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

  • Comment It’s morally wrong to make patients pay for hospital parking

    It’s morally wrong to make patients pay for hospital parking

    Over the Bank Holiday weekend the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was trumpeting his new ‘ground rules’ to address rip-off hospital car parking. Any action to curb extortionate car parking prices at hospitals should be welcomed. However, reading these new ‘principles’ it appears they are not enforceable. My assumption was confirmed when the Department of Health answered a tweet from me by stating that ‘NHS Trusts will be held accountable to local people and organisations that represent them e.g. HealthWatch’. This […]

    Read more →
  • News Failing to meet export targets – Osborne has got it wrong again, says Mahmood

    Failing to meet export targets – Osborne has got it wrong again, says Mahmood

    Today, Shabana Mahmood, Shadow Treasury Minister, has explained how George Osborne is on course to fall short of export targets he set for himself. Writing for PoliticsHome, Mahmood has released figures on British exports, which, she explains, “show that there are still major concerns about how balanced the recovery has been so far.” Two years ago Osborne said that by 2020 he would double exports to £1 trillion. However, Mahmood cites figures that suggest it looks highly unlikely that the UK could meet […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Labour call for Rotherham Police and Crime Commissioner to step down

    Labour call for Rotherham Police and Crime Commissioner to step down

    A Labour Party spokesperson has said the Shaun Wright should resign as South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). Wright, who is Labour’s PCC, was previously a councillor on Rotherham council and  between 2005-2010 was head of children’s services. In response to a report on child abuse in the area, which found that between 1997 and 2013 1,400 children were subjected to sexual exploitation in Rotherham, Labour have called for Wright to stand down. A spokesperson reportedly told PoliticsHome: “The report […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Life skills need to be at the heart of Labour’s curriculum

    Life skills need to be at the heart of Labour’s curriculum

    When Gove was demoted and moved away from his beloved education brief you could almost hear the sound of champagne corks popping in staff rooms across England. Yet two months after the most high profile demotion of this parliament, Labour’s policy on education remains one its most underdeveloped. This is not necessarily a bad thing, saving the education debate until nearer the election could be a shrewd move for the party given that all but one of the Education department […]

    Read more →
  • News Self-harm in mental health hospitals risen by over 50%

    Self-harm in mental health hospitals risen by over 50%

    Luciana Berger, Shadow Minister for Public Health, has found that between 2010 and 2013 the number of people in mental health institutions who have attempted suicide or who have been found self-harming has risen by over 50%. At 29 of the NHS’s 52 mental health trusts, the number of suicide attempts and cases of self-harming rose from 14,815 in 2010 to 23,053 last year –  an increase of 56% . These figures, obtained by the Labour Party through a Freedom of […]

    Read more →