Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Debating different forms of PR

I am conflicted at the moment.

Jennie Rigg and Mark Valladares have both pointed out that Alan Johnson's favoured form of electoral reform to be put to a referendum at the time of the next election is not the best form of PR. Mr Johnson favours the AV+ system as recommended by the Jenkins Comission in 1998.

They both point out problems with AV+. Jennie mentions that it does not remove safe seats which is true, some will remain although I believe there will be less of them and at least each candidate has to get 50% of the vote. Mark points out that it is likely the top up lists used for this system will have the problems always associated with party lists. They both say that STV is the way forward.

The reason I am conflicted on this (and hence why I mentioned Mr Johnson's idea this morning without unpacking the specifics of the PR system he suggests) is because I fear there is a risk that this golden opportunity could degenerate into a debate between different PR systems which will just confuse and turn off non-political people (i.e. 90-odd percent of the country).

I also favour STV and am on the record numerous times on this blog advocating it. However, if it came to a choice between retaining FPTP or going for AV+, I would go for AV+. I think it is right that others are raising this question and I can understand where he is coming from when Mark says:

Amidst the sea of people applauding Alan Johnson for proposing a revisit of the recommendations of the Jenkins Commission, I feel the need for a raft for those who wish to blow a raspberry.

However, I have waited so long for an opportunity like this that I would rather stick to the principle of arguing for PR now rather than get drawn into the details. Once the political momentum is with a referendum and it looks like it is going to happen then I think that is the time for the merits of AV+ vs STV to be debated more. We don't all need to sign up right now to a specific system.

The Referendum 2010 campaign is taking this approach and it is worth taking a look at what they are saying. It is similar to Mr Johnson but they just talk about PR in a generic sense.

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