Leading article: Make this the last time you vote with an X

Related Topics

How often have politicians padded out speeches with phrases like these? "People should have more control over their lives"; "People rightly demand greater choice"; "Open up politics to give people more of a say"; or even, "Power to the people". On Thursday, we the people really do get our chance to have a say, and to take more power to ourselves.

One last time, we today rehearse the arguments for the alternative vote, by which voters elect MPs by numbering candidates in order of preference instead of using a single X. The Independent on Sunday believes that it allows us to vote for what we really believe in, without having to calculate the tactical position and risk wasting our vote. It ensures that an MP cannot be elected against the wishes of a constituency, because the winner has to represent a majority of votes that express a preference. Under the present system, as Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, points out today, two-thirds of MPs are elected on a minority of the vote.

In our view, the primary argument for reform is that it gives more power, choice and freedom of democratic expression to the voter. The benefits from the likely consequences of the change are secondary, although many of them are benign. It would reduce the number of safe seats, for example; it would probably provide greater representation for the Liberal Democrats than they would other-wise secure; and it would make it even harder for extreme parties, such as the BNP, to be elected.

There is also, as Mr Cable reminds us, a "big picture". That picture is of what he calls the "grey Conservative-dominated century". We do not need to enter the great historical debate about whether that Tory century was built on the misnamed first-past-the-post system (it ought to be called the "nearest to the post, so that'll do" system, as another Liberal Democrat suggested). Who knows how people would have voted under a different system? All we need to know is that the Conservative Party and its rich supporters are pouring substantial funds into the No campaign in a desperate attempt to prevent change.

We saw something of the bigger picture last week. The satirist Armando Iannucci reported fancifully on Friday: "Huge crowds already gathering in London for next Thursday's referendum...". But it may not be fanciful to suggest that there were two events taking place last week. One was a joyful, pluralist, even a touch ironic, celebration of modern Britishness; the other was a reassertion by the Establishment, with a clever curtsy to modernisation, of its supremacy. As John Rentoul suggests today, the mean-spirited refusal of the Royal Family to invite Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and the partisan failure of the Prime Minister to advise against it, suggested that, behind the facade of national unity, a Home Counties Tory elite is settling scores.

Despite his apparent enthusiasm for working in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, David Cameron sometimes shows signs of an underlying confidence that the pendulum has swung in the Conservatives' favour. He needs to guard against a Tory tribalism that seems to lurk just beneath his modernising surface.

It would be exaggerating to suggest that preferential voting would ensure an open, inclusive and co-operative political culture, and supporters of a Yes vote prefer not to rely on exaggeration and misinformation to woo a frankly apathetic electorate. But there can be no doubt, as Mr Cable suggests, that the conservative (or Conservative?) Establishment sees it that way. We believe that there is an association between the alternative vote and an attitude of mind that trusts and respects the voter.

The other clue as to the interests of the No campaign lies in the feebleness of the arguments against the alternative vote. It is "too complicated", they say, as if counting to six or seven, or even ordering six preferences, were beyond the capacity of the average voter. It is an alien system, they say, as if Australia were on Planet Gallifrey. It would give more than one vote to the supporters of minority parties, they say, as if people were unfamiliar with the idea of an eliminating ballot in which each voter is equal in each round.

We, the people, should not stand for these insults to our intelligence. Vote Yes for a modest improvement to our democracy on Thursday, that will give us more control, more choice, more of a say. And make it the last time that you vote with an X.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own