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!'