The British public has spoken!

Well, the referendum on the Alternative Vote system is over, and the results are in.  So here we go:

67.9% of us said that we wanted all our preferences but one to be ignored.

And the reason we voted this way is because the NO2AV campaign persuaded us that the AV system is “too complicated” — that picking a single candidate from a list is within the capabilities of the Great British Voter, but ordering two or more is just too much to ask of us.

67.9% of us agreed with this.

And of course what that means isn’t just that the AV system is not going to be adopted, but all electoral reform is off the table for the foreseeable future.  We’re going to continue to do things exactly the way we’ve been doing them.

67.9% of us agreed with this.

Of course, that same 67.9%, just like the other 32.1% of us, are going to spend the next years bitching and whining and moaning and complaining about our politicians, how they don’t represent us, how there’s no-one to vote for who really stands for anything we’d like to endorse.  But I won’t blame the politicians if they ignore that bitching and whining and moaning and complaing, because after all, they have clear mandate to continue doing what they’re doing.

67.9% of us told them so.

Oh well.  As I observed once, long ago (and I don’t think it’s a quote from anyone though I admit it sounds like the kind of thing Mark Twain might have said): the problem with democracy is that it’s government of the people, by the people.  Have you seen the people lately?


30 responses to “The British public has spoken!

  1. Yep, the __people__ are scary. Clearly they wish to be mollycoddled for a few years more and leave such thing as representation of their needs and wishes to their betters.

    Perhaps having the referendum so close to that damn wedding wasn’t very helpful. After all that was great fun. Just shows what a great country the UK is, eh?

    I can write all of this semi-sarcastically from the safety of NZ where we have proportional representation. It may not be a pretty thing when the election results are in and the bargaining starts but it is a helluva lot better than a massive swing from one side to the other with no moderating influences in between.

  2. I am so sorry. I can’t imagine the sadness and disappointment you feel. I know that it would kill me if this opportunity presented itself here (USA) and failed. The notion that the people get the government they deserve is such a nasty observation, especially when they make such a stupid decision.

    My heart goes out to you. And a tragedy for Britain overall.

  3. I’m really sorry to hear that.

    The problem with people are that they are, by and large, easily cowed, coerced and manipulated. Reform is hard when the people in charge often stand to lose the most and will do anything to keep themselves in power.

    And so it goes…

  4. I found this interesting gem in Wikipedia under AV: “It is used to elect the leaders of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. (The leader of the Conservative Party is elected under a similar system, a variant of the exhaustive ballot.)”

    Did anyone point this out to the 68.31% of the people?

  5. Yeah, we pointed it out. Somehow that didn’t seem to make a difference.

    It’s not easy to speak the truth when your opponents are shouting the lies. Who knew?

    (The idea I’ve been attempting to comfort myself with: If you ask a nation whether you should give them better democratic representation and they say no, that’s probably a really good sign you can’t trust them with better democratic representation. Oh well)

  6. I voted no, and it wasn’t because I don’t understand AV. I’ll agree with you there, it isn’t very complicated.
    I don’t see that there is anything wrong with first past the post. We have system were we vote for who we want and whoever the most people want, gets elected. It shouldn’t be a system were the person elected is not wanted the least. If you (and everyone else) were honest on their ballet then there wouldn’t be a problem. Just because the person you voted for didn’t win doesn’t mean your vote was wasted. Tactical voting is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard of, and in my opinion, makes a mockery of the entire democratic process.
    Democracy gives us the opportunity to put forward our opinion. Everyone’s voice is worth the same but then we must live with the decision made by the most people. Anything else isn’t a democracy.

  7. I went out on my motorbike to vote when I got home from work. I trusted that people would do the right thing. That very night my bike was stolen and AV was defeated. Double whammy :(

  8. Gareth Jones


    That is all.

  9. Paul Brown

    I hate to ruin your day even more, but the actual reality is that 40.1% of the country said that they didn’t want to change anything, 18.9% said that they wanted reform of some kind, even if they didn’t actually want AV itself, and a massive majority of 59% said that, even though this was the one and only time that they were ever going to be directly asked their opinion, they couldn’t be bothered.

    I’m sad now.

  10. Goran, not only is the Tory leader elected under a similar system but the last time round David Cameron came second in the first heat! By arguing AV was a system where “the chap who comes second ends up winning the race” he was arguing he shouldn’t be leader of the Tory party!

  11. Isn’t it possible that the British people decided that AV is no better than First Past the Post and that you just don’t get it? I get you’re disappointed, and you really really really wanted AV, but that doesn’t mean you were right and the British public are stupid.

  12. Bash, yes, it’s possible; but I don’t think the evidence points that way. The NO2AV campaign was based primarily on (A) the claim that AV is “too complicated” which is both patronising and an outright lie; and (B) direct personal attacks on Nick Clegg, which are irrelevant. One of the many commenters on the Guardian expressed this very well — he said that in 20 years people will be asking (1) who was Nick Clegg?; (2) why is our voting system so bad?

  13. There is nothing quite like a poor loser.
    Was it not the will of the people to not want the AV voting system? 67.9% of us said that FPTP is what we prefer to AV, a system that even Mr Clegg did not like.

  14. “67.9% of us said that FPTP is what we prefer to AV.”

    A point made rather clearly in the article.

  15. I do not think it is made clearly, instead you just throw insults at people that the majority that voted are too stupid to count. You are correct that there has been a lot of lies and misinformation from both sides but you are adding to it by drawing ridiculous conclusions from the vote, such that the people consider FPTP to be the best system although there was not the option of another system besides AV. Hence “67.9% of us said that FPTP is what we prefer to AV.”

  16. lol, I very specifically did not say that 67.9% of those who voted are too stupid to count. I said that they had voted that they are too stupid to count, having been persuaded by Cameron and his buddies that this was the case. That is the tragedy of this; people have been persuaded to accept that they are much more stupid than they actually are.

  17. They use a multi-level voting system in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and I remember a friend of mine explaining to me how he intended to vote for city councilor. It was quite impressive and quite convoluted. There were several iterations of vote counting, and he had to refer to the voter’s guide to clarify a point or two. Still, he rather enjoyed all the strategy-ing. Then again, Cambridge is the home of Harvard and MIT, so it’s chock full of college professors, students, high tech firms, high priced consultants and hangers around.

    I live in a nicely polarized small town, so it’s rare when we can scrounge up more than two candidates.

  18. I see a lot of profoundly un-democratic comments in this thread. Aren’t we supposed to accept the result of free elections as representing the will of the people? The democratic system certainly has flaws, but I don’t know of any better system…

  19. Jim, you are right of course. The problem here is that the voting public are so easily swayed by campaign based on lies and personal attacks; and specifically that in voting to retain the Only Count My First Preference system, they have basically voted against being allowed to vote. I’m increasing feeling myself dragged towards that cynical but probably accurate position that the only real benefit of democracy is that it makes it easier to get rid of a really, really bad leader — I mean, like, Gaddaffi bad. For anything less, votes are decided much more strongly by marketing and propaganda than by evidence or understanding.

  20. Mike, it’s no good blaming the No campaign for doing a better job than the Yes campaign; if the Yes argument was stronger than ‘Your MPs will have to work harder’ we would have all voted for it. It wasn’t, so they lost. I actually expected a better campaign from the Electoral Reform Society but that was all we got; and it was rubbish! At the heart of this whole debate is, IMHO, a common desire to have less crazy MPs and less change to the current systems – I suspect that people figured out that voting Yes would have led to the exact opposite – crazy ever-changing policies intended to appease borderline supporters. Hell, it’s bad enough now with the NHS reforms. Stability is key, and we were already told that there is hardly a hair’s breadth between the Lab and Con policies; so really, who cares in government, as long as they don’t fug things up too much and don’t lie too much. My suggestion: You/we focus on encouraging regional governments instead; if it’s good enough for the 16% who live in Scotland/Wales/NI then it should be good enough for English Regions.

  21. “It’s no good blaming the No campaign for doing a better job than the Yes campaign.”

    There is some truth in this. But actually, I think both campaigns were terrible. The difference is, the NO campaign was terrible in its disregard for truth or decency and the YES campaign was terrible in its ineptitude. I suppose in the end the real indictment of both was the voter turnout of 40%.

    But, yes, the YES campaign fumbled the ball badly by focussing on very questionable benefits of the AV system. Really, what evidence is there that it will make MPs work harder? And is “harder work” in the sense of longer hours even what we want from our MPs? I still find it astonishing that you can hardly find any YES argument that focusses on what was the key point for me — the fact that under AV you don’t have to lie. Can it really be true that no-one else — including the YES campaigners — cared about that? I have to admit, the evidence says yes.

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  23. Mike:

    Really? You’re happy just to dismiss the result of a referendum by saying the public are too stupid to judge the issues properly? Of course you’re welcome to your opinion on AV, but this result means simply that the public don’t share your view; they prefer FPTP. You say AV is ‘fairer’, but the public disagreed, so they voted against it. They not stupid, or ‘cowed’ by advertising, they just disagree with you.

  24. Jim, I really don’t know. I am trying to reconcile myself to the idea that FTPT has something in its favour that all those people saw and I missed, but I am just not seeing it. You may feel my post was a bit snarky, and I won’t deny it, but ultimately the first fake polling card that I show above is precisely accurate. People did vote “I demand that my second and subsequent preferences be ignored”, and I still find that completely inexplicable. They voted “Most of my opinions should be ignored.” And the evidence of people who understand this stuff seems to be that they mostly did it to score points off a deputy leader who they don’t like and who will be forgotten in a few years.

    Yeah, no, sorry, I am sticking with my original answer. This was a stupid outcome.

  25. Dude, making fun of the majority of the minority of Brits who voted on FTP vs HIV or whatever is one thing. Make fun of ’em all, I don’t care, I’m a ‘Merican. But, dude, seriously: you pooped on the sushi. Not cool.

  26. No, my friend. The great British public pooped on the sushi. I just report policy, I don’t make it.

    (“Poop on the sushi” is a resonant phrase; I might start using it in everyday conversation. As in “Did you ever hear any of the late Phil Collins-era Genesis albums? Invisible Touch really pooped on the sushi.”)

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