Conservative Diary

« Cameron promises practical help for families and parenting | Main | David Cameron hails Cancun agreement - but does it represent anything more than platitudes? »

Ten Eleven reasons to vote NO 2 AV

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 11 The week's news has understandably been dominated by the vote on tuition fees in Parliament and associated violence outside Parliament.

So one thing worth noting which did not get as much attention as it merits was the emergence of the latest supporters to sign up to the NO2AV campaign ahead of the referendum in May.

Twenty of the new intake of MPs (10 Tory, 10 Labour, all listed at the bottom of this post) pledged their backing to the campaign, issuing ten reasons to say NO2AV.

I reproduce them here as a handy aide-memoire:

1. AV IS OBSCURE: Only three countries in the world use AV for their national elections: Fiji, Australia, and Papua New Guinea.

2. AV IS UNFAIR: Supporters of fringe parties can end up having their vote counted five or six times – and potentially decide the outcome of the election – while people who backed the mainstream candidates only get one vote.

3. AV IS UNEQUAL: AV treats someone’s fifth or sixth choice as having the same importance as someone’s else’s first preference – but there is a big difference between positively wanting one candidate to win and being able to ‘put up with’ another.

4. AV IS ‘EVEN LESS PROPORTIONAL’ THAN THE CURRENT SYSTEM: So concluded the independent Royal Commission chaired by the senior Liberal Democrat Roy Jenkins in 1998.

5. AV IS ‘DISTURBINGLY UNPREDICTABLE’ – another warning from Roy Jenkins. Elections fought under AV would either wildly increase the majority of the winning party (e.g. Labour in 1997, the Tories in the 1980s) or create hung parliaments by giving the balance of power to the third party.

6. AV IS NOT WANTED - EVEN BY THE YES CAMPAIGN: Before the general election, Nick Clegg described AV as “a miserable little compromise” and the Electoral Reform Society said they did “not regard it as suitable for the election of a representative body, e.g. a parliament”.

7. AV IS NO-ONE’S FIRST CHOICE: AV was not in the manifestos of either the Conservative Party or the Liberal Democrats. Many people who want voting reform have spent years campaigning for proportional representation – which AV is not.

8. AV IS COMPLEX: The Government will have to spend millions of pounds explaining to voters how AV works to prevent a fall in turnout at elections. In Australia, the only reason they have high turnout is because they made voting compulsory.

9. AV IS EXPENSIVE: Under AV we won’t be able to count ballot papers by hand on election night if we want a quick, decisive election result. Local councils will have to purchase electronic counting machines that are very expensive and prone to malfunction.

10. AV IS NOT THE REFORM WE NEED: There are lots of genuine reforms which would go some way to restoring people’s trust in politics – but changing our voting system to AV is not one of them. That’s why it’s a shame that we’re about to spend £90 million and five months debating a system that nobody really wants.

In the wake of the events this week, I will add an eleventh reason that I have articulated before, but which seems all the more pertinent now.

11. AV WILL MAKE POLITICIANS' PROMISES EVEN MORE MEANINGLESS: AV is a system which will deliver more hung parliaments and therefore necessitate more coalitions. Coalitions mean political leaders picking and choosing which parts of their manifesto they seek to implement after you've voted for it, meaning you cannot have confidence that they will stick by any of the promises they have made if they enter government.

And don't just take my word for it. Nick Clegg himself has admitted: "In a coalition, parties are not always able to deliver on their preferred policy options."

The 20 signatories were: Stuart Andrew (Con), Guto Bebb (Con), Jake Berry (Con), Nick Boles (Con), Thomas Docherty (Lab), Julie Elliott (Lab), George Eustice (Con), Yvonne Fovargue (Lab), Zac Goldsmith (Con), Julie Hilling (Lab), Tristram Hunt (Lab), Kwasi Kwarteng (Con), Karen Lumley (Con), Michael McCann (Lab), Priti Patel (Con), Toby Perkins (Lab), Dominic Raab (Con), Gavin Shuker (Lab),  Karl Turner (Lab), Chris Williamson (Lab).


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.