October 22, 2012 5 Comments
Something called the Supplementary Vote will be used for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections on November 15 here in Essex, and for every Police authority. This presents me with a dilemma.
Firstly, let me briefly explain how the Supplementary Vote works. The ballot paper will have two columns, one for your first preference, the other for your second preference. Each column should be marked with a single cross against the candidate of your choice. The lowest polling candidates will be eliminated (from bottom to top) and their second preferences re-allocated until a single candidate passes the 50% plus one mark.
The Supplementary Vote, whilst not a perfect method, is far superior to First Past The Post, and therefore is a welcome improvement. As an electoral reformer this pleases me, and this is one reason why I will be casting a second preference.
There will be many Labour supporters who will only cast their first preferences; the argument running that we should be in the top two and therefore our second preferences are irrelevant. There is also the view amongst some of my friends that only Labour presents a viable home for one’s vote.
A look at who is standing in Essex shows the dilemma for me. There are six candidates, and Labour will be joined on the ballot paper by a Conservative, someone from UKIP, the English Democrats, and two Independents. No other progressives – no Green or Liberal Democrat (I realise that describing them as progressive somewhat flies in the face of their role in Government).
Aside from the considerations surrounding electoral reform and my view that I must support it, and therefore fully use the opportunities it presents, there is a more pressing reason to cast that second preference – the presence of an extremist on the ballot paper.
The English Democrats provide a home nowadays for BNP supporters who have fled that party in the wake of its recent internal divisions. The English Democrats have effectively become an incarnation of the BNP, and their website, literature and candidates in my corner of Essex are indistinguishable from the BNP of a few years back.
The English Democrat candidate must not sneak in the back door. This will be a low turnout election, and extremists are usually more motivated as voters. I would hope that the Labour candidate would win out, but in the eventuality that Labour fail to succeed then anyone will be better than the English Democrat candidate.
The crux of the dilemma is this: I will have five choices for my second preference. The English Democrats are on the far right, so no chance. I cannot support UKIP, who whilst not extreme as the English Democrats, are to the right of the Tories. I have an abiding distrust of Independents. And then there are the Conservatives, a party I have spent more than forty years campaigning against.
Thank goodness it is a secret ballot.