Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Support AV to stop the chartists

I’m completely in favour of changing to the Alternative Vote system (in which you number the candidates in order of preference, and then the candidate with the fewest first preferences gets their votes shifted on to the second choices, and so on until someone has a majority of the vote).

Whether more proportional reforms than that might be a good idea I’m less sure, but AV clearly has a few things going for it:

It’s easy to introduce. You don’t need any changes to constituency boundaries or new types of MP. You just have to print the ballot papers a bit differently and spend longer counting them.

It keeps the link between an MP and a local constituency as clear as it is already.

It means that no MP will get elected without having some degree of endorsement from the majority of people voting.

It puts an end to the concepts of a ‘wasted vote’ and of tactical voting – or rather, it institutionalises the latter. If one of the no-hoper minor parties is your favourite, you can put them first and then pick between the likelier winners with your other preferences.

And that, in turn, means an end to those god-awful dodgy bar charts on election leaflets (I’m looking at you, Clegg) trying to prove that ‘in Burblington South it’s a straight fight between X and Y’ or ‘Z can’t win in Gurnchester – only X can keep Y out!’

Surely it’s worth it for that alone.

1 comment:

Neil Harding said...

As a first step, AV is a baby step in the right direction - which is better than nothing and something all us reformers can agree upon.

The problem is, a referendum on this is just asking a big question about a little answer. It does nothing to address the underlying problems of safe seats and disproportionality.

Would anyone think it fair if UKIP who came second had won no MEPs in the latest election and Labour who came third got plenty of MEPs? Because that is what would have happened under first-past-the-post. UKIP would have got 100 MPs and the Greens 60 under PR, but zero under FPTP and zero under AV.

Yes any party that can get a million votes will get MPs and MEPs under PR, including the BNP. But isn't the problem that the BNP can get a million votes, not that they get a few MPs or MEPs. The price for gerrymandering the BNP under the carpet is to also deny democracy to many millions of other voters. That is clearly unacceptable.

If we can't agree on PR, lets at least agree on the need for a referendum on whether we should have a proper proportional system. If people reject PR in a referendum then maybe we reformers will shut up. But if you never let the people decide, we most certainly will not shut up.