The No campaign’s silly sporting analogies treat the public like fools

Will Durnan takes on and takes apart the silly sporting analogies put about by No2AV by their rag tag band of sports "stars".

By Will Durnan

On Wednesday No to AV promoted the wide variety of sporting “stars” backing their campaign. At first glance the decision to use former Conservative Parliamentary candidate Alex Story and Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s nephew, Charles Lawrence Somerset Clarke, masquerading as the nation’s greatest athletes seemed rather confusing.

However, No to AV’s objective soon became clear: to use spurious sporting comparisons to highlight the alleged faults of the Alternative Vote system. The advantage of such analogies is that they are easy to understand for those members of the public who are not subscribers to Amateur Psephologist Weekly. The problem is that they are highly inaccurate and highly misleading.

Take cricket for example, the sport from which the contributors were recognisable enough that No to AV was prepared to put them on camera. Ex-England captain David Gower states:

“Let me put it as simply as this, in cricket… you just get one go and that’s it.”

Whilst another former international, Darren Gough, adds:

“When I played cricket… you didn’t get a second chance, so why should it be any different in politics?”

Seems sensible enough, let’s stick with the current system. Except it’s not that simple in politics, nor in fact is it in cricket. What Gower and Gough neglect to mention is that in a Test match each team gets two innings to establish a total of runs from which the winner is decided. Furthermore, supremacy is only established over a series of several matches.

Perhaps Gough longs for cricket to be more like First Past the Post. Were Test results based purely of the first innings of the first match he would be able to treasure his memories of triumphantly regaining the Ashes in 1997; alas, the Yorkshireman only has four separate failed attempts to win the famous urn to look back on.

From the world of Formula One, Sir Frank Williams, Eddie Jordan and Ron Dennis put the case for a No vote with arguments such as:

“In an election, as in a motor race, the competitor who comes in first should be victorious.”

Again, sounds reasonable, until you examine the sport with which the comparison is made. The Formula One World Championship is decided over several races and a driver who performs consistently well throughout the season can end it as world champion despite winning fewer Grand Prix than their rivals.

Lewis Hamilton, for example, pipped Felipe Massa to the 2008 title even though the Brit topped the podium five times to the Brazilian’s six. Following this result F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone proposed a change to a system which closer resembled FPTP where the winner of the most races collects the championship. Yet this system was rejected with with Jordan one of its most vocal opponents.

Presumably the Irishman thinks what isn’t good enough for Formula One is good enough to decide a country’s government. Such logic begs the question of whether he’s been spending too much time around petrol fumes.

Indeed, Jordan is far from the only sportsperson lacking in reasoning. Rowing has heats before a final decides who gets the gold, as does athletics. In boxing a victor emerges at the end of a fight who may have trailed at the end of the first round. The most accurate analogy No to AV puts forward is that of horse racing, unsurprising given that it is from this sport that FPTP takes its name.

Despite this, one suspects even Sam Waley-Cohen’s horse could have provided a more well considered comment than the jockey and royal matchmaker. Quote of the article was reserved for the Tory Story however:

“I went to the Olympic Games and I lost, but my time as an athlete was not wasted. I took part, I’m still very proud of it, and our political system must reflect the same thing: there has to be a winner, there has to be a loser.”

Unfortunately for Story, after two failed election bids it seems usually that loser is him. This blogger will be hoping it’s a tradition that continues with the referendum on May 5th.

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