Thursday, March 10, 2011

AV in the UK: No-one really understands it

Today I read in the Daily Telegraph a blog by Ed West. I have to admit that as much as I sympathise with the sentiment of the article, I felt like the EU was given a rough ride. As a lawyer myself, I felt an acute injustice over the idea that anyone who 'knew about the institutions' of the EU would automatically be reactionary towards the leviathan.

Yet it struck more deeply on the relevancy of education of the electorate, and the future electorate. AV is a complex and 'proportionate' system of electing ones' MPs. Although I personally do not want this system, I think that such a referendum will be completely skewed by the complete and utter lack of effective campaigning by either side. The Conservatives think that by complicating our electoral system we will all suddenly explode at the voting booth when confronted with such tough choices as preferential voting. Yet the Liberal Democrats feel that we will all suddenly become enlightened and 'properly represented' with a more coherent voice in Westminster. I'm curious as to how a more convoluted system with an assured outcome that more disparate voices will be represented with a 'push me pull me' mentality in the vein of the current Coalition.

If as it seems obvious to me that two parties that disagree fundamentally are to govern a nation as a result of a hung Parliament, then how can we take seriously the very real prospect of UKIP and the BNP becoming king-makers in a similar way the Gert Wilders does in the Netherlands. Are we really serious as to allow such misinformed individuals are to be representative of the population at large? I would most certainly like to think that such parties only ever get a wafer thin foothold in Westminster. With AV there is a distinct possibility that we could see increased majorities for a standard parliamentary term, with more concessions for unrealistic, poorly understood and idiotic populist policies.

So the electorate according to Ed West is just about competent enough to follow a soap opera plot-line. Last time I watched one of those I couldn't make head nor tail of it all. Does that make me stupid, or simply that I don't follow enough television? Perhaps if we take my inability to follow Eastenders and follow the logic behind my failings, then if the electorate paid as much attention to MPs and their protestations regarding policy, then it could be assumed that they would have no problem in voting for what they, as individuals, feel is the correct option for them. Perhaps I am being too soft, but then again, I remember my Government and Politics module for my A-Levels. As my teacher explained: "There is no need to understand any of this, just so long as you can write it all down within 45 minutes." (In case you're interested, I attended a 'public school' so tells you something of education in the UK, even when you pay for it!)

The UK is nearing the bottom of all EU league tables in secondary education - a problem I'm made more acutely aware of every day I live in the Netherlands. We have a long way to go both in funding and in curricula setting. I for one have had enough of the argument that the government cuts, and the opposition will invest. What I want is to see results for the money already invested. When we start clawing our way back up the tables, then perhaps we can afford to put new resources into such an area. Until as such time, who cares whether we vote for or against AV - all that will come out of it is more idiots than now in Westminster.