction do not vote “with” anyone.
    AV is NOT a move in the right direction. It will make no difference & may exhaust the appetite for reform – surely a change should be undertaken only for a system that can be defended on it’s own merits?


  3. This piece seems to set out an argument for not voting. It says that AV isn’t much of a change, agreed, but, like it says, it is a small change in the right direction. (5% of safe seats becoming marginal is a good thing surely?) The argument that this vote “will exhaust the appetite for reform” is just as bad crystal ball gazing as it accuses the yes campaign of. I think that a yes vote will just whet the appetite for more reform and a no vote will kill it dead – who’s right? Either way, if this vote is “meh” and you think the yes argument hasn’t been made then this surely leads to the conclusion that Thee Faction shouldn’t be voting either way on Thursday, rather than voting no? I understand there are bigger things to have a referendum on, but this is the one that’s happening, voting No doesn’t tell anyone that you want a vote about scrapping the civil list. (And – urgh – how can thee faction be voting _with_ Cameron and against people like Tony Benn? urgh, dirty)


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