What with all this voting we’ve been doing recently it’s only natural we’d be interested in this here referendum. We have here a chance to tweak an electoral system that doesn’t exactly do its utmost to represent the people, a system that throws their votes away, a system that David Dimbleby himself has probably described as “a bit cack”. And in AV we have a solution that would solve very few but not many of the many problems that need to be solved. Hooray!

The Alternative Vote system would demand MPs have the backing of at least 50 percent of their constituents and allow voters to rank their preferred candidates while ignoring the ones they wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot democracy pole. There are, of course, two sides to this referendum: the Yes camp and the No camp and it’s up to yer man The Zero to find out which is the right camp in which to pitch our tents. The tents are a metaphor; I’m talking about our votes. It’s also up to you to find out where your vote’s going because if we’re not an informed electorate then, dammit, we’re just shaved apes flinging crosses into boxes like unshaved apes flinging poo into the eyes of Sir David Attenborough. The poo is a metaphor; I can’t remember what for, though. It might be our votes again. I’m losing track of things here.

I’m naturally sceptical of the No camp given it’s led by the Tories, the way one would be naturally sceptical of an alligator suggesting the most efficient way to relive its itchy tongue would be for you to scratch it with your face, or of a malignant tumour suggesting you just put it up for a night or two in one of your lungs or to the left of that ovary or nestled somewhere between your balls. The Tories have been saying no to all kinds of good things since first they emerged from Satan’s bumhole and you don’t get much in the way of credibility on electoral reform when you’ve already said no to votes for the middle class, then for the working class and then for women. You’re more likely to get a reputation for being a bunch of backward-looking naysayers, this being just the latest example of your saying nay.

It would be unfair, however, to dismiss the No camp simply for being stupid. We have to keep an open mind and look instead at what they’re saying at this particular point in time. Besides, it’s not just the Tories in the No camp; they also have the BNP. Their reasons, then: it would let the loser win, it would be expensive to introduce, it’s complicated and it would mean more backroom haggling to form coalitions, the kind of backroom haggling Nick Clegg thinks about while feasting on our young. None of that does much for me. It’s not that the loser will win but that the winner will be the person most people are willing to elect, the current voting system was expensive to set up and an improvement would be money well spent, I think I can cope with ranking a few politicians because I’m not a complete moron, and a coalition or two might kill off the over-simplification and hyperbole that tends to accompany the opening of a politician’s mouth.

As for the Yes camp, they say MPs would have to appeal to a broader range of people to secure the approval of 50 percent of them, that voters would be able to express preference beyond their first choice, that it would end the need for tactical voting and would rattle complacent MPs who don’t need to do much to stay in safe seats. That’s more my kind of thing. It seems silly to pretend that one party is perfect while all the others smell of poo when we can rank them instead, saying Party A is our fave rave, Party B would be ok, Party C isn’t half bad and Party D is a bunch of backward-looking naysayers. That feels more like a real life decision to me.

In short, I’m voting yes for an imperfect solution to a big, long-standing problem in the hope it leads to a better solution to what will then be a lesser, less-long-standing problem. If they’d picked that as the campaign slogan maybe they’d be winning this thing…

Photo credit: Um… Democracy?