I've Changed My Mind On The Alternate Vote
Dominic Fisher aka praguetory writes;
A referendum on the alternative vote or AV was a key concession made by the Conservative Party to secure the coalition. It's a Lib Dem idea which should be an easy thing for any Conservative to oppose, but looking at the arguments, this Tory has changed his mind.
Whilst the biggest policy themes at this year's party conference are dealing with the deficit and implementing the Big Society, bubbling under the surface is the issue of electoral reform - an issue that the Conservative leadership are currently keeping quiet about in public. Despite the fact that these commitments are in the coalition agreement, persuading the Conservative backbenchers to agree on reducing the number of seats and to risk a change in the voting system is proving tricky. Turkeys don't tend to vote for Christmas.
However, the likelihood remains that there will be a referendum on the alternative vote and the yes and no campaigns are already swinging into action. Australia has had an alternative vote system since 1918 and at a conference fringe event I saw David Alexander, a former advisor to the Aussie ex-Prime Minister John Howard, make the case for the alternative vote. He argued that the fact that each elected politician needed to get 50%, often as a result of redistributing second preferences, and that this lends their democracy more legitimacy. Phillip Blond added that under our current system too few people make too much difference to the election result which can cause party politics to address itself to a very small number of people and can lead to parties being locked out in large areas of the country as the Tories have been in Scotland causing all sorts of constitutional issues.
I am open to the arguments against changing to AV, but those who want to protect the status quo will need to up their game. Arguing that this is the first step to proportional representative and must be opposed on those grounds doesn't wash with me.
I am now persuaded that first past the post is only defensible in a two party state - and it's clear that is now a thing of the past. In my view alternative vote is not a proportional system, but a more representative form of first past the post and I support it.