Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Independent Non-Sequiturs

The front page of the Independent today contains the sort of article which really irritates me. I support their campaign for voting reform. I think it's self-evidently wrong that a voting system where some votes are almost totally irrelevant continues to remain in existence. But today, their headline - The proof: Vote Reform will boost turnout - is based on pretty flimsy evidence.

Yes, there appears to be a correlation between various systems of PR and higher turnout. But that is the only evidence presented for the case. There are a host of other factors at play here - the fact that a political class appears to be developing; the unnecessarily hostile and adversarial style of all political parties (yes, that includes you, Liberal Democrats); and the fact that the country at the moment is doing rather well, and so there isn't any anger or perception of a need for change.

It could be argued that PR would change some of these things - in particular the adversarial style of politics, as compromise would become more necessary, in contrast to the entirely disproportionate majorities that are currently racked up by parties with just 35% of the vote. But again, the article does not make that argument. It throws two sets of facts together and presents them as an unassailable conclusion.

I'm all for making arguments as simple as possible. But not so simple that they are threadbare and undeveloped. Arguments should be expressed in the simplest means possible that does not undermine the original message. Weak supporting evidence does undermine that message. If that is the best they can manage, the Independent today has left me feeling the case for PR is actually much weaker than I thought.