http://blogs.birminghampost.co.uk/news/

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.

6 Comments

Dave Thawley said:

Its great that you have changed your mind on reform. I am a normal working bloke with three kids who after assessing the situation have come up with the same conclusion as yourself. The Arguments used by the no camp are not compelling at all and their arguments either miss out significant facts or seem to unfortunately conflict with the truth. If someone convinces me that FPTP is better than AV I would go for it and vote no. I am now convinced that such an argument (that contains all the major fact and is truthful) does not exist.

Chris Burgess said:

Dominic, I think you are absolutely right. AV is a better form of FPTP, giving added legitimacy to the standing MPs. The Conservatives have nothing to fear from such a system, and possibly in areas like Scotland they may benefit. But ultimately, the winner is the electorate, who benefit from less negative campaigning and better representation of their votes.

Chris Burgess said:

Dominic, I think you are right. AV is a better form of FPTP, giving added legitimacy to the standing MPs. The Conservatives have nothing to fear from such a system, and possibly in areas like Scotland they may benefit. But ultimately, the winner is the electorate, who benefit from less negative campaigning and better representation of their votes.

Frank said:

It really is awful that in many places there's no way in for most parties (big and small). It may be a two-horse race and it will artificially remain that way indefinitely as few want to 'waste' their voice by voting for a different party.

I hope more Conservatives can support AV and thus do away with tactical voting, letting people actually vote for who they like!

Sid said:

I heard someone on the radio yesterday describing the FPTP system as 'tried and tested', claiming that there was no reason to change. However - in 1951, nearly 97% of all votes went to the Conservatives or Labour. In 2010, that figure was 65%. Surely one of the signs of a mature democracy is that when circumstances change, we are prepared to change our political structures and processes?

News authors

Jonathan Walker

Jonathan Walker - The Birmingham Post's political editor
My postings | Jonathan Walker's RSS feed My feed

Subscribe to receive updates by email
David Kuczora

David Kuczora - A PR consultant working in Birmingham and living in the 'burbs
My postings

Alister Scott

Alister Scott - Professor of Spatial Planning and Governance, Birmingham City University
My postings

Recent Posts

Latest Birmingham Post Lifestyle blog

Lifestyle Blog

Birmingham Post staff and guest bloggers from the midlands give you the lowdown on what's happening in your region and some musings on culture in the UK and beyond.

Keep up to date

Sponsored Links