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.
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’.