Why John Healey is wrong on electoral reform: my letter in The Independent

Mark Pack's letter about John Healey in The IndependentLabour MP John Healey’s objection to lower transfers being counted under the Alternative Vote would be rather more convincing if that was not also the very system used by Labour to elect its leader.

Moreover, courtesy of the public data on how MPs voted in that contest, we know that he himself put more than one preference on his ballot paper and his vote transferred between candidates.

If it is ok for his vote to transfer in an election, why is it wrong for the rest of us?

Yours etc.

8 responses to “Why John Healey is wrong on electoral reform: my letter in The Independent”

  1. Maybe he thinks the same as many Lib Dems used to. That AV is fine or electing a single individule, but electing a parliament is different. This repeated argument is so unbelievably tired. The ideological or philosophical difference between two candidates for a party leader is never anything like the difference between two parliamentary candidates, your argument falls apart here.

    • Nathan: That would be a fair point *if* John Healey had been making an argument just about the use of AV in a specific context. But he wasn’t – he was making an argument that having preferential voting is wrong in principle because (he claimed) it gives some voters more power than others. That’s an argument of principle which applies just as much whatever the context in which AV is used.

  2. A cheap point, I think.

    Maybe he does not agree with the system – but (rationally) feels that if he finds himself voting in an election under AV, he’d be daft not to avail himself of all the vote(s) he has. If others have “multiple” votes in that election, why should he be disadvantaged?

    I say this as someone who is undecided on how I will vote in the referendum.

  3. What a terrible argument.

    Playing along with the rules of the game despite the fact that one may disagree with some of the rules of that game isn’t being hypocritical, it’s being a realist.

    On this logic, I presume you voted in the last general election by ranking all the candidates and hence spoiling your ballot paper rather than simply putting an X in front of your preferred candidate as the rules of the election would suggest.

    • Ric: The difference is that I’ve not found any examples of John Healey (or his fellow anti-AV MPs) protesting against the use of preferential voting when Labour has reviewed / changed its leadership election rules in the past, nor when preferential voting was introduced for select committee elections and other elections, and so on… In other words, he’s not objected to it on plenty of occasions when the same arguments he’s used should still have applied. That’s the hypocrisy – objecting to it in one situation for reasons that should apply to other situations where he’s not objected to it.

  4. Hang on Mark – it’s hypocrisy if you don’t make the same point at every available opportunity? Maybe the man was a bit busy, I dunno, being Financial Secretary to the Treasury? Just a thought.

    Secondly, I’m sure your tentacles reach far and wide, but I doubt you’re party to a lot of internal Labour Party deliberations either to say for sure the man’s a hypocrite.

    Thirdly, you’re playing the man not the ball. I notice you don’t question his argument at all.

    Oh Christ am I turning into one of those ranty people in the comments sections of blogs? Argh!

    • Ric: Certainly I wouldn’t expect someone to make the point at *every* opportunity, but I’d expect it at least a few times. So as for the details of why I’ve judged him in this way – I’ve read the debates and looked at the voting lists for when Parliament has introduced preferential voting of one form or another into its own affairs (Speaker, select committees). These are public documents – and my reason for looking was to see if people who object to preferential voting on principle for public elections apply those same objections in other places where the same principle would apply.

      As for Labour’s internal decisions – there’s been a fair amount of media coverage (if you follow niche political media :-)) about them, including for example Labour NEC members talking in public – and I’ve also chatted to Labour figures about this. Over several years the picture has been the same – preferential voting being uncontroversial or welcomed for Labour’s own processes. I’m still keeping my eyes open for any contrary evidence of the sort you suggest, but yet to find any after several years of looking…!

      (As for playing man vs ball – there’s a limit to how much can fit in a letter 🙂 But if you look at some of my other posts, you’ll see stuff on the substance too.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.