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Antony Calvert: Why I oppose AV (even though it might have helped me beat Ed Balls)

Antony Calvert 2 Antony Calvert contested Morley and Outwood at last year's general election.

OK, here’s where, as a former councillor, I’m obliged almost by autopilot to declare an interest. At the last general election I lost the Morley and Outwood seat by 1,101 votes, or around 2%. My Labour opponent, the now shadow chancellor Ed Balls, squeaked in but suffered the worst result of any incumbent Labour MP against a Tory challenger in the entire country.

Over the last few months there have been many reasons to vote for or against AV. To be honest I have been quite disappointed and, at times, fairly shocked by some of the themes brought out by the No2AV campaign. I remain convinced, however, that the primary argument wheeled out by the ‘Yes’ campaign for changing the voting system (being that it produces ‘fairer votes’) is dangerously flawed.

Under AV it is entirely likely that the second preference UKIP votes (1,500 or so) and Lib Dem supporters (8,000+) would have broken decisively for the Conservatives. Balls was as divisive a politician in Morley and Outwood last year as he is irritating to the Prime Minister today. Even the BNP voters in the constituency, who typically came from the tough south Morley council estates, were antagonistic towards the former Schools Secretary during the campaign - sentiments aptly demonstrated at the Independent’s televised hustings debate in the centre of Morley.

So it would have been entirely likely that, had we fought the last general election under AV, I would have been sat on the train from Wakefield Westgate with my Commons pass in hand travelling to Kings Cross ready for my first day’s work at Westminster.

The problem I would have with winning a seat this way is that I could never really look at myself in the mirror for the next four or five years and convince myself that I was a legitimate MP. Although it would be quite likely that I would have a final redistributed majority of 2,000-3,000 votes, my real result would still be minus 1,101. I would have won the seat, but lost the vote.

I have spent the last year busily working off campaign debts (and there were many!) and getting stuck into earning money to pay my taxes to help the country pay off this huge deficit Labour left us with. Of course I would have loved to have been able to help the Conservatives from inside Westminster. But to do so under AV would have denied the candidate who polled more votes than me the seat that he surely would have earned and handed me a five-year barrel of accusations that I was not the legitimate representative.

There are some Conservatives who have supported AV on this website. I cannot help but wonder whether some of these voices of change are, in reality, attempts at justifying altering the voting system to catapult themselves into Westminster from second place. Come on, guys, if you are going to fight elections in tough seats, fight them to win, not to aim for second place in the vain hope that others will drag you over the finish line with their cast-off votes.

There is a reason why only three countries use AV when over 60 retain First Past the Post. If it ain’t broke...


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