Michael Bywater: My brain can't handle voting reform

Share
Related Topics

Like everyone else, I was planning on sculling down to the polling station on 5 May and voting one way or the other in the AV referendum. Which way? "Yes", probably, with "No" as my second choice. It sends a message to the politicians: you're up there because we're down here. And we can change things. It may not be the ideal change but it opens the door.

And first past the post is just silly. You can get in with the majority of voters wishing you hadn't. That fails the Bentham Utilitarian Test, which says that the moral worth of any action depends on its tendency to increase the happiness, or decrease the unhappiness, of the greatest number.

Also (1) it's silly. There is no post. The post is hammered in once the race has been run. Would Ladbrokes put up with that? "I'll have 20 quid on Consortium of Orthodontists From The Wirral, please." "Twenty on Consortium, right. To...?" "Eh?" "To win? Each way? Place?" "Oh. Right. Can we wait until they've run, then I'll decide?" It wouldn't wash.

And (2) it obviously doesn't work. Look at the Government. Look at any government. They're rubbish. They do things I hate. And they've all been elected by first past the "post". I rest my case.

Then the phone rang. Would I debate AV with Lord Leach? Publicly? At the Quenington Society? In Gloucestershire? Well of course I would. We public intellectuals are like barristers. We'll sleep with anyone.

So I googled the Quenington Society. According to wn.com, whatever that is, they "indulge in witchcraft and the black arts". Fair dos. So far so good. Then I googled Lord Leach of Fairford. Chairman of the No to AV campaign. Jardine Matheson chap. All Souls'. Several brains.

If you had agreed to debate something which you didn't know much about, with a triple-brained man who knows everything about it, in front of an audience of well-heeled, well-educated rural Satanists, you'd have done what I did: assumed there was a good chance of Britt Ekland being there to reprise her role in The Wicker Man, but without the actual Wicker Man due to Health and Safety. And then you'd have headed back to the internet.

Catastrophic.

Try to understand the pros and cons of AV from stuff on the internet, and rather than downloading information, you will find yourself uploading your prejudices but getting nothing back in return. Everything is either incomprehensible or so wildly biased it's meaningless, and so the brain vacates itself.

Why, if we are having a referendum about our electoral system, do campaigners on both sides find it useful to spam the electorate with unverifiable prejudice and utter bollocks is beyond me. But all I know – really; it is all I know, now; you should have asked me last week – is that I know nothing. I am in a sort of post-Rumsfeld state of unknowing unknowingness.

Halfway through the debate, chaired by Bamber Gascoigne, who did his best to help me along, I found myself utterly convinced by what Lord Leach had to say. What was it? I only recall, perhaps incorrectly, that he blamed Berlusconi's string of dancing girls on the French electoral system. Of my arguments, I only recall that the many countries that adhere to first past the post, as touted by the Prime Minister, include Botswana, Bangladesh, Congo, Gambia, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Mongolia, Rwanda, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria. Oh, and us.

It's not enough. Before that, I knew not much, but a bit. Lord Leach's razor intellect and the internet between them have driven me into psephological oblivion, aided, perhaps by the Quenington Society, who were all very respectable and intelligent and well-informed and nice, but of course that's what you'd expect from devil-worshippers.

So come 5 May, all I'll be able to vote, really, is (1) Don't Know and (2) Not Sure. Except I can't, because we don't have AV.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Engineer - Powered Access

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They pride themselves that they...

Recruitment Genius: Pharmacy Branch Manager

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This pharmacy group are looking...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This design and print company a...

Recruitment Genius: Lift and Elevator Contract Manager - London

£38000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Just what the election needs – another superficially popular but foolish policy

John Rentoul
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence