Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 17 March 2011

If Cameron can't explain AV his education was wasted #Yes2AV

Something in David Cameron's anti-AV speech a few weeks back stood out for me:

It's not my job to tell you exactly how the system works - that's for the 'yes' campaign to explain.

But even if it was my job, I'll be honest with you, I don't think I could.

David Cameron got a first class honours degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University. He was taught by Vernon Bogdanor, one of the UK's foremost experts on constitutional matters. It seems rather implausible that someone could get that qualification, from that university and then not be able to explain how a relatively simple electoral system works (there are far more complicated ones out there).

One of the things that has happened in the last few decades in political life is that the upper echelons of all the main political parties have become disproportionately filled with people who have been down the Oxbridge PPE route and/or those who have been political bag carriers. Whilst I am very unhappy with this, one consolation is that at the very least they should all be fully aware of things like political and electoral systems and be able to communicate this information to the electorate. After all, being a good communicator is one of the most fundamental skills a politician needs.

So for Cameron to blithely claim he is not able to explain AV suggests one of two things to me. Either he is not being honest, or his extremely privileged education was wasted on him.


Lorna Spenceley said...

And of course AV was broadly the system that elected him to his current position. Jeez!

oneexwidow said...

I think it must be the former - that's certainly what I thought when I saw it.

Hugh said...

Hard to credit the No campaign with much understanding when they claimed the support of 114 Labour MPs, then 109, and now, after adding 3 new ones, only 103.

Matthew Huntbach said...

Yes, it's astonishing how much of the anti-AV campaign amounts to "duh, I'm thick, I don't understand all this maths stuff".

Now one might think, for a leading political figure, to admit "simple maths is beyond me" (in effect what he is saying) would be devastating. Imagine Cameron had said "I find reading difficult, long words are too much for me to cope with". He'd cause himself enormous damage, wouldn't he?

It's perhaps an indication of why this country is in a mess that leading figures seem proud to boast of being innumerate. In this country we massively over-value some skills (essentially bull-shitting skills) and massively under-value other skills (those involving maths and logic). That is why we have a country run by bull-shitters, and our main growth industry is bull-shit. Engineering and things which involve real maths skills are going down the pan. The sort of maths the finance industry uses is mainly bull-shit, which is why people paid millions yearly for their supposed skills could not see the economic crash of 2008 coming.

Now, the Yes-to-AV campaign faces a big problem here. Many of the No-to-AV arguments are absurd, illogical and innumerate, but will we be able to get support by demonstrating this? I fear the No-to-AV campaign have actually worked out that the anti-maths feeling in this country is so strong that "duh this maths stuff is hard" will win them votes, while any attempt by Yes-to-AV to use maths and logic will fail because No-to-AV will reply with "Duh, no-one likes clever clogs people who are good at maths" and in fact will drown out the logical arguments in favour of AV by shouting this out.

We need only look at elections in the USA where it seems being stupid or giving the impression of being stupid wins you votes, whereas being intelligent or giving the impression of being intelligent loses you votes. George Bush II played on this enormously well, for example.

MorningTory said...

The actualy voting system is relatively simple, yes, but you know perfectly well that the outcome is somewhat less easy to fathom out? Hello! Montonocity fail! AV fail.

Mark Thompson said...


So you are honestly telling me that you think it is beyond the wit of our Prime Minister to explain how you total up all the first preferences and then transfer the next available preferences from the candidate with the lowest total in each round until one candidate has 50% or more of the preferences?

asquith said...

Camoron (like a lot of other pols) is quite a big fan of false modesty, by all accounts. The fact that he tells a sympathetic audience he can't understand AV doesn't mean that he actually can't, it just means that he wants them to know he shares their fear of big, scary words and complicaed arguments of the kind that only queers make.

It becomes more a case of a certain culture, in which being too clever by half or a bit of an oddity is frowned upon, and pols have to feign interest in the sort of things they think Joe Sixpack likes.