AV: The foundling of British Electoral Reform

So who wants AV (Alternative Vote) – this pathetic unloved low-fat wilted fig-leaf attempting to cover the embarrassment that is our first-past-the-post voting system?

  • Not the Conservatives – they may be whipped to support the referendum bill as part of the coalition agreement but will campaign against change.
  • Not the Liberal Democrats – they want STV – proper full-fat reform.
  • Not the Labour Party – although it was in their manifesto.
  • Not the Nationalists – because they object to the timing!

I seriously doubt that (if passed) it will make much difference.  In the highly tribal seats where the sitting MP has more than 50% support already, the minority will continue to be disenfranchised.  Even where the ruling party has less than 50% support, it probably won’t make much difference.  Let’s consider the possibilities (in an English “three-way” election):

  1. Conservatives first, Labour second, Liberals third.  There is a good chance that the Liberal second preferences will split between the Conservatives and Labour and therefore be unlikely to make a difference.
  2. Labour first, Conservatives second, Liberals third.  Similar situation to above.
  3. Liberals first, Conservatives second, Labour third.  Would Labour second preferences really put the Conservatives in – in preference to the Liberals?
  4. Liberals first, Labour second, Conservatives third.  Again would the Conservatives put Labour in – in preference to the Liberals?
  5. Conservatives first, Liberals second, Labour third.  Here, if sufficient Labour supporters actually express second preferences, it could make a difference.
  6. Labour first, Liberals second, Conservatives third.  Again, if sufficient Conservative supporters express second preferences, it could again make a difference.

In four-way elections it might initially be thought to make a difference – particularly if the fourth candidate is “a maverick” (who might be encouraged to stand – where under FPTP (first past the post) he might not – for fear of “splitting the vote”) – in that the maverick will not cause an upset because when he comes last his vote is likely to be transfered “home”.  This will just be restoring the status quo – the situation where the maverick does not stand.

The real danger of the referendum being passed is that many people will think, “well we had reform, and it has not made any difference, now I really am alienated from the system – to hell with the lot of them“, and there will be no pressure for real reform.

The real danger of the referendum not being passed is that people will think “well reform was offered and the British people decided they did not want it – case closed“.

I suspect the later is what will happen.  Congratulations, Cleggy; that will be game set and match to the conservatives (whether in the Conservative party or the Labour party).

I want a system were we can express a meaningful preference for our representatives and the vast majority of us will know that our vote has had an impact.  I feel so depressed.

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