Sunday, 3 April 2011

There are no (other) alternatives (on offer)

AV doesn’t give people an extra vote, it just allows people to express 2nd and 3rd choices to be applied if their 1st choice doesn’t get many votes. So for example, a Labour voter in Berwick who wanted to keep the Conservatives out could vote Labour 1st choice and LibDem 2nd choice (this is hypothetical), rather than having to vote LibDem tactically straight off. With first-past-the-post, you have to choose – either vote with your heart or vote tactically, with AV you can do both.

AV isn’t proportional because you only get one MP, and they can’t be part-Tory, part-Labour, part-LibDem or whatever. In proportional systems, you get several people elected in a constituency, so you can have a mix of Tory, Lab, LibDem elected in proportion to the share of the vote. However it is better than FPTP. It has to be better to have an MP who is 2nd or 3rd choice of over 50% of the electors than one who is 1st choice of just 27% and no way of knowing who the other 73% would have settled for.

Yes, the other side of AV (and of proportional systems) is a strong likelihood of a coalition government – and I’d be the first to admit that the current government is not a good advert for coalitions. But, coalition governments have worked well in Germany, France and elsewhere (less well in Israel or Italy where the threshold for getting elected to parliament is too low) – and a significant number of our local authorities are run by coalitions. Northumberland CC would be doing better with a coalition rather than a minority administration.

I've written elsewhere about how campaigning with coalitions in mind would (IMO) lead to less negative campaigning and clearer policy arguments - and will probably do so again.

So, on May 5th don’t vote ‘No’ to punish the LibDems (they aren’t worth it!) and don’t vote ‘No’ because you want a more proportional system than AV (because if the Noes win, we’ll be stuck with FPTP for decades) – only vote ‘No’ if you truly believe that FPTP is the best possible electoral system for the Westminster Parliament – otherwise vote ‘Yes’.

News from SENRUG

SENRUG’s next public meeting will be on Thursday 21st April, 19.30 at Morpeth Town Hall. The guest speaker is Neal Smith, Head of Communications, East Coast Trains.

East Coast is significantly increasing the number of services to and from Morpeth from the 22nd May timetable change. It will now be possible to get to London from Morpeth by 09:40 each weekday, and to return at 18:30. I guess it'll be important to use these new services if we want to keep them.

Times of local trains are changing slightly as well and there will now be an hourly pattern throughout the day, with the long gap in southbound services between 09.32 and 10.50 eliminated. But the morning peak hour train at 08.32 from Morpeth moves to 08.49, though there will additionally be a retimed CrossCountry service at 08.14. So still only a 35 minute gap. There'll also be a better distribution of morning services to Newcastle rather than the current situation where the 07.49 (NT) and 08.02 (XC) arrive at Newcastle at virtually the same time. From 22nd May Morpeth will have services to Newcastle at 06.35, 07.07, 07.54, 08.13, and 08.49.