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A neo-Londoner, who silently longs for his native countryside. Beau, beau, beau et con à la fois.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The post that started it all off.

For someone so opinionated (and such a fan of the social networking revolution generally), it's odd that I've avoided blogging. Perhaps I was concerned that my inability to actually write compelling sentences would cast my secret wish to write a piece of literary fiction into the bin of 'never in a million years'.

In 2005, my friends and I were some of the first British facebook guinea pigs, and I feel like my temperament has suited the short and sharp kind of real-time social commentary that I've subsequently grown up with. I can do quick and easy wit (she’s got a sharp tongue on her) but as of yet I don't have any idea if I can hold attention across paragraphs. Time to try, I suppose.

Why else am I blogging now, at 25, nearly five years after I moved to London from Cambridge to seek my fortune, only to discover that presidency of a student drama society didn’t place me on an equal level to Ban Ki-Moon, and that as amazing as it was, directing a musical which featured a flying scaffolding bridge didn't automatically warrant a high flying job, a steady income, or the respect of the inhabitants of world's greatest city?

[Yes, I know that's a cumbersome sentence, and I apologise if you gave up halfway through. Also, on the subject of the flying bridge, I may blog about that soon, with pictures; I expect about 65% of this blog to be nostalgia.]

Well, basically, opinion is a complex thing (obviously) and 140 characters is not enough space within which to express it. Also, my friends don't want me to fill their precious pub-time with oration - they've not said as much, but the last time it happened, eyes were frantically diverted to i-phones, and coats were put on in an attempt to cut me off.

That particular speech was on the Alternative Vote, and my perhaps surprising objection to it. I am a Social Democrat, attracted to portions of Liberalism, but generally positive about the potential good of a strong state. I'm also in favour of electoral reform more broadly, but have several fundamental objections to the Alternative Vote, which I decided to lay out on my facebook profile. Here is the post itself:

If you want electoral reform, and truly fair voting, don't vote 'yes' to a system where the range of opinions expressed on ballot papers are not counted uniformly across all voters.
If AV is introduced, at the next General Election, if you are in the majority of 1st preference voters (i.e. if most people in your constituency agree with you on your 1st choice) any range of opinion expressed on your ballot will more than likely not be counted. You might really like your second choice; it might have been a really close call between 2 and 3. Doesn't matter. It will happen many times that the candidate with the most 1st preferences will lead throughout the counting, and end up reaching 50% first.
Other citizens, however, may see their 2nd, 3rd, 4th preferences influencing the outcome. Someone who votes for the Monster Raving Loony Party as number 1, for example, will then have their ballot looked at more closely, and the subtlety of their political opinion registered. Why should anybody else (no matter what their political opinion) have their range of opinion taken into account, and yours not?
That is not fair.
Yes First Past the Post is crap, but so is AV.
At least with FPTP we have equality of crap.

Reading it back, I'm quite embarrassed by how campaign-speech it is (I use all the tricks for ‘argumentative writing’ we learned in GCSE English language). I was, I think you can tell, frustrated that the 'No' campaign didn't seem to be making this quite crucial argument; a crucial element of the ‘fairness’ debate that was left out of most campaign literature, as far as I could tell.

After I posted it, I was ‘blown away’, as they say, by the response: nearly 30 comments from friends (most of them derogatory, admittedly); several people I very rarely speak to 'sharing' it on their profile; people bringing it up at work; referencing it in blogs, on twitter. How cool to think that I had sparked debate across social medialand! Perhaps the time had come to use my own time to put finger to keyboard, allowing my friends to read my opinions when they had time or inclination to*.

So, that's why I'm writing this blog. One: because people seem to have some kind of reaction to what I say and two: to try and put to bed my secret ambition to write a novel.

*NB I desperately hope that any friends reading this don't misunderstand me – please don’t stop trying to put the world to rights with me in pubs, restaurants, and front rooms. It is perhaps my greatest pleasure, I just don’t want to fill all your time with it.    

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