As tall orders go, this was a biggie. A friend asked me to come to a dinner party at her house and explain the Alternative Vote to her friends. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" I asked, not wanting to send everyone to sleep over their lasagne.You can read the rest of Melissa Kite's column here.
She assured me that it was, that people desperately wanted to understand AV and the issues at stake in the forthcoming referendum on voting reform, so she was organising an AV dinner party and I was the star turn.
That it should come to this is a pretty pass. David Cameron landed us with this referendum. I know he had to offer it to Nick Clegg as the price of entering into a coalition. But to leave the country flailing around in a miasma of confusion and apathy about it is a bit much. And it's a total cheek that I now have to work overtime to explain it.
In the interests of being a good citizen, however, I turned up at my friend's Belgravia town house with a pile of notes and sat down to dinner with a table full of people hungry for enlightenment.
As the main course got under way, I began my talk. I explained that AV was currently used only in Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea. "What?" one of the guests virtually screamed. "How come we haven't been told that before?"
I explained that AV was used in the Labour leadership election, which resulted in Ed Miliband being elected after his brother David led the voting for the first three rounds. "What?" another of the guests shouted, all but spitting pasta out of the side of her mouth in outrage. "Why weren't we told that?"
I explained that AV meant ranking all the candidates in order of preference, if you wanted to, or just choosing one if you preferred. "What?" someone shrieked, "but that's stupid. How on earth does it work?"
Time for my pièce de résistance. I handed out Post-it notes and invited the eight diners to say what they wanted for pudding by ranking five options in order of preference: ice cream, cake, cheese, fruit and chocolates.
Everyone went quiet and dutifully filled out their ballot card.
I confess I then spent the next hour trying to work out the result. It nearly fried my brains but I got there in the end. After eliminating fruit in the first round and redistributing its votes, then the same with ice cream, then cake, then chocolates, the winner emerged as cheese, which had been the first choice of just three people.
Interestingly, those who put cheese second were the most aggrieved. "That's not fair," said one, "I didn't really want cheese." I guess that's AV for you.
Monday, April 04, 2011
Alternative Vote for an Alternative Pudding (The one you don't want).
Melissa Kite in the Telegraph has written a wonderful piece about AV and using AV to choose puddings at a dinner party. It sums it up really: