Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Whoa, Manchester

In today's column, Polly Toynbee writes:

Labour rules on the mandate of just a quarter of the electorate.

Would that it were a quarter of the electorate, in fact it is comfortably below (source).

And rules? Rules? I thought they governed.


His good idea this week has been devolving within Whitehall - at last creating a sensible divide between the board (ministers) setting the direction and the executive (trained professionals) running things.

Make that last week.


There is no reason not to start by introducing the alternative vote right away - giving voters the right to place their preferences in 1,2,3 order instead of an X. [...] Jack Straw, Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn are among diverse recent alternative-vote converts.

There is a very good reason -- it is called Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, which proves that no voting system which relies on ranked preferences can produce a fair result if there are more than two options (the original article was published in the Journal of Political Economy in 1950). The Alternative Vote system (aka Instant-runoff voting) has a number of flaws -- e.g. it is possible for Candidate 1 to be elected even if a majority of voters prefer Candidate 2 to Candidate 1 (see the wikipedia page on Alternative Vote for more detail). Now, this doesn't mean we shouldn't introduce AV, but it does show that it is flawed, it is one of several necessarily flawed alternatives, and we need to work out what problem we're trying to solve before introducing something "right away".

And since when were three middle-aged white men considered diverse?

1 comment:

Tristan said...

Of course it is also not sensible to have the 'trained professionals' running things.

What is needed is for the ministers and the professionals to be held to account for their actions and openess about what they do. But that would detract from her big strong viking and people might realise that the truth isn't what she says...