Friday, 25 March 2011

The AV Debate

Here is a report from our correspondent, VD, who attended a special meeting on the AV debate this week. Many thanks!

Should we say yes to AV? The question of changing to the alternative vote will be one of the most controversial topics in politics right now, as it is the first time the electorate will be able to decide on how they should vote. On March 17th, LSE hosted a lecture based on this issue, chaired by Simon Hix. The main reasons supporting AV were:

  • Under the current system, MPs can get a job from just 1 vote in 3, meaning that two thirds of their constituency voted against them.
  • Now that there are 6 to 7 party systems in every region, using first-past-the-post (FPTP) will lead to tactical voting, as votes would be wasted if not used on the two main parties.
  • People believe that it will be advantageous to extremist parties, but the BNP is in fact against AV. This is because they are not a mainstream party, and research showed that they would have gained no seats in the 2010 election under AV.

Reasons for supporting FPTP were as follows:

  • Voters do not like FPTP, but they are confusing AV with proportional representation (PR). They should not vote for an electoral system because it is the only available alternative (as this is what happened in the coalition agreement; Clegg accepted the only electoral reform offer given to him).
  • 'Safe seats' can still remain the same under AV, as they will still have the majority of the electorate’s votes.
  • Second preference votes should not be treated the same as someone's 1st vote - as this is not equal.

It is likely that this debate will only get stronger as we come closer to May 5th. While AV is a reasonable solution to FPTP's flaws, it is not the best option, and once changing the system, voters will only want more change, leading to a slippery slope of electoral reform. So should AV really be our new electoral system? May 5th shall reveal what the public really thinks about it.

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