Just over a week till the UK referendum of voting reform; should the UK move to use AV as the system for electing MP’s. Whilst it is not high on my list of important political issues overall I’m against the change. I’m not blogging about all the pros and cons of Yes2AV or No2AV because there is lots of stuff on the internet about this already (see here or here or here or here or here or here for a selection).
I can see the merit in moving to proportional representation but AV simply tinkers with the existing system to make it worse. It treats those who vote for the mainstream parties who are most likely to win a particular seat, or who do not wish to state a second or third preference, less well than those who vote first for minority parties. And rather than remove the need for tactical voting it simply changes the tactics people will need / want to use.
In part the question depends on what you think is the more important part of a parliamentary democracy. Is the key issue the widespread support of a particular member of parliament or is it the creation of government by the party securing the largest number of votes?
In practice the issue isn’t about the purity of our voting system but of party politics. The effect of the change would be to make it less likely for one party to gain a parliamentary majority except on those occasions where one party has a very significant lead when the effect may well be to increase the size of the majority. This had two negative consequences; first it increases the likelihood of coalition governments (which means in practice it increases the likelihood of the Liberal Democrats holding the balance of power) and second that it risks reducing the effectiveness of the opposition. Neither, it seems to me are particularly attractive.
I’m not a great fan of calling a referendum to decide on bits of policy piecemeal either. It seems to me that voting reform in the UK ought to be looking at the whole nature of parliament (Commons and Lords). If a referendum was then required the whole package, or a series of options, could be put to the electorate.
That said I am keen that people should go out and vote. Democracy, whatever its limitations, is better than the alternative and works best when the majority of citizens engage in it.
As always there are opinion polls which are used to influence people. If you ever doubt that they, and the TV news which report them, are part of the dark arts then watch this clip from ‘Yes Minister’