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Thursday, 28 April 2011


Just a few thoughts on the referendum on 5th May 2011 about changing from 'First Past the Post' to 'Alternative Vote'.

Under our present system, people have a ballot paper which lists the candidates and they mark the paper with an 'X' against the one they would see elected.  The successful candidate does not actually pass a post, but simply has more votes than anyone else.  That may be over 50% of the votes counted in some untra-safe seats, but it is usually between a third and a half of the votes.

Under AV, people rank the candidates in order of preference.  At the count, the second preferences of the least favoured candidate are redistributed, then those of the next least favoured candidate and so on until one candidate has the support of 50% of the electorate, or until there are only two left and one has more votes than the other.  A candidate who was ahead on first preferences can find themselves in second place by the time all the alternative votes are counted.

AV makes the count more complicated, so there will soon be a demand for expensive technology to read the papers and allocate the votes.  Only three countries in the world - Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea use AV.  It is fair to say that AV supporters hope it will be a step on the way to proportional representation, but PR is not on the agenda at the moment.

I know some Christian political parties have come out in favour of the Alternative Vote, so how would it benefit a Christian input in politics?

The answer is, 'Not a lot.'  The Electoral Reform Society says the AV will lead to more middle of the road candidates being elected.  The Liberal Democrats are therefore thought likely to benefit more from AV than Labour or Conservative.  In Northern Ireland, centrist socially-liberal parties are set to benefit, and whether Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalists will do well out of it in Wales and Scotland is open to question.  But one thing AV will not do is help Christian candidates or those with strong moral views to fight through the swamp of second and third preferences.

The Bible does not give any guidance on what voting system or even what system of government we should have.  But it does say that government is under God, and that its purpose is to restrain evil and advance godliness.  We see this in the Old Testament, in a passage upon which our own Christian constitution is based:

2Ki 11:17  And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people, that they should be the LORD'S people; between the king also and the people.

And in the New Testament, in a reading quoted at Her Majesty's Coronation in 1953:

Rom 13:1  Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Rom 13:2  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
Rom 13:3  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
Rom 13:4  For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

The Bible states that the people gave their assent to the covenant Moses made with God:

Exo 24:7  And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.

But equally, slavishly doing the will of the people if they want an ungodly law is warned against:

Exo 23:2  Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:

Of course, in our recent history, politicians and the civil servants behind them have passed laws both in contravention of the laws of God and against the will of the people.

I am thinking of issues such as abortion, pornography, no-fault divorce on demand, homosexuality, euthanasia, removing the death penalty for murder, joining the European Union and allowing it to rule on discrimination law, the abolition of the law against blasphemy, immoral sex education and giving contraceptives to children, de-Christianising religious education, removing tax and social security encouragements for marriage, getting involved in wars where we have no business, allowing the lottery and casinos, Please add to my not-very-exhaustive list in the comments!

AV will not only not help turn that tide in the slightest, it is yet another bit of legislation to add to the list.  THere is no public demand for it, it is a career politician's dream.

There is one last argument for leaving the present First-Past-the-Post system in place.  It is said, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'  I am not saying that FPTP is perfect, but that there is nothing broken in it which will be fixed by AV.

So I'll be voting 'NO!'


  1. I have lived in both Britain and Australia and have voted under both systems. But in Britain most of my time has been spent in safe seats where one party has remained in power for decades at a time, so my vote cannot have any effect on the outcome. Under these circumstances, it is very likely that the candidate will feel most accountable to the party activists who select the candidates, and, in the House, to the party leaders who determine promotion. Under the Australian system, I felt that I could give first preference to a first candidate closest to my own views, even if he or she had no chance of election, and use a second preference for a candidate who stood more chance. The main parties then had to pay attention to minority interests like mine, to win our second preference. From my experience, I feel that there is absolutely no contest - I have much more influence under a preferential system like AV. And in Australia it clearly leads to stable governments and has not needed an expensive voting system.

  2. AV provides the Christian voter with the ability to express safely his heartfelt wish that a candidate with godly polices should be elected, even though that outcome is unlikely. The voter can express that preference, without thereby abstaining from choosing between the main party candidates. It is only in this way that the Christian parties are likely to save their deposits, and build enough support to become main parties in time.

  3. I can say with feeling that the Victorian age which some people still decry saw Britain at its most powerful and an upholder of Christian rights and values in a way which is in almost total contrast to today.Great Prime Ministers such as William Gladstone were strong Christians and churches were regularly full on a Sunday. Perhaps today we just get the sort of MPs we deserve?!

  4. Why do we even think voting is godly? As a dedicated Monarchist I myself have grown weary of our veritable worship of Democracy, which, while we are told brings us Freedom, has served to erode our Freedom, and while we are told brings us Unity, has created only Division. Our Prince, William, is to marry and that brings unity precisely because he is not a partisan political figure. Our Queen can rally us because she is not a politician who owes her seat to the whims of an electorate or the elevation of a party.

    To be honest with you I think the whole mess we have now is caused by the focus we as a society place on Humanity. Democracy is inherently about fostering selfishness and Hostility. We vote for who we want and hope Enough people support the same bloke as to crush the will of the other angry mob after electing the other bloke, and while we’re at it we hurl insults at each other, and try our hardest to overturn each others will.

    Meanwhile, we think of all Governance as coming from man.

    And what do we get in the end? Politicians are simply ambitious men and women who want power of themselves or to serve their political party and it interests. They gain power by making deals with voter blocks and special interests, and by agreeing to tow a party line to win support of said party. They then set about trying to convince us they are the best thing since sliced bread whilst the other guy will kill us all.

    As Aristotle said, Elections lead to those skilled in Campaigning for office, not necessarily those good at actual leadership.

    I would have the voting thus simplified to this: Restore the Hereditary peers to the House of Lords, abolish the practice of letting failed or retired Politicians being made Lords by the Commons by stripping the commons of its ability to really place Lords, Give the Lords back its power to actually Amend or even refuse Legislation like virtually every other Second Chamber has, and grant the Monarch her true Voice in these affairs. Make sure the Monarch is check by making certain a two Thirds majority of BOTH Houses can override her Veto and then let her use it.

    Then let the Commons be held on a Local Level only. Abolish National party Politics and make all races as Local as possible.

    God gave us Kings and Kingdoms, and never established a Republic, and to be honest, as much as we think the old ways limited our Freedom, and Democracy gives us freedom, all I’ve seen in Democracy is a tendency towards collectivism and a loss of property rights, Higher Taxation, and a diffusement of Moral responsibility from the Individual to Society at Large.

    Yes this is an Anti-Democracy Rant. I hate Democracy because I love Liberty, God Save the Queen!

  5. If there were a powerful godly party, there might be a case for arguing for the "first past the post" system, but in the present political environment AV offers the only realistic chance of returning a few members of Parliament not bitterly opposed to Christian beliefs and practice.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly with Christian Voice on this and will be Voting NO.
    I want to keep with tradition and cannot see the point at all of voting for a 2nd, 3rd or 4th choice of Candidate.
    If I could vote for the person I have as my first Choice Four Times, I would be more in favour of AV, but the reason I make my First Choice is because I reject certain views of the other candidates... so why would I want an Alternative Vote for them???
    First Past the Post remains the best voting system for me.

  7. I agree with Christian Voice and want our Voting System to remain the same.
    The reason I vote for the Candidate I choose is because I reject certain views of the others... so why would I want to vote for them as a second choice???
    If I could also vote for my chosen candidate as the 2nd, 3rd & 4th choice then I might consider AV... but AV must be an Alternative Vote, so this proposed new voting system would force me to also vote for candidates that I do not prefer and would not normally choose... or else not participate in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th choices, which would leave the decision to others who must be far less convinced than I am about their chosen candidate!
    I will certainly be voting NO to AV and will be voting to keep the traditional First Past The Post system.

  8. I agree with T Ogden and J Allman; AV will force main parties to be more aware of say pro life voters so as to get their 2nd or 3rd preference votes.With AV your vote has more power, why should a candidate be able to get elected under FPTP with only 1/3 of votes? FPTP is flawed, any alternative must be better.
    Incidentally, in Machabees the Bible speaks approvingly of the Romans' system of electing their leaders.

  9. You are of course referring to 1 Maccabees Chapter 8. However, while this does praise the fact that None war Purple or a Crown, it never praises election. It also mentions one man to whom is selected by the Senate Annually, whom all obeyed willingly and without Envy.

    This doesn’t seem like its really a promotion of Democracy, as it is an exaltation of the Humility of the Roman Senate. SA humility God commands for Kings in Deuteronomy, when it says the King should not accumulate Gold for himself, or take many Wives, or pursue any course of action that would enrich him.

    The praise is in the fact that they were not arrogant or greedy, not in that they were a Republic.

    That said, some may also not regard Maccabees as Cannon you know.

  10. I agree with both John Allman and Trevor Ogden. AV will give people, including Christians, a chance to express their true wishes, and it will tend to favour moderate rather than extreme parties. My Vote is without a doubt, YES to AV.