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William Hague condemns AV as un-British, unwanted and undemocratic

By Matthew Barrett


Photo by Andrew Parsons.

William Hague appeared at Methodist Central Hall in Westminster on Tuesday with Lord Owen, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary John Healey, and Lord Boateng, to outline the case against the Alternative Vote. In a speech the FT Westminster blog said "stole the show with a masterclass of oratory", he touched on three key themes. 

Firstly, the un-British nature of the Alternative Vote:

If there’s one salient fact about British political history, it is the steady evolution towards the principle of one person, one vote. Of course, progress was often slow and frustrating. Many of those who campaigned for equal votes saw only small changes during their lifetime. But the direction was unmistakable and clear: from the rotten boroughs before the Great Reform Act, when the vast majority of people had no vote, to what we enjoy now, where each person has one vote, no matter your wealth, rank or station. This is the British story, written by generations of reformers and progressives over two centuries. Today it stands as the cornerstone of our democracy. And that is AV’s greatest problem: that it would reverse some of this history.

Secondly, that it's unwanted abroad:

As Foreign Secretary, I visit a lot of countries but I am yet to visit a country that recommends we change our voting system. I have seen many who would like to change theirs for ours – and have seen many who think we would be crazy to swap ours for theirs. One person, one vote. Those four short words have been an inspiration to millions upon millions. Our way of voting – first past the post – is all about that. That is why it has been used –is being used – by more than two billion people across the world, by the world’s mightiest democracy, the United States of America, by the world’s biggest democracy, India. Is the United States held back in the world by First Past the Post and does it agonize over changing it? Does India, facing all the challenges it faces, think it can overcome them all if only they changed to the AV system? No all they use the system that came over to them from United Kingdom, from the Mother of All Parliaments. What would the many nations around the world think if we in Britain chose AV?

Finally, that it's undemocratic:

It’s nobody’s first choice. Even its supporters see it as a compromise on the way to something else. It is a second or third choice system that favours second choice candidates. Less fair, empowering extremists, undermining the principle of one voter, one vote; capable of producing obviously undemocratic results, encouraging political horse-trading rather than open debate, AV does not represent electoral reform but a damaged democracy that no one really wants. The world would be baffled by it – and rightly so.



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