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AV – A once in a generation opportunity 12 April, 2011

Posted by Jeremy Rowe in Politics.
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On Thursday 5th May voters across the UK will have the opportunity to have their say on the system we use to elect our MPs. One senses that the referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) has yet to fully capture the public imagination, yet the vote to replace the – at best Victorian – First Past The Post system (FPTP) represents a once in a generation opportunity to change the way we do politics in this country.

In all honesty AV isn’t the point from which I would be starting the process of electoral reform. It isn’t proportional, for one thing, and in this regard the Single Transferable Vote (STV) would be a far better option. AV does however have the benefit of maintaining MPs’ direct link to their constituencies while reducing the need for tactical voting. It also combats the current problem of political parties only chasing the votes that matter to them in marginal constituencies – I believe that parties should be made to open a dialogue with all of us, not just the swing voters.

Of course there are differing views on this. Some earnestly believe that a voting system designed for a two-party system is still relevant in the current multi-party era (although they seem to struggle to advance any positive arguments). Others see it as an opportunity to protest about other things which have no connection to the question being asked of us on 5th May. (At least in the latter case there’s something approaching a nuanced argument, I suppose.)

There is also the viewpoint that the referendum offers a golden chance to give Nick Clegg ‘a kicking’. While this may be tempting for many, if you believe in the need to change our out-dated voting system this hardly achieves anything. (The blogger ‘March The Fury’ advances a good argument on this point and he would hardly be described as a friend of the Liberal Democrats.)

The bottom line for me is that, if AV is rejected in May’s referendum, we won’t have another chance to reform our medieval voting system for another generation. We will be stuck with a system which promotes the arrogance of the safe seat, exaggerates the influence of the swing voters in the marginal constituencies and perpetuates the distortion of tactical voting. AV may not be perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. A ‘Yes’ vote on 5th May will also open up the possibility of of additional progress further down the line. A ‘No’ next month will close off this debate for a very long time.

The Alternative Vote and Electronic Voting Machines 29 March, 2011

Posted by Jeremy Rowe in News.
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At today’s Full Cornwall Council I tabled a question to Jim Currie, the Cabinet Member for Resources, which asked him to confirm the Electoral Commission view that, should there be a move to the Alternative Vote after the referendum in May, there would be no need for electronic voting machines to manage elections. After a fashion Jim did confirm that this was the case – there will be no additional expenditure on the electoral process if the UK decides to move towards a fairer system of voting in May.

Perhaps George Eustice and the ‘No to AV’ camp should listen to Jim. Their so far wholly negative campaign to keep the archaic First Past The Post system seems to rely on spreading unfounded scare stories and claiming that a switch to a fairer system will involve expenditure of £250m on voting machines. I’ve explained elsewhere why I think AV would be a vast improvement on FPTP, but I do really think it’s about time the No camp started to put forward some genuine, positive arguments. Unless, of course, they don’t have any…