Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

AV is not proportional!

Gordon Brown is apparently going to announce proposals to change the electoral system at Westminster tomorrow to - wait for it - the Alternative Vote system. Not even AV+ as advocated by Alan Johnson recently (and which sparked a lot of debate in the Lib Dem blogosphere) but just plain old AV.

What a surprise! After all his talk of promising to reform the system and listen to people he has plumped for a system that can actually be less proportional than First Past the Post.

I am doubtful whether a change to AV is even worth the Lib Dems getting behind. There are some positive things about the system such as ensuring that candidates always have at least 50% of the vote in the constituency and reducing the need for tactical voting. However because it is not proportional, the results will still not be fair across the country and after all the hassle of introducing a system like this, any further reform will be off the table for a very long time. People will say "but we've already had electoral reform haven't we?" and switch off.

I will be interested to hear what other electoral reform supporters think about this.


Nathan Massey said...

I would like to see a referendum held on changing the voting system, and a citizen's jury decide which system to go for (ideally STV).

Although Alternative Vote isn't anywhere near the kind of proportionality we need in our elected chambers, it's a step, albeit a small one, in the right direction.

I'm hoping that Nick Clegg will bring up the issues with AV, and why we should be looking at other voting systems at tomorrows PMQ's.

It will be interesting to see what Cameron has to say about this, after being so against the idea of PR systems.

Lee Griffin said...

There are two levels of proportionality, absolute (which is the ideal we strive for at GE's) and then constituency level.

What we are caught between right now is the idea that we should be electing parties and that we should be electing the best person for the job. STV certainly matches the former but it isn't necessarily right for the latter. In all fairness I can't see STV being used in any way that doesn't see mostly Lab/Con/Lib as the three MPs elected countrywide per constituency...hardly enthusing.

I won't repeat the fallacies of STV and the lack of constituency link, I actually happen to think it gives you a better voice, but the fallacy is definitely in peoples minds...that's because they like to see a winner, and they want that winner to be the only one.

There's also something to be said for people actually being in opposition locally as opposed to just not being in power nationally.

Ultimately people want to know that even if it's their second choice the most popular MP for the area is the one being sent to the commons, it's simple in their minds and it does offer the opportunity to break down those safe seats that are such a problem.

It's a small step in the sense of proportionality but it could be a huge step in terms of reform, at least for the short term, which could lead the way to a constitutionally better system in the future.

I say this because Brown clearly isn't going to abolish the Lords, and without a "senate" type house there is no point going all out PR.

Reg said...

Proposing AV is clear evidence that the Prime Minister is a looney. He has the chance to introduce a fair voting system and goes for one that's almost as bad as FTPT. What on earth is wrong with the man? He must be stopped.

Jono said...

And, just for fun, the BBC keep saying AV and describing Supplementary Vote (the hideous system we use for the London Mayor)

Mark Wadsworth said...

I had previously favoured FPTP with top up seats, but I ran some fun online polls on my 'blog first to test the water.

I started by asking the simple question - if we had PR, would you vote a) Tory/Labour or b) something else. 85% went for 'something else', so that was a good start.

I then asked, what's the least bad system, about half went for FPTP (!) and of the main PR systems, the favoured one was multi-member constituencies.

So I then had three rounds to narrow down how many members (starting with 1 to 5). 4, 2 and 3 were eliminated, leaving the choice of 1 or 5. The poll has been running since last week, and neither option has edged more than two or three votes ahead, it's currently still pretty much neck and neck.

If "1" finally wins out, then that's the end of the experiment, seeing as people preferred MMC to AV or STV, so I can't really start again with "What do you prefer - single-member constituencies with FPTP or single-member constituencies with AV/STV?".

Or perhaps I will, I just don't know any more.

cabalamat said...

AV is better than FPTP, so I would support it over that system.

It's not as good as AV+ or STV.

As to which I'd prefer out of AV+ or STV, it depends which version of AV+ we're talking about.