Alternative Vote isn’t much of an alternative

So, apparently part of the May 5th 2011 elections is a referendum on the process by which General Elections are decided. This news laregly passed me by in the last few weeks, although I had seen references to “AV” but was not engaged enough to find out what it was.

Currently, British politics uses the “first past the post” electoral system, whereby the election is won “by the candidate(s) with the most votes. The winning candidate does not necessarily receive a majority of all votes cast”1.

The proposed new system is called “Alternative Vote” (or “Instant Runoff voting”, which immediately makes me think of drainage), whereby “voters rank candidates in order of preference, and their votes are initially allocated to their first choice candidate. If after this initial count no candidate has a majority of votes cast, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and votes for that candidate are redistributed according to the voters’ second preferences. This process continues until one candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, upon which they are declared the winner”.

Wikipedia goes on to state that “Instant runoff voting is used to elect members of the Australian House of Representatives, the President of Ireland, the national parliament of Papua New Guinea, and the Fijian House of Representatives. It is also used to elect hereditary peers to the British House of Lords”.

Now, with all due respect to those august bodies, that the highest praise of the system is that it is used to elect the Fijian House of Representatives, does not fill me with hope.

Now, some cursory thought leads me to the conclusion that AV sounds better than FPTP (it’s shorter, for a start), but we’re still deciding how best to choose weevils here. Sorry, that’s a movie reference joke; watch Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. In short, how excited should I be expected to get in deciding how to decide on which steaming pile of shit gets to run the country (into the ground)?

Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s very nice of them to let “The people” decide on how they choose their shit in future. But, when all the votes are counted, we’re still pinning the winner’s rosette on a pile of coiled, steaming, brown shit.

So, if you want to get me excited, let’s not have a popularity contest to decide the prettiest arrangement of outdoor seating on the largest luxury liner of the age, and instead spend a little more time plugging the fucking hole below the waterline.

1 For the first time ever, Wikipedia confused me here. I think because it’s about politics and therefore is inherently nonsense.