No to A-Wiedersehen, Pet

Posted on January 1, 2011

The debate over AV is a complex one – but it turns out that Auf Wiedersehen, Pet features probably the best, most concise argument against the proposed system.

The crew decided they want to paint their shed, but are unable to agree which colour. Eventually, they decided to vote on it – using a preferential system*….

The winning colour is yellow, which no-one actually wanted but won on second preferences – supposedly, “that’s democracy”. As Neville says, “Don’t talk bollocks, man.”

*(Before any electoral reform geeks go bonkers, yes I know they don’t use pure AV but instead use the Borda count system where you give 2 points to first preference and one point to second – but if they’d used pure AV they’d have got exactly the same result.)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Opinion, Politics, Videos, Westminster

14 Responses

  1. Duncan Stott:

    “if they’d used pure AV they’d have got exactly the same result” – Wrong!

    Yellow was nobody’s first choice, so it would have been knocked out in the 1st round under AV.

    24.01.2011 14:17 Reply

    • Mark Wallace:

      Fair point – unless, of course, there were other colours which got not votes but fewer second preferences than yellow. In that scenario (as in so many others), AV would allow Yellow to jump to be the winner.

      The basic critique still stands – that AV allows losers to beat candidates who more people actively and positively want.

      24.01.2011 14:45 Reply

      • Richard Gadsden:

        Wrong again. All the candidates with no first preferences would be eliminated, all together, before anything else is considered.

        This situation is one of the classic arguments used by supporters of Condorcet over AV actually – a candidate with wide, even majority, support but no first preferences (or, in a real election, very few) can’t stay in the election long enough for the second and third pferences to get transferred.

        For Condorcetians, the fact that AV can’t election something that is no-one’s first preference is one of their main complaints about the inadequacies of AV.

        So how would various systems resolve this:

        FPTP: chose one of the six at random.
        AV: Chose one of the six at random to lose; take that vote and switch it to it’s highest remaining preference (ie did it number one of the other five at all) – if not, then it’s non-transferable. Eliminate one of the four remaining with one vote and transfer to a second preference. If both transferred to the same colour, then it wins (3-1-1-1 will always win a tie on countbacks). Otherwise it’s 2-2-1-1; eliminate one of the two ones, … and you get the idea.
        Condorcet: Yellow wins because it can beat any other colour head-to-head
        Borda: That’s what they used; yellow wins.

        Any system will have a lot of ties with very small numbers of votes, and the only fair way to break ties is randomly.

        24.01.2011 18:07 Reply

  2. Jon Harvey:

    What this story does not show is what would have happened if they had used FPTP – which would have been complete impasse until, somewhat ironically, a coalition of the willing (or too bored to continue) emerged to create a result with one colour having one more vote than the nearest rival.

    Then everyone would have been happy then?!

    Or rather – this is just a story. You sound like my Mother who uses ‘Lord of the Flies’ to ‘prove’ what boys do if left alone. But both that book and this play are just a stories – not even real events – and certainly not a scientific study.

    In sum – this is a story – nothing more – nothing less. (A s-tory lie even?!)

    If #No2AV supporters are now resorting to using fiction to support their campaign for keeping FPTP – it just shows how shaky your arguments really are!

    Vote #yes2av – we have facts on our side!!

    24.01.2011 14:28 Reply

  3. Mark Thompson:

    I have had a crack at pointing out the flaws in your argument here Mark:

    Also, I conclude that far from showing FPTP to be better, your example actually shows it to be worse in cases like this with very closely tied results.

    24.01.2011 15:38 Reply

  4. Greg:

    If this is the best argument against AV then you have lost the intellectual argument!

    24.01.2011 16:42 Reply

    • markwallace:

      Forgive me for trying to introduce something different into what is set otherwise to be fairly tedious technocratic debate, Greg…

      24.01.2011 19:05 Reply

  5. Woodsy42:

    The humour is appreciated but I don’t get how this yellow shed compares to reality? More people voted for a Conservative government, the next biggest group voted Labour, a fairly small proportion voted liberal. What we got was a semi (and that’s being generous) conservative government with many liberal policies, these policies being ones that very few people voted for. I don’t get exactly how this is better than AV. in fact AV would at least allow us a second choice rather than having third choice policies thrust upon us!. I suppose the colour is appropriate anyhow.

    24.01.2011 20:57 Reply

  6. Matthew Huntbach:

    Here is another example of how those who oppose AV are innumerate, unable to understand or reason about even this very simple algorithm. If I had made a howling clanging error on history or literature, I’d have been shown up as a fool and madde to feel embarrassd about it – but make a howling clanging error on something mathematical, and you can carry on doing it confident in the knowledge that most people in our country, including most of the commentariat, are so innumerate that you can get away with it, and if anyone tries to prove them wrong, they’ll probably be told “get lost, we don’t want clever clogs like you”.

    If there’s one thing AV absolutely CANNOT do, it’s to return “everyone’s second choice”. The first candidate to be eliminated is the one with fewest first preferences, so even if that candidate had everyone’s second preferences, s/he’s not around to pick them up.

    Given theay it works, it’s fairly rare that AV would not return the same candidate as AV, and it would require extremely unsual circumstances for it ever to return the candidate placed as third on first preference votes alone – it wold only happen if there wre substantial numbers of votes for fourth and fifth etc placed candidates and most of them gave theier second preference to the initially third placed candidate.

    AV may have the same “rank in order of preference” way of marking the ballot NOTHING AT ALL LIKE THAT. To claim it’s essentially the same is, well either a lie or shows the person making the claim is very thick.

    24.01.2011 22:49 Reply

  7. Jim:

    Forgive if this is dim, but strangely enough I haven’t bothered spending a great deal of time studying voting systems!

    Does AV mean that only the second choices for the smaller parties get transferred? IE once you get down to a head to head contest, the one with the most votes wins? If this is the case surely this mean that most peoples second choice will never be used, because they voted for one of the 2 main candidates for the seat as their first choice. So some people get 2 votes and (most) only one?

    28.01.2011 20:46 Reply

    • Realpolitikblog:

      You can do a little reading on it here:

      It’s nothing to do with parties. It’s to do with candidates. If a candidate happens to get less first preference votes than the rest, then assuming their voters made other choices as well, those ‘preferences’ are redistributed to the remaining candidates until one candidate ends up with 50% of all preference votes.

      This doesn’t mean that people get more than one vote. It’s still one person one vote. The only difference is that if they have chosen to rank candidates, then their preferences are redistributed. The idea is to give people the opportunity to consider all available candidates and to have a hand in the final outcome, unlike the present system.

      13.04.2011 14:48 Reply

  8. Wrecking Balm Is For Sissys » Blog Archive » Paint and the Alternative Vote:

    […] clip from Auf Wiedersehen Pet has being doing the rounds sparked by a post from Mark Wallace where he claims that it shows how AV is not a good […]

    12.03.2011 17:34 Reply

  9. Electoral Anger « Decline of the Logos:

    […] interests become threatened. It is this, therefore, which lies at the root of the opposition of right-wing libertarians; to them, freedom is only something that is acceptable inasmuch as it does not […]

    19.04.2011 12:17 Reply

  10. Rosie OhDearism:

    You should DEFINITELY read this on Yes:

    Rosie, co-editor of OhDearism

    03.05.2011 20:50 Reply

Leave a Reply