Why I will be voting against AV
Referendum choice on May 5th could mean a second choice government.
The trouble with any voting system in use in any liberal western democracy is that it doesn’t suit everybody, it never will, and some compromise has to be made, minority views accepted and respected, and the majority view must never be used like a sledgehammer.
I will nail my colours to the mast here, I’m quite happy with our first past the post system, it is easy to understand and comprehend, it retains a vital link between a single member and a single constituency, and it represents one person one vote. Sure it has its problems, in some places you may feel that your vote doesn’t carry a lot of weight, especially if you are a supporter of a minority party in a constituency which heavily favours one of the major parties, but in our democracy it is the role of the candidates to enthuse people with a positive manifesto to attract votes, not a negative message to to encourage you NOT to vote for other candidates.
It has lost favour principally because of the large amount of votes stacked up in favour of the Liberal Democrats thinly spread across the country which has not translated into seats in the same proportion as Labour or Conservatives, and in the resulting horse trading following our last general election David Cameron and the Conservatives had to concede this referendum in order to keep Nick Clegg’s party in the deal.
My greatest fears about AV (alternative vote) is that we may end up with many MPs who were not the most favoured in their constituencies, but the least unpopular instead, this is not a very inspiring situation. Indeed the recent election of Labour leader Ed Miliband was the result of second and third choice votes being redistributed to him as the least unpopular candidate, his brother David, the South Shields MP was by far the most popular candidate in the early rounds of the contest but was pipped at the post as the minor candidates fell out and their votes were counted a second and third time. I find this inherently unfair, especially as I put so much faith in “one person, one vote”, at a general election we often see fringe candidates in South Shields exercising their right to seek election, under the AV system where we are encouraged to rank the candidates in order of preference, supporters of minor parties may have more weight to their vote and they may even see their vote counted twice or three times depending upon how long it takes one candidate to acquire the necessary 50% criteria that the AV supporters are looking for.
If on the other hand, someone like David Miliband (purely for example) were to receive 52% of the total ballot on the first count, then all of those second, third, and more choices will have been completely wasted. Until the next Boundary Commission comes up with constituencies with roughly even numbers of electors, we will still have many seats where this will happen, solid Labour seats and solid Conservative seats, along with a few solid Lib-Dem seats too, however in many constituencies where the current sitting MP does not enjoy that majority support the votes cast for minority parties become very important indeed. We ought to remember that some of them have very extreme policies too, but their supporters will get a second bite of the cherry and perhaps even a third, and we could see a number of MPs elected because of redistributed votes who would normally end up in second or third place in the ballot. As a result, the middle or third party could acquire sufficient seats to form a government, or at least hold the upper hand in a coalition, based purely on being the least unpopular amongst voters, rather than the party with the most favoured pre election manifesto. In effect our government may be one of second choice rather than first choice.
The most likely reality is that most Labour or Conservative supporters would choose a Liberal Democrat as their second choice, and in some seats this could easily condemn their first choice to a defeat. I do not like this idea of some votes counting more than others! Think of it this way, in a tight fight the victor could well have had two or three votes cast his way by thousands of people, whilst those in second or third place only received one vote per elector – fair and balanced?
I don’t want my MP sent to the House of Commons to represent the people of South Shields with their passive acceptance, I don’t want a government to be formed by passive acceptance, I want my representative or my government to have approval, and therefore I am happy to vote for the retention of our current system and allow the majority of MPs in the House to form a representative government – I just wish they didn’t have a fixed five year term (but that’s another argument).
Finally it alarms and frightens me that our centuries old system of forming a government could be voted out by less than a third of the population – just consider how many people will take part in the referendum on May 5th!