Devil’s Advocate: Should Britain adopt the alternative vote?

2

Yes

With the alternative vote (AV) referendum due to be held in May, the British public will be given the chance to make a progressive change in the way members are elected to the House of Commons.

The AV is already used in the local elections in Scotland and in the London mayoral elections. First-past-the-post (FPTP) is a broken system that does not reflect the true will of the people, rendering vast hordes of votes ineffective.

Although the AV referendum has presented us with a narrow choice between two majoritarian systems, a ‘yes’ vote in May would bring a necessary improvement to our democracy and secure a step towards a fairer, more proportional system in the future.

One of the main points put forward by NOtoAV advocates is that FPTP maintains a strong link between the MP and his/her constituency.

However, there is no indication that the AV system would damage this. On the contrary, it is argued that AV would improve this link, with voters feeling they have played a role in electing their MP.

The AV is not the miracle cure that some of its proponents claim it to be. It will not, for example, rid us of safe seats and jobs for life. However, a system in which prospective MPs have to secure some sort of support from at least half of the voters in their constituency encourages parties to engage with a more diverse cross section of society.

The AV would also help solve FPTP’s inability to provide each voter with the same power. The large discrepancies in the true value of a person’s vote would thus be greatly reduced.

The NOtoAV campaign has claimed that the AV would cost £250m, a figure that not only includes the cost of the referendum itself, but also a sum of £120m for electronic counting machines which no relevant authority has stated as being required. Australia, the main comparable country that uses AV, does not use counting machines.

The main points put forward in favour of FPTP can be debunked easier than those for AV. Change begets change. The AV is a small step in the right direction, but a necessary step.

H.A. Ahmed

No

The alternative vote is a funk, a gigantic fraud; everybody knows it, especially politicians.

If you really want a system that Nick Clegg called a “miserable little compromise,” one that Gordon Brown spent his whole career fighting against until cornered at last year’s election, and that only three countries in the entire world think is sensible, then fine; vote ‘yes’ on May 5. But I don’t.

Think it will bring more representation and more balanced parliaments? Think again. The last investigation into electoral reform concluded that the AV would be less proportional and less fair, producing one of two unappetizing outcomes: an even larger majority for the winning party than they would presently enjoy, or a coalition.

Fringe parties would get an opportunity they have so far rightly been denied; do you want the BNP to be elected as they were to the European Parliament under this system?

Do you think it’s fair that someone’s second, third, fourth or even fifth preference vote would be worth the same as your first preference?

Perhaps you dream of eternal coalitions with Nick Clegg installed as permanent Deputy PM. But for anyone angry at the hike in tuition fees, something expressly promised wouldn’t happen, think of this: the almost continual coalitions produced by AV would mean more broken promises and backroom deals. Policies could be instantly dropped because they had to ‘compromise’.

Proponents of AV argue that MPs would have to work harder to secure the votes of more constituents, and that there would be no safe seats. This nonsense is exposed by examining the current election results: large numbers of MPs already secure over 50% of the vote, and they would all remain completely unaffected by a change to AV. Reform would do nothing to solve this.

So I say, “stick to your guns, Gordon and Nick.” You were right all along; the referendum on May 5 is ludicrous. The reforms would be half-baked and election outcomes more unfair. Don’t make it easier for politicians,: vote no to AV so that when a politician promises something, it’s much harder for him to ‘compromise’.

Lucy Pawle

2 COMMENTS

  1. also, the AV system will result in far more likely coalition governments, which in itself is a bad thing. the experts say that it will be mostly no, judging by the appeal of the royal wedding suggesting brits dislike change, and that labour will be worrying if God is a conservative!

  2. “… and that only three countries in the entire world think is sensible”

    Very few countries around the world have equality of homosexual and heterosexual marriages. Simply because few places have implemented it does not make it backwards.

    “The last investigation into electoral reform concluded that the AV would be less proportional and less fair, producing one of two unappetizing outcomes: an even larger majority for the winning party than they would presently enjoy, or a coalition.”

    This is nonsensical. The alternative vote will apparently either increase or decrease a majority. These two contradictory statements are very strange, and do not pose an argument against FPTP. At the next election, there will be either an increase or decrease in the current majority, barring some unlikely results.

    “Fringe parties would get an opportunity they have so far rightly been denied; do you want the BNP to be elected as they were to the European Parliament under this system?”

    The BNP were elected under a Closed Party list form of proportional representation, not under AV. Under AV, they would have to have gained over 50% of the vote. If anything, AV makes radical fringe parties less likely to get into power.

    “Do you think it’s fair that someone’s second, third, fourth or even fifth preference vote would be worth the same as your first preference?”

    If your first choice is still in, it is also your second, third, fourth and fifth time voting. It is equivalent to knocking people out of the running, then returning and voting on the remainder until someone actually passes the 50% barrier, except you don’t have the inconvenience of having to go and cross boxes every day for as long as it takes.

    “the almost continual coalitions produced by AV”

    Contradicting bits of what you said above…

    “Proponents of AV argue that MPs would have to work harder to secure the votes of more constituents, and that there would be no safe seats. This nonsense is exposed by examining the current election results: large numbers of MPs already secure over 50% of the vote, and they would all remain completely unaffected by a change to AV. Reform would do nothing to solve this.”

    This is not really a problem at all, let alone one that needs solving. If somebody is preferred to all other candidates by a majority of the population, they are better than somebody who is preferred by 30% of the population, which some MPs under the current system are, and which AV reform would have solved.

    Although voting reform was sadly rejected, I feel that a response to such spurious claims is still warranted, so that St Andrews students of the future, once such a referendum comes around again, don’t get taken in by an article filled with lies, scaremongering and contradictions.

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