There are certainly some bad reasons for opposing the introduction of AV. Some complain of the cost: but that surely is a second-order problem... Others say that it may help re-elect party X or "let in" party Y. However, one really should not support a constitutional reform simply to advantage one party or disadvantage another. (That said, most constitutional reforms, from the 1832 and 1867 franchise extensions onwards, have actually been for party advantage.)I'd cavill at one point – the problem with AV isn't that it's not a "good" form of PR but that it's not PR at all – but otherwise he's got it in a nutshell.
And not all those who oppose AV do so for vested interests. As someone who broadly supports the Liberal Democrats, and certainly welcomes the effect they have on an otherwise brutal Conservative government, my opposition to AV cannot be written off as political self-interest.
There are two good reasons for any liberal to oppose the introduction of this proposed voting system.
First, AV is not in fact a good form of proportional representation. Because it retains the single member constituencies, there is no inherent reason why the national shares of the vote would be reflected in Westminster. AV also does nothing to deal with the very safest seats - those where the winning candidate already gets more than 50% - and so, in such constituencies, the losing votes will be as "wasted" as before. And other seats will just be as "safe", depending on whether the there is a natural Tory/Lib Dem or Labour/Lib Dem majority.
Second, the practical operation of AV is fundamentally undemocratic and offensive to the principle of equal treatment of voters. In the less safe seats where AV is triggered, the votes cast by those who favour the most popular candidate are not of equal value to the votes cast for less popular candidates. The second and third choices of the voters favouring the most popular candidate are just disregarded. If all second and third votes were given equal value then the overall result may well be different. The charge that AV means repeated bites at the cherry for some voters but not others is impossible to rebut.
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
A LIBERAL CASE AGAINST AV
Over at his New Statesman blog, David Allen Green puts a pro-PR case against the alternative vote: