Why I fear this Alternative Vote proposal is another gerrymander

May 18, 2010 10:47 am

Ballot Vote

By Stephen Newton

I’ve been a supporter of comprehensive constitutional reform – not just the voting system – since the 1983 election, when I was 14. Back then the Conservatives won less than 34,000 votes for each elected MP, Labour won more than 40,000 for each MP and the Liberal/SDP Alliance more than 338,000 votes for each MP. It somehow took nearly ten times as many voters to elect a Liberal as a Tory and Thatcher had an unassailable Commons majority of 144 with a minority of the vote.

I was disgusted and a few years later became a founder member of the Liberal Democrats, only to leave in the late 1990s as the Manchester party plotted to undermine that city’s Commonwealth Games with fabricated stories to scare people off Labour.

Yet while I still yearn for a more proportional electoral system, I am not convinced I can vote for the Alternative Vote in the upcoming referendum and I’m shocked the Lib Dems asked Labour to introduce it without a referendum.

The Alternative Vote is not a system of proportional representation. It will generate more Lib Dem MPs, but is very unlikely to support smaller parties (check out the Electoral Reform Society projections). That’s because to win an AV election, you really need to come first or second on first preferences. The Greens, for example, tend to come third or fourth and would be eliminated early on. They could get 10-15% of the popular vote and have no more MPs under the Alternative Vote.

Given its flaws, the Alternative Vote is not even Liberal Democrat policy. While their statements on voting systems have been increasingly vague in recent years, preferring ambiguous calls for ‘fair votes’, they have always supported the Single Transferable Vote (STV) and multi-member constituencies. This is also the favoured system of the Electoral Reform Society and all the other leading campaign groups.

So when the Jenkins Commission into electoral reform failed to back STV in 1998 it was a surprise that took the wind out of the reform movement’s sails. Crucially, Jenkins did not recommend AV, but AV+ whereby parliament would be topped up with MPs from under represented parties. This idea, which would probably create additional Green and a couple of UKIP MPs, is not in the Lib Con proposal.

It gets worse. The coalition has also adopted the Tory idea of reducing the number of constituencies in Scotland, Wales and the inner cities (where Cameron has failed to win support). That is to say, the coalition appears only to support reforms that suit members of the coalition.

Set this in the context of the 55% lock in. This rushed legislation, that even the most prominent supporters admit transfers power to the monarchy, tries to stabilise the coalition by making Cameron virtually unsackable. Far from the much hyped reforming hung parliament, this is quickly emerging as a gerrymandering Lib Con.

The coalition says we have five years to the next election, but won’t take the time to offer the country a new constitutional settlement of which we can all be proud.

Supporters of real liberal democracy need to stand up and say no to partial reforms that suit narrow party interests much more than they suit any democratic agenda. Say no to this obscene gerrymandering in the name of liberal democracy. Say yes making Britain a world beacon for liberal democracy.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • News Labour outraised the Tories in 2013, but financial worries still remain

    Labour outraised the Tories in 2013, but financial worries still remain

    The Electoral Commission’s annual report of party finances has been published for 2013, and it turns out that Labour actually raised more money than the Conservatives last year – by almost £8 million. Labour raised £33.4m, while the Tories raised just £25.4m. As George Eaton points out, over at the New Statesman, much of Labour’s advantage comes from short money (the money opposition parties receive from the state). However, this only amounts to £6.9m, meaning Labour still raised roughly an […]

    Read more →
  • Comment We need a Mayor who offers London serious alternatives

    We need a Mayor who offers London serious alternatives

     Speaking at the launch of Labour’s summer campaign last week Ed Miliband said “We need a new leadership: Leadership that thinks deeply and offers creative, new ideas. Leadership that seeks to be faithful to principle, even when it’s hard to do. Leadership that listens and cares.” His eyes, of course, are set on the general election but he could have been talking about the London mayoral campaign. This time next year a very short primary season will be in full […]

    Read more →
  • News The Choice on the Economy – read the full text of Ed Balls’ speech

    The Choice on the Economy – read the full text of Ed Balls’ speech

    It’s great to be back here in Bedford supporting your campaign. Because it’s vital that we win here in this marginal constituency – and in seats across this region from Stevenage to Ipswich, Watford to Waveney – if we are to get the Tories out, elect a Labour government and start to rebuild our country for the future. Seats where we lost in 2010. Seats where we have worked hard to show that under Ed Miliband’s leadership we have changed […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Tory minister lets slip: We want to bring in regressive flat tax

    Tory minister lets slip: We want to bring in regressive flat tax

    The Tories still want to look into implementing a flat tax system, whereby the poorest taxpayers would pay the same tax as the richest. In a recording obtained by the Daily Mirror, Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin is heard telling a right wing think tank a “discussion will no doubt open up” about the possibility of bringing in a flat tax. The Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates that in order to raise current tax revenue, a flat tax on income would […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour’s housing reforms could be limited by spending restraint

    Labour’s housing reforms could be limited by spending restraint

    The scope of Labour’s housing plans may have to be narrowed in order to meet tight restrictions on spending, according to a review of the area commissioned by the Party. The review is led by Sir Michael Lyons, the former head of the BBC Trust, and the findings will be published in September. Lyons says that despite receiving evidence from housing reform lobbyists, “we can make do with existing resources”, reports the FT (£). Lyons has been tasked with planning […]

    Read more →