Archive for February, 2011

New AV Poll….


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No to AV.

The Alternative Vote system, being put to a referendum on the 5th of May 2011 is fundamentally flawed. The proposed method is that candidates are ranked according to preference, the least popular candidate is eliminated, and the candidate who reaches 50% of the vote first is elected. When put in this way, AV appears favorably over the current system of First Past the Post, where the person who has the single largest body of support is elected.

We must first consider the reasons for the AV referendum. Is it because our constitution is need of revival? Is it because of the expenses scandal? Or is it because the Liberal Democrats are in a Coalition with the Conservatives?

I suggest that our constitution is in need of serious and urgent renewal. The House of Commons needs reform, with power placed back into the hands of the backbenchers who are needed to scrutinize the Government. Open primaries are needed. Allocation of time motions need reforming. We need an elected House of Lords, elected by Proportional Representation (STV), with long, 10-15 year terms,and a portion of seats left to independent experts to scrutinize legislation passed by the Commons, and to give their expert input into Parliamentary Legislation.

The Alternative Vote would seem to tackle the perceived problem that has, to an extent, caused the expenses scandal; AV would supposedly do away with the safe seats that allowed career politicians to be re-elected almost no matter what manner of scandal they were embroiled in. AV will not tackle the safest of seats, where MPs already have over 50% of people voting for them. There is an argument in favour of AV which suggests that it will make MPs truly representative of their constituents by being supported by over 50% of them. In fact, under AV, the person who is elected may well be the 2nd or even 3rd choice of voters. AV will lend MPs a veil of support in their constituencies, which can be used to defend the indefensible.

Is the current referendum down to the Lib Dems being in Government? Yes. Before the 2010 General Election, Labour had a manifesto pledge on a referendum on AV. Was this out of self interest? I suspect that this was one one of reasons for it. From January onwards, polling data suggested that there was a significant likelihood of a Hung Parliament. The AV pledge in our manifesto may well have been to bring the Lib Dems closer to Labour, by offering them the Liberal Holy Grail – Voting reform. The Party that will benefit most from AV, is unsurprisingly, the Lib Dems. Under AV, they would gain between 20-40 seats, thus reducing the likelihood of the two major parties securing an overall majority, and giving the Lib Dems a better bargaining position in the event of a future Hung Parliament.

Given the nature of Coalition Government, where, as we currently have, the Government is free to implement policies for which it has no mandate, particularly the rise in Tuition Fees, and NHS reforms. Coalition Government inevitably leads to deals, such as the Coalition agreement. AV will give people who vote for more obscure parties, like the Greens or UKIP the chance to help both their own candidate and another of there choosing. Surely this is quintessentially undemocratic? By not allowing anything other than the 1st preference to be counted if you vote Labour in a Labour seat, those people who vote for somebody else will, effectively, get more than one vote. This is patently unfair, and clearly rebuts the point made by Nick Clegg of the need for a “fairer” voting system. By increasing the likelihood of a Hung Parliament, AV will lead to a weaker and less accountable democracy.

As the IPPR have stated:

“[We have] recently published a report on electoral reform in which it argues that Alternative Vote is not the answer because:

– it is not a proportional system;

– it can actually distort things to a greater extent than the existing system;

– it does not address the many problems of the current system”

These are three crucial points, the most important of which is the distortion that is created by AV. In 1997, Tony Blair would have had a majority of over 200 if the election was carried out using AV. As this report shows, the Lib Dems would have been able to keep Labour in Government if they has so wished, even though Labour had lost the election. Do I want to see Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister? No. Would I have wanted Gordon Brown to stay in No. 10? Yes, probably, even though Labour lost the election. Nick Clegg and his party said that they would abolish Tuition Fees. Simon Hughes maintains that this is what he wants to see. AV would lead to a situation where politicians would be able to say one thing and do another, and blame “The Coalition”. Do we want to see a repeat of Cleggmania, followed by Calamity Clegg? No. Is FPTP ideal? No. The phrase “Better the devil you know” comes to mind.

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