In So Long and Thank for All The Fish, the elegiac fourth book of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, Douglas Adams gives us this conversation between Arthur, a very ordinary Earth-man, and Ford, his best friend who he thought was from Guildford but turned out to be from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse:
Ford explained, “On [that] world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in.
And this, of course, is exactly how democracy works in Britain. Everyone who supports a candidate other than one of the lizards of a constituency — the two candidates who are ahead in the polls — throws away their chance to vote on the person they actually want to win, and instead votes for the lesser of two lizards.
Today, for the first and only time in a generation, we have a chance to change that.
If you are British, and sick of spending your vote on the least bad lizard rather than on the actual person you want to win, then please leave your computer right now and go and vote in the AV referendum. Vote YES TO AV, and in all future elections you will be able to rank the candidates: “I like the person best, but the green lizard is my second choice if the person doesn’t get a majority”.
And by the way, that’s all AV is: “the green lizard is my second choice if the person doesn’t get a majority”. Anyone who’s told you AV is too complicated to understand is either (A) very stupid indeed, or more likely (B) lying. because no-one is that stupid.
Seriously, fellow Brits. FIfteen hundred miles away, Libyans are literally laying their lives down for the right to say who they want to represent them. All that’s required of us is to walk down to the local polling station and tick a YES box. Please: if you’ve ever complained about how our politicians don’t represent us and the people who do represent us can’t get elected; if you’re sick of having to choose between two lizards; if you care about democracy at all — then get out and vote YES TO AV. You have until 10 pm tonight.
Addendum: if you agree that this is important and want to help get the word out, please consider upvoting this article on Reddit or on Hacker News — experience shows that these sites can easily generate an order of magnitude more traffic than the usual mechanisms. Long-time readers will know I have never asked for upvotes before, and I won’t again. But this is both urgent and important for how my country is run.