I’m not happy at all that the once-in-a-generation choice we’ve been given to change our broken voting system is whether or not we move to AV. I had hoped that we would have been given the choice of Proportional Representation (PR). The deal that the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives cut in May 2010 resulted in the Conservatives getting their way and making this about AV and not PR.
Now the Conservatives are campaigning against AV, as are many others. Whilst I wish we had a choice for PR, which I think would give a fairer representation of the country at Westminster, we’re being asked about AV. In addition, I think a “No” vote will be taken to mean that the electorate is opposed to reform and the door will be closed until perhaps another hung parliament comes around (we have had only 2 hung parliaments in 81 years).
If we can’t have PR, then I strongly support moving to AV (moving away from First Past the Post) for the following reasons:
- AV Ends Split Voting: A lot of our parties are similar and the total votes for similar parties might outweigh the votes cast for the winner who gets through because the majority consensus is split between two other parties. The situation is well explained in this blog.
- AV Ends Tactical Voting: I don’t want to have to second guess my neighbours before I vote. I want to honestly vote for whom I believe has the best policies. By expressing a preference order, I can be sure my voice is heard in “safe seats” . I voted tactically in the last election and really wish I didn’t have to.
- You’ll hear less and less about “wasted votes”: People wail and moan about politicians all the time, but always seem to vote the same rubbish in again and again. If people knew that their preferences would be taken into account, they’d be less likely to worry about choosing a party other than the main three.
- MPs will need 50% of the vote to win a seat: this means that they will have to make an effort to appeal to the electorate. In the last general election no-one knocked on our door and we had almost no literature. This is because we live in a “safe seat”. If an MP has to work hard for your support, they’ll listen better to you.
- AV treats us like adults: An “X” against one name implies equal disdain for the other parties. This isn’t usually the case: most parties have good and bad points, so being able to make a choice based on preference just reflects reality.
- AV requires broad support from the electorate and this blocks extremists from power because a party needs 50% of the vote to win. This is why the BNP supports a “No” vote in the referendum on May 5th.
Over the next few days, I’ll look at some of the negative campaigning about AV and see how it stands up to scrutiny.
In the meantime, have a look at Voter Power to see what switching to AV will do to your ability to hold your MP to account.