Let’s get the Alternative Vote in “Proportion” – it isn’t but that doesn’t mean its not a good idea

At last someone has made the point that I have been meaning to make for weeks: the alternative vote is even less proportional than first past the post.  If anything, an electoral system based on AV will produce bigger majorities for the leading political parties than FPTP and fringe parties – like the LibDems and the BNP – will find it even harder to make headway.

However, the principle of AV is important for anyone in a particular constituency who wants to express a preference for a particular party, but that particular party is not one of the leading contenders for the seat.  AV gives such people the chance also to influence the final outcome by expressing further preferences.  The winning candidate emerges who has the support of at least 50% of the electorate (assuming people use their preferences) and it retains – if not strengthens – the link between an MP and their constituency.  For more details see this.

Such a system is undeniably an improvement on a simple FPTP election and it is one I have long believed should be adopted in the UK.  It is successfully used to elect the Australian House of Representatives.

For those who want proportional representation it is an anathema: it does not deliver proportionality.  What it gives you instead is a genuinely-representative constituency-based system.  No requirement for multi-member seats and no creation of two-tier MPs.

Apparently, the Electoral Reform Society and Neal Lawson, Chair of Compass, are unhappy.  However, the Prime Minister’s proposal for a referendum early in a new Parliament is the sensible way forward.  It avoids the public debate on the issue being lost in the turmoil/excitement of a General Election campaign and, if there is really a popular groundswell for some different change in the electoral system, no doubt that would surface in the run up to a referendum.

4 thoughts on “Let’s get the Alternative Vote in “Proportion” – it isn’t but that doesn’t mean its not a good idea”

  1. I think there is much to be said for a proportional system based on the Euro style ballot (by county?) for national elections, to retain the local link. Candidate must live in county. Lords/Senators could be elected by county and have direct local link. Candidates must live in county. Hein?

  2. Constituencies for elections to the Lords should be of appropriate sizes: Bristol should be one such, London perhaps 4. Some would not be multi member, others not.

    There is a case for allowing people to opt out of their geographical boundary and voting for a Lord from the Trades Unions’ National Lists, or a Bishop in a Nationwide ballot.

    One day, perhaps, such sophistication and voter friendliness may be possible.

  3. You say, “an electoral system based on AV will produce bigger majorities for the leading political parties than FPTP and fringe parties – like the LibDems and the BNP – will find it even harder to make headway.”

    I’m not so sure about that. I would have thought that it would encourage those voters inclined to vote BNP, because they could express a second preference for another more mainstream party without fear of their votes being ‘wasted’.

    In fact, if BNP supporters are concentrated within particular geographical areas – which they are likely to be, because of local anger / irritation about preferential treatment for immigrants and their descendants, real or supposed – then AV could actually have the effect of *magnifying* the BNP vote.

    For example, let us suppose that 50.1% of those living within a particular constituency support the BNP. By voting BNP, under an AV system, these voters can give themselves ‘representation’ equivalent to 100% of the votes in that constituency. That would be almost twice as much as they are entitled to, based on the size of the BNP vote.

    With a boost to the BNP like that, and perhaps a hung parliament in the election after this one, the BNP would be well on its way to negotiating its way into power, as Hitler’s Nazi Party did in 1933.

    Of course, once the BNP got into power, then – just as in 1933 – the ‘reasonable’ mask would slip away, and the BNP would show its true colours. That’s why I put the word ‘representation’ within single quote marks. At that stage, many of the BNP’s erstwhile supporters would probably say, “Blimey! That wasn’t what I voted for!” But by then, of course, it would be too late.

    The BNP would probably like to gas all the Jews, but of course it isn’t saying so in public now, because that would spoil its nice clean patriotic family image.

    However, even the need to polish its image hasn’t deterred the BNP from saying that boatloads of refugees fleeing from environmental disasters in third world countries should be killed by aerial bombardment, to prevent them from coming over here. Presumably, in the current political climate, it’s less contentious to suggest the killing of Blacks (Africans) than it is to suggest the killing of Jews.

    However, I would suggest that – whatever their own feelings about the Blacks might be – Jewish readers would have good reason to feel rather nervous, when they hear about what’s in store for the Blacks.

    And so might many Gentiles too! The Nazis (for that is what they really are) will eventually come for anyone who threatens their absolute power. The differences between Blacks, Jews and dissenting Whites will seem insignificant, when we are all lined up beside each other in the death camps. Until then, of course, the Nazis will be happy to play off one group against another.

  4. I would like to add that Muslims should beware of the Nazis too.

    And so should anyone likely to be seen as gay or ‘mentally disturbed’, whether in fact they are or not.

    Of course, going back to the 1930s, Hitler was one of the most ‘mentally disturbed’ people of all. But he never sent himself to the gas chambers – you wouldn’t really have expected him to. Instead, he committed suicide; a much more comfortable end, though still perhaps an unpleasant one.

    It seems that until his last dying breath, or at least the last breath that anyone outside his circle of close supporters heard, he put the blame for all of his problems onto other people.

    But Hitler didn’t like to have other ‘mentally unhealthy’ people around. Perhaps he secretly feared that some of them would be more adept at sussing him out, than those who were ‘mentally healthy’. To use his own term, not the term that we would necessarily use ourselves.

    What can we learn from the history of Germany in the 1930s and 40s? Rather a lot, I suspect. The reasons why people vote BNP today are disturbingly close to the reasons why some Germans voted for the ‘Nazi’ (i.e. ‘National Socialist’) party back then. I could make a list, but perhaps readers would like to make lists for themselves.

    I expect that the modern BNP will take us down the same kind of route as the German Nazi Party, if it gets the opportunity. The details might have changed since then, but the psychological make-up of the committed Nazi / BNP supporter will probably be much the same.

    Which is why I’d prefer the United Kingdom to adopt STV (the Single Transferable Vote), or something similar. A system which really *does* deter fringe parties, rather than Alternative Vote, which may not.

    Please visit the website of the Electoral Reform Society (you can Google it if you need to), for further information about the differences between STV and AV.

    And of course, I ought to add that although I’m an ordinary member of the Electoral Reform Society, my own views do not necessarily represent the official view of the ERS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *