The alternative vote will not solve our democratic problems. Electoral reformers should vote against AV in the forthcoming referendum.
AV is not proportional and can exaggerate landslide elections. In 1997, for example, it is probable that Blair would have had a majority of over 200 with AV. It exaggerates the tendency of our current system to direct voters into a two-sided competition. Smaller parties, such as the Greens, are no more likely to be elected than today.
AV is likely to derail reform. If AV proves durable, another disproportional system will be entrenched for decades, as it has been in Australia. If it does not, then the next step is far more likely to be back to the familiarity of first past the post than forward to a proportional system. Where there's a cultural tradition of FPTP the political reflex is to gravitate back to it. Two western provinces of Canada re-implemented FPTP after using AV. To believe that AV must be supported to sustain the momentum of reform appears misguided.
AV gives minority parties greater electoral leverage but without democratic accountability. A minority party can barter with larger parties, urging its supporters to give the larger party their second preferences in return for policy concessions. Smaller parties should be heard, but transparently and after receiving a mandate.
Let's not fall foul of this referendum's false dilemma. The question on the ballot reads: should AV be used instead of FPTP Most reformers would say: "No, PR should."
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
WHY WE SHOULD VOTE DOWN AV
Antony Brown, Thomas Lundberg, John Cox and Brian Wilson have a pithy letter in today's Independent: