Friday, April 8, 2011

'Yeah, they had that AV in Mongolia, that's how the giraffes went extinct'

I caught up with the Daily Politics AV debate on the BBC iplayer earlier, and I think I may have just discovered why the No campaign's star turn John Prescott was never made Foreign Secretary.  We were treated to an impressively confident recital of assorted 'facts' about the electoral systems of foreign countries, most of which Prezza seemed to have gleaned from a conversation with his mate Dave down the pub.  For your delectation...

1.  The German Greens dumped their Social Democrat coalition partners midway through a parliament, and put in the Christian Democrats instead.

(The German Greens have never done any such thing, and at federal level have only ever been in coalition with the Social Democrats.  Prescott is thinking of something the liberal FDP did in 1982.  This, is any case, has no relevance whatever to AV, given that Germany uses a proportional and non-preferential voting system that bears no resemblance to the preferential and non-proportional system we're currently being offered.)

2.  AV has led to the current coalition government in Australia.

(Australia doesn't have a coalition government at present, for the very good reason that the only independent third party with representation in the lower house of parliament holds just one seat.  What there is instead is a minority government, the first of its kind under Australia's AV system for several decades, and one that occurred simply as the result of an unusually close election.  In case Prescott hasn't noticed, something remarkably similar happened in Britain under his own beloved voting system just last year.)

3.  AV in Australia meant that the right-wing Liberal-National coalition was always in power until last year's election, and even then Labor was only able to assume office with the help of the Greens and "a couple of farmers".

(Prescott seems to have slept through the previous Labor administrations led by well-known Prime Ministers such as Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.  He also seems oblivious to the fact that the current Julia Gillard administration were the incumbents going into the last election, and had an outright majority.)

4.  How do we know that AV makes coalitions more likely?  Well, it's only used in three countries, and in Belgium they've been without a government for a year.

(A sentence that would make considerably more sense if only Belgium was actually one of those three countries that uses AV.  The proportional system it instead uses does of course make balanced parliaments and coalitions far more likely, but as that system bears absolutely no resemblance to AV, what in God's name is the relevance in pointing this out?)

But apart from these minor quibbles, I must say I learned a great deal.


  1. But of course a propos of Belgium, there are those of us who think that with the urge of government and the media to activity for its won sake, a period without government but with a caretaker adminstration might be benficial.

  2. Belgium seems very civilised for a country in anarchy.

  3. Belgium seems to be doing well without government. Maybe the UK and England would like to try it.

    Prescott really is a fool. It's quite hard to believe he was the deputy prime minister. Frightening too.

    If they have to resort to lies to put people off AV (and God knows it's a crap system), it says little for their ability to form an argument.

  4. Ezio Auditore da Firenze - Alex Salmond for First MinisterApril 9, 2011 at 2:23 AM

    I don't think Prescott was lying, I think he is just genuinely really, really, really stupid.

    Not something I could be accused of!

  5. Absolutely, Ezio, it was quite clear he believed every single word he uttered. What was rather more worrying was that at one point Andrew Neil said something like "I must commend the panel on their knowledge of Australian politics"...

  6. Someone needs to remind Andrew of Oscar Wilde's opinion of sarcasm as a form of wit.

  7. Prescott is too stupid to lie. People like Haig, Cameron and Howard are not. Either they just haven't bothered to find out about AV (a sin of omission) or they have and are lying. I think the latter.