28th March 2011
I recently attended a No2AV event in Weymouth with South Dorset MP, Richard Drax. On 5 May all registered electors will be given the opportunity to decide by what system we elect our MPs. The choice is between the current First Past the Post system (FPTP) or the Alternative Vote (AV) system as currently used in Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. At the moment most countries use the FPTP system, including ourselves, as it generally produces a clear result and a strong government. It works on the simple principle of one person, one vote, counted once.
AV by contrast is more complicated; voters list the candidates in order of preference. If the first preference does not get 50%, then the candidate with the least votes drops out and the second preference of his or her voters are distributed. This goes on up the list until one or other candidate clocks up 50%. Some would argue that this allows more choice and a fairer system that would benefit minority parties. Having looked at this system carefully I would argue that this isn’t the case. Minority parties would be removed early as lower placed candidates drop out and second preferences are added in. This could allow the third placed candidates to overtake their rivals, which is exactly what the Liberal Democrats want. They hope that they will be everyone’s compromise candidate.
AV is not a fairer system; it is a politician’s fix that is being promoted in the expectation that it will make Nick Clegg the kingmaker of British Politics as we are trapped in a permanent cycle of Coalition Governments. AV is complicated, costly, time consuming and of the three countries in the world that use AV, Fiji is getting rid of it and Australia wants to. Nick Clegg himself described it as a ‘miserable little compromise’ and the Electoral Reform Society, who are now backing the campaign, previously argued that ‘the Society does not regard it as suitable for the election of a representative body, e.g. a parliament.’
In other words we are being asked to vote for AV, a system little used globally, and little liked domestically. I will certainly be voting no on May 5th.
Ashley Fox MEP