Dylan Sharpe is a political PR consultant. He was the Head of Press for the NO to AV campaign and a press officer on Boris Johnson’s 2008 Mayoral campaign. Follow Dylan on Twitter.
In the wake of UKIP's impressive second place at the Eastleigh by-election, several commentators have begun to ponder the merits of changing the voting system to suit the new electoral landscape. The 'Tories might have won with AV (the alternative vote)' argument has been floated a few times by people who ought to know better, as well as those looking to capitalise on Conservative jitters to push their own narrow agenda (e.g. the Electoral Reform Society).
Briefly ignoring the fact that the comprehensive 2011 referendum result demonstrated that the British public have absolutely no interest in seeing the voting system gerrymandered for short-term political gain, there are several other very good reasons why dredging up the recently deceased arguments for electoral reform are a red herring for the Conservative party.
Would the Conservatives have won Eastleigh under AV?
Put simply we can't be sure, but a cursory glance at Lord Ashcroft's fascinating Eastleigh exit polling, suggests that the result would have been unlikely to change under the alternative vote. As we enter the 72nd hour of Eastleigh post-game analysis it doesn't need repeating, but I will anyway: the reason the Liberal Democrats won the by-election is because they were better prepared and better organised (as well as having incumbency advantage), not because the voting system is broken.