Election Reform Referendum…is AV REALLY The Best Option?

Posted: February 8, 2011 in Politics
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We are coming close now to learning whether a referendum will go ahead on the same day as local council elections, as the House Of Lords begins the run of concessions needed to ensure a vote is won by the Conservatives. Just last night, Labour forced an amendment allowing the referendum to be discarded should turnout be less than 40% (which in my own opinion it will be). The Lords are arguing over more and more concessions each day, although the major one, the one that has caused all this ruckus in the Lords in the first place, remains.

You see, the Coalition, in its infinite wisdom, chose to package the bill that needs to be come law for a referendum to happen along with a controversial piece of legislation allowing for massive boundary reforms across the country, reducing the number of seats from 650 to 600 and benefiting the Tory party massively. Labour are arguing that a full public consultation needs to happen before boundary reforms of this scale can happen and want the AV bill to be put through separately. This is an inconvenience to the Tories, as the boundary reform bill is unlikely to make it through Parliament without major changes if it were to be put through on its own. By piggybacking it along with the referendum bill, they will be able to change the boundaries regardless of the outcome of the AV referendum, as well as taking the Lib Dems out of the equation for possible negative votes. So stand-off occurred.

Anyway, I digress.

Most parties apart from the Conservatives argue that electoral reform is badly needed to improve the level of democracy in this country. However, neither the Lib Dems nor Conservatives included it in their election manifestos, it was used as a bargaining chip in the subsequent coalition discussions. Both Gordon and Dave agreed to a referendum on an alternative voting system, but when Nick got into bed with Dave, he gave his party a weak version of what he actually wanted.

The reasons that this AV referendum is both unwanted and unnecessary I have laid out below:

  • If this referendum were to provide a positive result, in that the electorate chooses AV over the current system, that would be the end of the matter for at least 20 years, as no party will want to legislate to change the system again so soon (they will want to see how it works a few times through). So the chance of obtaining a Single Transferable Vote system would be lost to our generation.
  • If it provides a negative result, or not enough of a turnout, the chance to reform voting will be lost for at least 10 years thanks to the underhandedness of the main proponent of this bill, Nick Clegg.

What is expected of people is that they will vote on this issue based on their own understanding of which voting system would be best. What will actually happen, because it’s the way people work, is that the referendum will become about judging the Lib Dems. People have stated that the Coalition may not be able to survive a negative outcome, though this is denied by the Lib Dems whilst the Conservatives stay quiet about the matter.

It was totally wrong of Nick Clegg to accept this weaker and negligibly better system on the referendum, this is one of those many times where Lib Dems should have stood up for what they really wanted rather than accept a sop on the basis of receiving limited powers in Government. We are facing a pointless referendum as whatever the outcome, nobody will get what they want. Once the Yes Brigade finish their campaign on this, they will immediately shift to wanting STV, but will anyone be willing to offer them another referendum in four years time?

My bet is on No.

  1. marchydleman says:

    The trouble with AV is that it’s not anybody’s favoured system. See http://wp.me/pTKZG-2e
    for a more radical solution that could just work. It has become a slanging match as nobody has thought of using proper arguments for or against it.

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