Thursday sees the national referendum on the alternative vote.
So far I have seen little discussion amongst Anarchists and libertarians about this. In a way that is not surprising. The precise nature of the franchise arguably matters little if you disagree with representative democracy. I still believe I am worth more than being consulted by politicians every five years or so. Nor I am under any illusions that in a general election my vote matters - the three main parties agree on far more than they disagree (consider the royal wedding we have just seen, and the millions of Republicans who's views are ignored by all the big political parties) whilst the minor parties are usually minor for very good reasons. Choosing someone, anyone to 'represent' my views is in practice a nonsense, especially when I am more than capable of articulating those views myself. The problem is no one in authority will ever listen!
Of the Anarchist comments I have seen, Sabcat Publishing have come out against AV, largely because of the damage a No vote would do to the Liberal Democrats. To my surprise, a discussion on the Anarchist Studies Network email list appeared slightly in favour, on the grounds that the abolition of first past the post system would damage overtly competitive politics, and bring in elements of consensus. That is precisely why I will be voting No on Thursday. It is consensus politics that I fear most.
Consensus politics takes the decision making process even further away from the man in the street. It takes politics even deeper behind closed doors. With the current system, parties stand on a manifesto. They may, or may not, implement that manifesto in office. If they do not, as the Lib Dems have found out, voters can turn on them. Consensus, and the increased number of coalitions that will inevitably follow, further blurs the commitments politicians make, and make it even harder to hold them to account. AV gives them more excuses, and they have more than enough already.
Back in 2007, I attended the Green Party England and Wales conference in Swansea. It was a profoundly depressing experience. The Greens modernising wing, who had long called for the Greens to be a 'proper' party, with a proper leader, were in the ascendancy. Looking at the individuals there, I could just as easily have been at a meeting of the Labour party in Hackney, or even some Conservative party branches in the Cameron era. Lots of intelligent 30 or 40 somethings, uniformly middle class, uniformly university educated, and all people who's work experience appeared to be solely in politics. There was a polite mixture of genders, sexualities and ethnicities. Only the working class appeared absent.
It is no surprise that the Greens have been some of the keenest campaigners for the alternative vote, even performing the remarkable gymnastics that AV will somehow benefit them, but not other minor parties such as the BNP. They seem to have missed the fact that an informed racist could simply vote BNP first, UKIP second and Conservative third, as a flat vote in constituencies across the land. Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, will.
The reason the Greens are so comfortable with the prospect of AV however, is they know full well they can do business with the thirty and forty somethings in the Labour, Lib Dem and Tory parties. They know how easily they all get on - as they are part of the same political class. This class may not be as overt or unpleasant as the Bullingdon Club circles of the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London, but it is a distinct class all the same - and one that is far removed from the day to day experiences of most people.
I shall deal them a blow on Thursday by voting No2AV. My vote may not make the situation any better. But it will not make the situation any worse. Sometimes that is the best we, as Anarchists, can do.