Referendum – Yes, No or Don’t Care?

In little over two weeks the Country will have the chance to take part in a Referendum on how we elected MP’s to Parliament. The Government is giving us a choice between the current system of First Past the Post (FPTP) and Alternative Vote (AV). The last time anyone outside of Wales and Scotland had the chance to take part in a Referendum was in 1975

So what are the differences between the two options? The simplest way to understand is to watch the short and simple film provided by The Electoral Commission. This also saves me from boring you to death with lots of words!



My personal feeling with this referendum is AV is fudge on what could have been achieved. If we really had the choice I would have preferred Single Transferable Vote (or at least a choice of different systems than the current two on offer). This in my opinion (for what it is worth) is far better then listing a whole host of candidates and then picking them in order of preference. For me, I would probably just vote for one candidate or at a push, pick one other if I thought they had like minded views.


Why would I only pick one, or at a push two? This is because outside of Wales and Scotland it is a three party state.  Contrary to what is going on at national level they all during an election campaign and preach they are different. Of course, there are parties who are not in the gang of three, but if these other parties are to be elected to Parliament in any significant numbers it would take a complete change of mindset from the citizens of the UK for that to happen, not just a change to the voting system.

The real interesting point to this Referendum is even if the AV vote is won, it does not necessary mean AV will be used. The reasons are because it depends on the rest of the Bill on boundary changes getting though Parliament, and that my friends, is a whole different kettle of fish. The plan under the Bill is to get rid of at least 50 MPs and their seats. You can imagine these 50 MP’s and the party which is likely to lose the most (Labour, but around 13 from the Cons) seats are not over the moon for having to vote in favour to receive their P45’s. Of course there is always the House of Lords to help ease their way into retirement as an incentive to say yes to the Bill. That is if there is any room left after the latest round of ‘re-balancing’ the Lords.

For the Duchy/County/Independent Country (depending on your viewpoint) of Cornwall the change to the boundary will have a further ‘bonus’ of probably having to ‘share’ an MP with our neighbours in Devon. That means those MPs from Cornwall who support AV will have to vote in favour of a shared MP if they wish for AV to become a reality. If they do, then no doubt at the next election this point will be on ALL the rivals’ election material.

As there are no Parish, Town or Unitary elections in Cornwall (until 2013) turnout is likely to be low. My guess is if turn-out in Cornwall gets past 20% this will be a good result. Nationally I fear the turnout will be in the low 30%. Which is kind of ironic as a point that the pro AV claim is most MPs are not elected by the majority; this could lead to a counter claim of a change to the voting system that is made by a minority?


Lastly, and I believe real issue which should be addressed is why so many people at national and local level choose not to vote. The average turn-out (Cornwall Unitary Election 2009) at local level was 40.1% and national (General Election 2010) was 65.1%. I doubt the main reason as to why so many don’t turn out is not because of the current voting system. Most I believe will say I am not interested, it does not affect me, or they are all the same and nothing changes.

How do we change people’s lack of interest in voting? Well, we could go down the Australian route and make voting compulsory? Or is making people turn up an affront to democracy, the right to freedom of choice, and the right to vote or not?


7 comments

  • Jude Robinson

    Andrew, AV does not depend on the changes to constituencies going through parliament. In fact, the Bill has passed and received royal assent in February so is now law.

    It is confusing as these are two separate issues. They were lumped together as part of the coalition horse trading.

    The Tories needed the Lib Dem votes to get the boundary changes through but some of them were sceptical. Nick Clegg bunged in the referendum to ensure Lib Dem support. The Lib Dems wanted the referendum but you would have had to drag Tories kicking and screaming through the lobbies to vote for that on its own.

    Put the two together and hey presto, compliance on both sides. It's a pretty shabby way to do democracy in my view.

    The Bill is now law, so we will get the boundary changes whatever happens on May 5. As long as the coalition survives long enough to see the boundary review through. This is why they have also given themselves a five year term of office.

    The Boundary Commission is already starting work on Cornwall.

  • Cllr Andrew Wallis

    Thanks for posting Jude, but my point is they are linked, and it still needs Parliament to say yes to the whole Bill once the Boundary Commission has given its report.

    “The review of boundaries and the referendum are linked as they were in the same Bill voted by Parliament. If there is a yes vote in the referendum then the legislation provides for AV to be introduced. However, under the same legislation, this cannot happen until Parliament has approved the Boundary Commission’s recommendations to alter Parliamentary boundaries. This means that AV cannot be introduced until after the new boundaries had been approved.

    Parliament were responsible for passing the legislation that brought the referendum into effect, so the decision about the boundaries and the referendum being linked was not made by the Electoral Commission. If you would like to comment any further on the legislation that has been passed by Parliament, we would suggest you contact your MP.”

    From the Electoral Commission

  • Jude Robinson

    Ah yes, I see what you mean. We won't have AV without the boundary changes although we will have boundary changes even if we don't have AV.

    You have given me an intriguing bit of information to ponder!

    Parliament always approves the boundary commission report, so I took that for granted but we have never before been in the situation where a change like this was railroaded through.

    Perhaps, if the voting system remains FPTP the Lib Dems will dig their heels in. What do you reckon?

  • Anonymous

    If this country wants to cling to any semblance of being a *free* and *democratic* society then compulsory voting is not the road to go down. An awful lot of people deliberately choose not to vote in order not to give legitimacy to a system that they do not support. To force those people (or any others no matter whether their refusal to vote is down to philosophical reasons or apathy) is fundamentally wrong. The entire nature of politics in this country is a joke; it needs a massive overhaul – fiddling with the minor details isn't going to make a damn bit of difference. Any call for compulsory voting just shows that the system is on its last legs and needs to use force in order to maintain its sliding grip on power.

  • Anonymous

    Keep Cornwall Whole – Spoil your ballot paper by writing "No to Devonwall – Keep Cornwall Whole". AV is a fudge anyway, and a fudge with no regard to Cornwall.

  • Anonymous

    In protest over the insulting, demeaning way Cornwall was treated in the run up to the AV vote, I suggest we SPOIL OUR BALLOT PAPERS by writing "Keep Cornwall Whole – No to Devonwall". A few hundred spoiled papers will register, will make an impact. A few thousand will make national news. AV is a fudge anyway.

  • CornwallNews

    The proposed AV v FPTP UK Referendum consists of a contrived, fabricated and simplistic bipolar choice of only two inadequate options set against unfit UK Electoral Law, unfit UK Electoral Registers and unfit UK Election Returning Officer negligible powers of cross-constituency scrutiny. Election Returning Officers will be unable to guarantee 'One Person-One Vote' nor to sign off ANY part of such a referendum as 'true', 'democratic', 'free' or 'fair'.

    Here are fundamental AV v FPTP BOGUS REFERENDUM flaws:

    1. UK Electoral Law – NOT 'fit for purpose'.
    2. UK Electoral Registers – NOT 'fit for purpose'.
    3. UK CERO powers – NOT 'fit for purpose'.

    A UK REFERENDUM MUST, ON PRINCIPLE, BE GUARANTEED TO BE VERIFIABLY AND GENUINELY 'ONE PERSON-ONE VOTE'.

    IF THIS AV v FPTP BOGUS REFERENDUM IS ATTEMPTED IT WILL NOT BE.

    BOGUS UK ELECTORAL REGISTERS = BOGUS REFERENDUM:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/second_home_voters_1.html
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/secret_ballots_and_second_home.html
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/worried_about_second_home_vote.html
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/kevins_too_busy_to_probe_secon.html
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/game_on.html
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2010/06/a_letter_to_the_chief.html

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/grahamsmith/2011/04/some_second_home_voters_purged.html

    In the face of such corrupt and non-democratic electoral foundations, these may be the only rational responses to the RUBBISH REFERENDUM:

    BOYCOTT THE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT CONSERVATIVE PARTY CAMERON CLEGG COALITION BOGUS AV v FPTP REFERENDUM.

    OR

    SPOIL YOUR BALLOT PAPER WITH A SUITABLY CONSTRUCTIVE COMMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE BOGUS AV v FPTP UK REFERENDUM – A LIBDEMCON COALITION CON.

    NOTE: ALL SPOILED BALLOT PAPERS HAVE TO BE RECORDED AND NUMBERS PUBLISHED.

    ANYONE WHO VALUES GENUINE DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES AND WISHES TO SEE GENUINE 'ONE PERSON-ONE VOTE' DEMOCRACY IN THE UK WILL NOT ENDORSE THIS ABSURD, INFANTILE, UNSOUND, NON-CREDIBLE, SHALLOW, RESTRICTED AND INSULTING BOGUS REFERENDUM WITH THEIR VALUABLE VOTE.

    CONSIDER THIS:
    IF THE NUMBER OF SPOILED BALLOT PAPERS EXCEEDS THE 'YES's, THE 'NO's or BOTH – WHAT NEXT?

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