A nice thought on electoral reform…

17 May

I’ve just read an article in yesterday’s Sunday Herald by Muriel Grey. I don’t usually bother with a Sunday paper but the bloke in the shop this morning was giving them away – so much for sale or return. Nope, he’d bought them, he was getting rid of them the only way he knew how.

Anyway, this article by Muriel Grey was bemoaning the rise of the moaning voter, who despite taking their time to perform their bi-decadent civic duty at the polling booth, were unhappy with the outcome of their votes.

Votes, just to clarify, not the outcome. I’d like to think we take losing in a less-than-graceful fashion in this country, but we accept the result; if we find ourselves voting for a losing party, we might mumble our misgivings into a lonely pint while no-ones listening, groan to like minded confidantes, or make a Facebook group whinging about it, but fortunately that’s the bulk of it, if there’s a majority government formed.

As we’ve seen this week, when there’s not an overall majority formed, and coalition government is formed, suddenly we start to scrutinise the way we voted, and come to some bizarre conclusions. “But I voted for the Lib Dems to keep the Tories out!” is a common cry on teh intarwebs. No, you didn’t, hypothetical intarweb person. You voted for a Liberal Democrat candidate in the constituency where you live, and that’s it. If anything can be inferred from this polling booth action, it is that you would prefer at least one more Lib Dem MP in the Commons, and it’s likely that you want a Lib Dem government, right? I mean, if you wanted five more years of Labour, you’d vote for that, no? Want a Tory government, vote Tory, I’d have thought.

Getting back to Muriel Grey’s Sunday Herald column (which is on-line here, and well worth a read), she makes an excellent point: that “…people are reacting to this election as if casting a vote is like ordering up a purchase, as if a mark on a ballot paper buys you your own tailor-made, bespoke society”. It’s as if the X in the relevant box just won’t cut it any more, and needs to buck up its ideas, sprout some legs, and get its arse in gear. That’s when it hit me. The best idea of all time (if I say so myself) when it comes to voting reform. How do we put across both our vote and our intention in that vote? How do we make it clear that despite voting SNP at this election, I’m quite keen on saving the Union, I just think their the best of a bad bunch? How would one make it obvious to a returning officer that I’m voting Green because I don’t really get what they’re about, but hey! They ain’t the Tories?

Very simply, we need to use betting slips.

Now, I’m not advocating any particular brand, but I will say that Hill’s have the most writing space. For the uninitiated, a betting slip is like a small bit of headed paper, where you get to write whatever bollocks you like, yet mystically the cashier knows exactly what you meant. For instance, “£5 if it wins, but it might come second, and its not got a jockey, and it’s a small horse, and I think it’s at Crayford in a minute” magically turns into Dog No. 5 at the 5.00 at Crayford. Just think what you could achieve with betting slips in elections?

“I’m voting Lib Dem even though I’m a Labour supporter because I don’t want those bastard Tories getting back in, even though I could vote Labour, I shalln’t because I liked what Nick Clegg said on the telly debate, and if I’m honest, I really don’t know if I should be voting at all because it’s all a bit over-rated” – that would go down as a vote for the Liberal Democrats with a 2nd preference for Labour under STV or AV. Simple.

I know what you’re thinking though – it would take ages to sort through all the votes. Well, yes, but then I can’t be the only person who thinks it downright horrendous that they’re all counted on the same night. I mean, how accurate can a count be if it only takes 45 minutes in Sunderland? Hey, if it takes a longer time to count the votes, at least they’ll be counted properly. Besides, if you hire bookmakers assistants to do the job on counting night, it might well take a lot less time than you might think!


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