Alternative Vote Explained

I thought that AV (‘Alternative Voting’) was a clever idea. Unfortunately, it was too clever. Its failure was as predictable as its defeat was resounding.

Its demise was a case book illustration of the themes in my pieces on ‘Black Boxes’. The world has become too complex for most citizens to understand. Without understanding, there is no trust. And without trust, there is no change. AV made the ‘ballot box’ a ‘black box.’

Much as a number of cute, kindergarten level YouTube videos tried to dumb down the basic concepts, most voters were either lost or bored in the first 30 seconds…and those were the leading edge block who could be bothered to even consider exploring the issue (actually, most were probably lost at the 7 second mark with the ‘FPTPFTW’ acronym).

Stephen Fry was absolutely the worst person to be supporting and evangelizing AV. Despite his patronisingly simplistic language, his implicit message was still ‘you need a brain the size of a planet – like mine – to understand this stuff’. The AV folks would have fared much better with Kerry Katona as their spokesperson. Anthony Smith had a nice piece ‘How Complicated is the Alternative Vote’ which tried to paint the status quo as more complicated, but it simply didn’t accurately reflect how the majority really thought about the voting process.

Much as the proposed AV system has lots of clever benefits to allow for broader representation and more accurate reflection of political will, it suffered the killer flaw – complexity. The last thing the world needs is a more complicated political process. Remember Colin Powell’s sage words, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers.” To the degree that AV did not simplify things was its failure of leadership.

The situation reminded me of time when all of the high IQ people at Microsoft were at a meeting toiling over a problem. People were trying to outdo each other with the cleverness of their proposed solutions when the particularly insightful executive in charge said, “The last thing I need right now is another f***ing good idea!”

That’s kind of AV and its demise in a nutshell…’another f***ing good idea.’