Anyone for the Alternative vote?

This week at Westminster Conservative MPs have had to do a lot of sitting around waiting for votes on the Finance Bill. The government has rightly allowed the Opposition as much time as they want to debate it, and that has led to late nights by the last Labour government’s standards.As Labour have dictated the number and timing of the votes they have enjoyed more flexibility.

During this time there has been much talking about the Alternative vote. AV asks voters to rank the candidates in order of preference. People voting for less popular candidates then effectively have a second vote,as their second preference is used to decide who has won.

Conservatives fought the last election against this – and any other – proposal to change the voting system. Labour, who fought for it, are having second thoughts now they see the whole Coalition government package of electoral changes. They used to think that Lib Dem first choice voters would put Labour second choice, and thereby help Labour to beat the Tories. Now they are not so sure. They are worried that the AV would mean more Lib Dem voters putting Conservatives as second chocie, and thereby hurting Labour more. The Conservative signatories to the Coalition government agreed to further a referendum, but made clear most Conservatives would be campaigning for a No vote.

This leaves open various questions for Parliament. Amongst those being discussed are When should this referendum occur? Should there be any minimum requirement of support for a Yes verdict? How is the linkage of the AV issue to equal sized constituencies to work in practise?

There is also the general question of how should the Yes and No campaigns be organised? Are these best as umbrella organisations which are not the property of any particular political party? (This seems to be the way it will go). Who outside the political parties feels strongly enough about it to want to lead and spend on it? Have we any idea who might win? It seems quite open at the moment.

I would like to hear your views on what should be done. To those who say this is not an important issue, and is a distraction from the business of sorting out the economy and the public sector, Ministers reply “This is the price of Coalition”.

An AV election:

Each voter ranks the three candidates 1st ,2nd and 3 rd preference.

First preferences (based on a typical Con/Lab marginal)

Conservative 40%
Labour 35%
Lib Dem 25%

Lib Dem candidate removed, Lib Dem voters second preferences awarded to relevant candidate:

Would it then be

Conservative 52.5% (getting half Lib Dem 2nd preferences)
Labour 47.5%

or as Labour used to think

Conservative 47.5% (getting 30% Lib Dem 2nd second preferences)
Labour 52.5% (getting 70% of Lib dem 2nd prefs) ?

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74 Comments

  1. Posted July 15, 2010 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    The various changes should be individually listed, not just one vote for all the changes. I'm only going to vote "yes" for anything if I like all of the component parts, and I do intend to cast my vote.

    Any change should only be made is >50% of the available votes are in favour, not simply achieving a threshold of votes cast (whatever it's set at). If a vote remains uncast, assume that no change is wanted, on the grounds that that voter has not asked for change. We are not being asked if we want "no change", but if we want "change".

    • Posted July 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Is our ballot paper valid if we choose to put our x against only one candidate?

      We believe that 50% + 1 of the electorate – not the turnout – should vote in favour of change for it to be declared a 'yes' result.

      • Posted July 20, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        Your vote will indeed be valid. John's example is flawed because he overlooks the possibility that some Lib Dem voters will not express a second preference at all. If the Lib Dems don't advocate any transfers then it's likely a large chunk of their vote will "exhaust" in such circumstances.

  2. Posted July 15, 2010 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I do agree with an MP being linked to a constituancy (although I have no time for the current incumbent "representing" this area), and these consituancies should have a comparable number of available voters.

    The only way I can see offering my support for AV is if there were a "none of the above" box to select. If this box won the ballot, the candidate who came next would be returned to Westminister, but not allowed to vote in the House, take party office, or work on a commitee. They would only be allowed to do constituancy work, unless they called a new ballot (at personal or sponsored expense) to win a proper majority. All votes not cast would be counted as "none of the above". Given this, I might even support compulsory voting.

    • Posted July 15, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      I couldn't agree more.I am fed up with politicians saying that "they have a mandate from the people" when the bulk of the electorate stay at home. All too often they simply don't like the candidate – often thrust upon them from the Party List of the chosen few. If I reluctantly only vote for one candidate and no other does this mean a wasted vote under AV?

  3. Posted July 15, 2010 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    The interests of MPs and of the main political Parties appear to be the main or only factor being considered. The issue being managed by a self-interested parliament, It is most unlikely to be decided on the basis of what is the best (fairest) system but of what is the most advantageous system for one side or the other.

  4. Posted July 15, 2010 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    I agree in principle that every MP should have equal size constituencies, and that certainly any inbuilt majority for one party or another, should be avoided (if possible).

    I do however see a potential problem with this in very low population areas of large land mass, making it much harder for any MP to cover their territory, compared to say a city MP. Both have potential differing problems, but I would like to see this reduction of MP's and boundaries resolved first, before any proposal on an alternative voting system.

    • Posted July 15, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      It is impossible in this small country to have large constituencies on the scale of America or Australia and with modern transport, modern media, they to not create the problems they once might have. All constituencies must be the same size – that is the most important electoral reform. Conservatives would have been in power on their own now had it not been for the Labour bias of Constituency size in the May election.

      • Posted July 20, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        The bias is less down to how the boundaries are drawn and more because of the lower turnouts in safe Labour seats.

  5. Posted July 15, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I thought a date had been set for 5th May next year for the referendum? As for the referendum result, I daresay we'll have to use the FPTP system to decide on whether to scrap the FPTP system as it is unfit. Barmy but anything else would be too convoluted, unless we add multiple options to the ballot and use AV to decide it?

    In all seriousness though I don't think AV will be that advantegous or disadvantegeous to either Labour or Conservatives. If the government is doing well I'd think most non-Lab / Con voters will use their second vote to vote for the government to show approval and if it is doing badly (as Labour were at last election) I'd imagine most will vote against it so it may actually strengthen democracy.

    While you're tinkering with the electoral system how about looking at postal voting at the same time?

  6. Posted July 15, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    For such a fundamental change to our constitution time should be allowed for a proper public debate. There should be a threshold of 50% or possibly 60% turnout for the result of any referendum to be valid. The date should be that of the next Euro Election in 2014, ensuring there is the maximum chance of nationwide turnout as well as time for a proper debate on the pros and cons. LibDems should not be concerned about the delay – so long as it happens before the election that's all that matters. Pushing it to the back of this Parliament will avoid strains in the Coalition if a vote next year either fails, or passes by a small margin on a small turnout.

  7. Posted July 15, 2010 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I am very much in favour of constituencies being of equal size, and of boundaries being decided by a non-aligned group.
    For AV I would support a mark your top 3 system, if the issue couldn't be resolved then the original leader is elected.
    The result should be decided by a straight majority of votes cast, though if the turnout is less than 50% then it should obviously be ignored.
    Let anyone who is prepared to pay for it run the campaigns. If people are bothered enough they will put their hands in their pockets.

  8. Posted July 15, 2010 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    The only argument anyone seems to have produced in favour of AV is the idea that 50%+1 of the electorate would then have 'supported' the chosen MP.

    However, personally, my vote tends to go to the candidate who is LEASTunacceptable to me. Having to make a second choice would be laughable – and the idea that, should my second least acceptable candidate get elected, my vote then 'counted' is a farce.

    STV I can accept as a legitimate alternative voting system, and I would consider the pros and cons seriously before voting on it. AV is just a stupid system which is only being debated according to perceived potential electoral advantage – and noone is really sure where that would lie now – let alone in the future!

  9. Posted July 15, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I don't agree with a "second choice". If I think a candidate is worthy of my vote that's who I vote for. There is no second choice, the remainder all have equal standing as ones that I don't want, so why should my vote be used to put someone in power who I don't want.

    • Posted July 16, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Lets hope the electorate understand this when consulted

    • Posted July 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      I agree – I vote for the candidate I support and emphatically do not want to have to also vote for those candidates whom I think to be the second and third worst choice for my constituency. AV seems to me to be a political scam to confuse the electorate and has little to do with serious democracy.

  10. Posted July 15, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I am very much in the No camp. Those who do not vote are "automatically" assigned to the winning party as they obviousl ydo not care which party wins. Whilst our system look quaint aganst the rest of Europe I prefer a strong government.

    The reforms need to come in the system of government and acceptance like the Americans that the popular vote may not give the winning party enough cabinet quality people. The PM appoints from outside parliament and his or her selection are questioned by the elected MP's.

    That and an English parliament to replace the county councils.

  11. Posted July 15, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    John,

    Taking this thought experiment one step further along, would you run your local election campaign differently under AV?

    Would it encourage you to campaign jointly with other parties on specific issues? or would it be business as usual?

    It strikes me that there would seem to be merit in joint campaigning as it would encourage more second votes?

    • Posted July 16, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Or at the very least single issue local campaigns?

  12. Posted July 15, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    After yesterday's HoC debates, particularly on the EU's dipolomatic service, I'm all in favour of AV. It doesn't matter which of the three parties are in office – we get the same government with different managers.

    This is not a democracy. Even Clegg's initiative is a sham – he still gets to choose which laws stay and which go, so it's looking more and more like a PR exercise. Surprise!

    I suspect that the policy to trigger debates on receipt of 100,000 signatures will be just as much of a sham as the above because the outcome of the debates is likely to be rigged via some mechanism (whipping, etc.).

    • Posted July 15, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I agree, the referendum on the alternative vote system is a sham to direct attention away from important matters. There is far too much towing the line by party politicians, even, it seems, from our host. Surely, I expected him to vote against the EU diplomatic service. Or am I misinformed?
      Only more referenda as in Switzerland could change this situation.

  13. Posted July 15, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    The interesting thing to watch about AV is not so much who voters will give their second preference to, but rather whether they'll change their first preference.
    In other words, how many people are currently voting Labour because that's the largest anyone-but-a-Tory party, and how many were voting Tory to kick out Labour? Will these people now start voting Green, or UKIP, or LibDem, and just vote Labour/Conservative with their last-but-one preference?

    • Posted July 16, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      The 2009 Euro elections were interesting. Labour came fourth, with support of just 8% of the electorate, because government was not at stake. Minority parties allow voters to signal strong policy preferences under AV, because they can use their "protest vote" while still having a second bite of the cherry. As such preferences come to be revealed they are bound to influence the policies of major parties. The dynamic is not at all clear.

  14. Posted July 15, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    This system is dud and I am intuitively repelled by it. I would rather have open primaries than "safe seats" appointed by central parties. The boundaries must be set more appropriately in order to avoid the lean towards Labour inherent in the system.

    If AV must go ahead, I think it should have compulsory voting introduced with a small fine for non compliance. This would greatly enhance the legitimacy of any parliamentarian's claim to represent his constituents.

  15. Posted July 15, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    It seems to me the choice of voting arrangement must be based on trying to achieve the expression of the will of voters.

    However, since the choice of voting arrangement is being made *by those who will benefit or suffer from that arrangement*, it will inevitably come down to a contest between those who benefit and those who suffer, and whoever is stronger will win.

    It seems plain to me that this is expressed in the content of this blog entry; parties are in favour, or not in favour, of AV, depending on whether or not they benefit.

  16. Posted July 15, 2010 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I would never select a second choice of candidate. As far as I'm concerned, I fail to see how anyone could really have a "second choice"; if you're Conservative, then you vote for a Conservative; if you're Labour then you select the Labour candidate. Why would I bother with a second choice from an entirely different political stable?
    If it were to be compulsory to give an alternative selection then my voting paper would be invalid. There should be the option of choosing a box marked "no alternative selected".

    • Posted August 14, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      Why do you assume that everyone agrees with all policies of one party? There are so many differing facets in political issues – contrasting, say, going to war with a foreign country against, say, education of children.

  17. Posted July 15, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    The main thing that your figures how is that AV is NOT proportional representation as the party with the highest number of votes could have no representation. Mind you, as a UKIP supporter, I should favour the system which should enhance the chances of UKIP, and other smaller parties getting a seat. LibDems may favour the system now, but one wonders what their view would be if they actually gained power.

    Actually, I don't understand the LibDem's position. Most of their rank and file members seem to be strongly opposed to a coalition government (or is it just one with the Tories, I'm not quite clear).
    However, one thing that does seem clear is that proportional representation invariably leads to coalition government. For those who argue that this is not the case, will you please, please let me know the name of any country which has proportional representation, and which does NOT have a coalition government. I certainly have been unable to think of one.

    The most important issue in my view is that we should have equal (say within 5%) sized constituencies, possibly with special arrangements (ie LARGER constituencies) for those parts of the UK which have their own assemblies. It is ludicrous that Scotland and Wales should have proportionately more MPs and also have their own partial self government whilst being able to have a disproportionate influence on English matters. It should be the other way round "He who pays the piper calls the tune"!
    The whole system is a mess, but I can't see that AV is the way forward.

  18. Posted July 15, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    People saying that they don't want a second choice: fine. I hope the proposal is that you are not forced to make one. If so, then put a '1' against your favourite candidate and leave it at that. Your ballot is then treated as it would be under the existing system. Indeed, if everyone selects only one candidate, then AV reduces to the existing system.

    But some of us might like a second choice, or more. You don't have to use it, but why deny others than option?

  19. Posted July 15, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I think the numbers would depend on the constituency and candidates in question. I live in Reading East so I can say what I think would have happened there, but that wouldn't apply elsewhere.

    Before 2005 it was a Labour constituency. In the 2005 election it became a very marginal Tory seat with Labour in second place. In the 2010 election, Labour put up a very poor candidate even by Labour party standards, Lib Dems put up a popular local councillor, and the popular Tory MP was standing for re-election.

    A lot of people tatically voted Tory to ensure the Labour candidate didn't get in. As it happened, he was returned with a greatly increased majority and Labour fell to 3rd place. Under an AV system, some of them might have voted Lib Dem with Tory as second choice, so Lib Dems would have got more first choice votes. Similarly Labour Party voters who hate the Tories and didn't particularly like their candidate would have voted Lib Dem as first choice and Labour second choice.

    As for what the core Lib Dem supporters would choose as their second choice vote, I'm not sure. The "Liberal" wing would probably tend towards the Tories to stop Labour's big government agenda. The SDP wing would prefer a Blairite Labour candidate, but would want to keep a Socialist or Looney Left candidate out. In Reading East, I think they would have mostly put Tory as second choice, elsewhere, and in 2015 with a stronger Labour candidate, it could be different.

  20. Posted July 15, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I certainly would like to see constituences changed so that they are more or less the same size. By comparison with other countries we have too many constituences. (Japan for example has far fewer for twice the population). Amalgamating some of the smaller urban constituencies would be a start here.
    As for the voting system, I shall be voting in favour of first part the post.
    I have never had any wish to vote for any candidate except the one who fits my sole preference. Should AV be selected then I shall continue to vote only for the one candidate I prefer.

    • Posted July 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Equal sized constituencies make sense. The argument that MP's will struggle to cover a larger patch is bogus. With the sophisticated communications we have today they will easily maintain contact with their constituents. I too will vote to retain the current voting system, though I would consider voting for change if the shift was to genuine PR. Were AV to be introduced I too would only vote for a single candidate. I refuse to vote Labour even as a sixth preference below the Monster Raving Loonies.

  21. Posted July 15, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    The irony is that, in areas where they have a reasonable level of support, it is the Lib Dems who harp on most about people not 'wasting' their vote on Labour or Conservative, as the case may be.
    One might expect AV to help smaller, and perhaps newer (?), parties. The big question for me is whether the Conservative party will split between a Unionist & Euro/Liberal/Cameroon section and an English Nationalist party more in tune with the views of its traditional supporters. The latter would get my first vote, and might be advantaged by AV.

  22. Posted July 15, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    If we have to change, keep it simple like "Two Ticks Too Easy"; an AMS system. We already use similar for the devolved administrations; though the Scots found it too difficult first time around. Probably have to halve the current 650 Westminster constituencies to 325 plus, say 216 party list seats making around 541 total. Saving the salary and expenses of 109 MPs, if there are no overhang seats that you can get with this system. http://www.elections.org.nz/voting/mmp/two-ticks-

    • Posted July 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      Vile system, like all party list systems.

      • Posted August 14, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

        Have you an argument to support that?

  23. Posted July 15, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    We're told that it won't be good for the country as it will never provide a strong government.
    That may be true, but it means that never again will there be a government with a small minority vote (even if some votes are half-hearted)- ie. in 2005 more people didn't want labour than did yet they were allowed to continue to wreck stuff.
    If the coalition does things people don't like now, at least you can say they are a majority…. and so they can under AV, which to me seems like a stronger government if you've got most people on your side.
    It also allows you to create more competition by encouraging the smaller parties, whilst still giving your best compromise vote to the big ones.
    So whatever technical whinges or disadvantages there are about moving to it, they don't overcome the above.

    The vote should be on 5th May as planned and should be free of the parties.

  24. Posted July 15, 2010 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I support FPTP for Westminster as it tends to give stronger governments.

    I accept the AV referendum was inevitable, if Cameron had not accepted it Labour would have done it eventfully anyway.

    I support a small, appointed upper house but accept that given the sorry state it is in now replacing it with an elected system would be better than leaving it as it is. Appointments to the upper house should be for a long term (decade?) and a proportion of the seats changing every one or two years rather than all at once.

    I support the monarchy as being above politics, but I'm not sure it will last long after the current monarch steps down or dies. Whatever replaces it must not be an elected president. People in the UK seem to like copying bits of the American system without taking the whole thing which is very dangerous.

    I think constituency sizes should be standardized, but with a nice round number rather than some number pulled out of the hat to justify the number of MPs. How about 100,000 registered voters per constituency plus/minus 10%? How many MPs would that give us? Boundaries should be set at a known date in the electoral cycle, say one or two years before the election.

    • Posted July 15, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      I have always supported fixed terms. For this parliament 5 years is OK, but we should consider 4 years for subsequent ones.

      I think that for any constitutional change there should be a minimum turnout, as not voting is a vote for the status quo. We need to get the constitution back on an even keel after all Labour's tinkering then leave it for a decade or two to settle.

      Further down the line I would like to see Westminster split into a federal parliament for UK wide issues like finance, defense and foreign policy and an English parliament for purely English issues like health and education. I don't have a problem with the same representatives sitting on both.

      I also think that PMs should limit their time in office to two parliaments, with a new leader taking at the time of a general election so that he/she has a new mandate to go with the new job. However, this should be a convention rather than a requirement. I think that MPs should also retire at 65 (or whatever the retirement age is at the time) rather than fighting on into old age.

      • Posted July 16, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        Fixed terms entrench boom and bust, especially when their length is close to the length of a natural business cycle. I am not in favour of encouraging pork barrel politics in this way.

  25. Posted July 15, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    The boundary reorganisation is required whatever voting system is chosen. This is the priority.

    I will vote No to AV.

    To say that FPTP is failing the country is ludicrous. Lib Dems and previously Liberals have complained about the voting system for years. Tough.

  26. Posted July 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I think AV will hugely increase positive voting. I belive many, if not most, people vote defensively, ie for their least disliked party that has a real chance. Under AV people will be free to vote for smaller and more extreme parties (from the Greens to the BNP) who reflect their real views knowing that their vote will not be wasted.
    I think the major political parties will get a very nasty shock indeed from AV, so I'm all for it!

  27. Posted July 15, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I will be supporting the move to the Alternative Vote. It is easy to explain to voters, and it fits in more with current thinking about how choices are made, i.e. "I want X, but if I cannot have X then I will have Y".

    Imagine trying to run a TV talent competition on a "first past the post" system – it wouldn't get any popular support at all. Now I do realise that choosing an MP is a good deal more important than selecting the next Lead Singer in a West End musical, but isn't it odd that my daughter uses a more sophisticated and accurate system for a talent show than I currently use for choosing a legislator?

  28. Posted July 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Constituency boundary changes should should aim for a smaller number of constituents in low population density areas because of the practical difficulties for the MP.

    AV is unrelated to constituency boundaries as is maintains the constituency link.

    AV may make more people think voting is worth while, but the practical difference is marginal. MPs meddling with voting system for what they see as a benefit to themselves is not to their credit.

  29. Posted July 15, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Maybe this isn't such a bad thing, particularly as we are to undo the Labour gerrymandering with fewer PM's and more equal sized constituencies.

    If one was a LibDem voter in a weak LibDem seat one might ask, "Which way will my vote be redistributed?" No matter what the answer, one would likely conclude, "Well, I may as well take control of my vote and vote for Labour/Tory (Depending on the expected winner and your personal second preference) instead."

    The LibDems will therefore be squeezed out of existence in all but their strongholds. The status quo may not therefore change greatly, but the Labour bias will have been destroyed.

    I'll settle for that.

  30. Posted July 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    How about doing the reformation of parliament as set out in the coalition document first?

    The ability to recall an MP may be required quite soon as an MP is being prosecuted for alleged impropriety, and another apparently has a file with the police too. It would demonstrate the "new politics"

    On top of that you also promised to reform party funding.

    I'm aware of the boundary changes and the need to reduce parliamentary seats by 10% (coalition document figure but actually 650 down to 600…maybe a calculator error?) Please could we also have introduced the power to bar a Lord from entering parliament and thereby picking up money, which I think is much easier than throwing them out.

  31. Posted July 15, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    With AV comes a more complicated and lengthy vote count, and a higher risk of human error and the likelihood of more re-counts.

    The obvious, practical solution is to switch to an electronic voting system. Then we would know the result for the whole country by 22:30, and we could be safely tucked up in bed well before midnight! Apart from the (new) PM, of course, who will be burning the midnight oil sorting out the new cabinet.

    We need electronic voting sooner or later, and it might encourage more people to vote.

  32. Posted July 15, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    This whole thing stinks. My local MP was on the telly explaining that the advantage of AV was that it more accurately represented the wishes of the electorate while at the same time keeping the BNP out. This individual is a member of the CFI and of UAF so one could reasonably conclude he is strongly opposed to Fascism of an English variety; his website is full of photos of activities essential to our national survival such as opening fates.

    Firstly, if we are to abandon first past the post, the only reasonable alternative is a system which gives all parties an equal chance of their support being reflected in seats in parliament.

    Second, MPs have too much responsibilty for purely local affairs because far too much power has been usurped by central government in matters which should reasonably be decided at the local level.

    Third, existing partty structure in no way represents the distribution of opinion in this country; for instance the majority of right wing voters are hostile toward the EU and yet that is not represented in the actions of the party leadership; similarly 80% of the country wants third world immigration stopped, yet the government has been 'convinced' by 'business leaders' that this would harm their businesses and the recovery. In other words, a chance of government means a change of excuse for continuing to (run very high inward migration-ed)

  33. Posted July 15, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    You ask how voters would vote under AV assuming that first preferences would be the same as under FPTP. But Thomas Widman above says, AV is likely to affect first preferences as it should encourage people to vote "honestly" since they wouldn't be throwing away their vote by choosing an unpopular party or candidate.

    However although tactical voting by the third party under FPTP inflates the shares of the two leading parties, if the second preferences of those who voted tactically reflect the second preferences of third party voters who did not tactically, then that does not affect the outcomes under AV.

    Your example shows that it is possible for AV to reverse the FPTP outcome depending on third party second preferences. Indeed so. But what of seats where Libdems are first or second under FPTP? Isn't it clear that AV would unambiguoulsy strengthen them, either as incumbents or as challengers.

    AV looks best from a Libdem perspective and worst from a Conservative perspective.

  34. Posted July 15, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    AV may be the current, up-front topic, but the elephant in the room is "the whole Coalition government package of electoral changes".

    Is the referendum to be solely on AV or the whole package?

    Reply: Just on AV – subject to Parliamentary deabte of the Bill

  35. Posted July 15, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    1. We need no more than 500 MPs.

    2.There should be a "None of the above" option on voting papers.

    3. Voting should be moved to Sundays – it's no longer a day of rest, rather a day of shopping.

    4. If no candidate gets 50% of the votes cast, there should be a run-off on the following Sunday between the top two candidates.

    5. Postal votes should only be available in genuine cases of inability to visit a polling station. This would tend to reduce the corruption which seems to have crept in recently.

  36. Posted July 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I'd like to see a system where our votes counted, and where we felt part of a 'fair' representative, democracy. Why are we just looking at AV? To please Mr Clegg, who ensured that 1) we have not voted on the Lisbon Treaty, and 2) we will not vote or debate the Human Rights Act. Unless there are very good reasons to vote for AV, which I don't there there are, my bigger motivation will be to vote No, simply to 'pay Clegg back'.

    What I do support are
    1. Constituences of a similar size
    2. Different arrangments for Scotland and Wales so they are not so influential in English mattes
    3. Getting rid of postal voting, except in very controled circumstances where people really cannot get to the polling station.
    4. A through analysis of voting systems around the world to see if FPTP really is best for democracy. And it is democracy, not parties who should be the winner.
    5. A system where the MP is answerable to the constituents, and we have more power to remove them if they don't perform – which presumably means some sort of change to the whipping system. I'm really tired of not only not being represented, but not being listened too.
    6. A second chamber made up of people who have 'earnt' the right to be there, who are held in esteem, who have served the country and who have some form of expertise.

    What I don't support, apart from AV, is any sort of payment to political parties from the public purse. The current hotch potch system for election to the Lords.

  37. Posted July 15, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Almost every analysis I've seen on AV ignores the fact that the first votes to get second preferences come from the smaller parties: BNP/UKIP/Green, etc. Voters who might support elements of those parties' policies will feel free to convey the message by giving them a first preference vote, safe in the knowledge that their second preference will also count. Campaigns for the leading parties will then need to assess how to maximise their winning chances. Ignoring second preference votes of minor parties might risk the other campaigns picking them up, making the division of the spoils of the party coming third less of a factor (or irrelevant).

    There is a corollary: if there is no minor party to pick up protest votes of sympathetic voters who either dislike the main candidate or some aspect(s) of main party policy, then the chance of getting second preference votes is lost, since such people will tend to abstain. That means Conservatives need UKIP to continue, and Labour will fight the Lib Dems for Green second preference and so on.

    Analysing the last election results (excluding the complex politics of Northern Ireland!), I found that 214 seats would have been won on the first round under AV (i.e. candidates like yourself with more than 50% of the vote). I then re-allocated the votes of BNP (75% Labour, 25% Conservative), Green (50/50 Labour/Lib Dem – except in Brighton), UKIP and English Democrat (100% Conservative) – which was enough to decide a further 100 seats. Another 67 seats could be decided if the leading party capturing all the second preferences of the remaining fourth and smaller parties (although it is unlikely to be decisive in most of them, but none of the second place parties would get over the 50% hurdle by capturing these votes alone).

    There are then some 97 seats where Conservatives lead with Labour second: the number won would rise in proportion with the LD/Other vote share, with all of them captured at 50% or above. There are a further 24 seats that are Con/LD, where a similar rule applies.

    91 seats are Lab/Con /LD. The vote share of LD/Others required to win is not a straight line relationship with the number of seats: there is a more vulnerable tranche of about 35 seats that could be won with a 60% vote share. There are 43 seats that are Lab/LD/other.

    I won't try to give a fuller analysis, but the point should be clear: AV is not just about how the Lib Dem vote might carve up. The ability to express a vote for a "single issue" party without wasting a vote may well radicalise British politics. Politicians would get a clearer handle on the benefits of being in favour of e.g. being tough on immigration or pulling out of the EU. Voters might even surprise themselves by accidentally voting in someone who was only meant to be a protest candidate.

  38. Posted July 15, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Actually I prefer an alternative to the Alternative Vote, namely the Single Transferable Vote. Different voting systems should be considered on their merits, not on party advantage, and STV scores highly in that regard, – see <a href="http://www.ma.hw.ac.uk/~denis/signif.pdf” target=”_blank”>www.ma.hw.ac.uk/~denis/signif.pdf – but it would also be to the party advantage of both Libdems and Conservatives who are disadvantaged by the FPTP system.

  39. Posted July 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    In effect, as Libdem second preference would invariably be Labour, and that of Labour mainly Libdem then in effect the Tories would lose seats and as per the last 13 years England would be ruled by the Scottish and Welsh based MP's.

    What has happened to the policy that only English constituency MP's would vote on matters that affect England only?

    And would somebody please explain to this thicko why England cannot have its own devolved government?

  40. Posted July 15, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Vote should be later in the parliament, so people can make a more informed judgement on coalitions.

    It strikes of opportunism by the Lib Dems, with so many other issues to sort out.

    Overall majority in the UK and in England, as other regions have devolved power and yet their vote in the general election brought about the conditions for the coalition, rather than a Conservative overall majority.

    Not sure how MP’s should organise campaigns but it should be above party politics.

    Wider point I don’t like the fact that the AV system gives full value to a 2nd place preference, in the event that the winner doesn’t achieve 50%.

  41. Posted July 15, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Permalink
    • Posted July 16, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

      There's some interesting data but they ignore the minor parties in the analysis – and they will skew the result significantly, instead of being almost irrelevant as at present. Regional differences could also be important: would Conservatives support SNP or Lib Dem as second preference in Scotland, for instance?

  42. Posted July 15, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Given all the negative campaigning, general disgust with politicans and popularity of Xfactor etc, how about we rank the candidate from most hated to least hated – least hated one winning?

  43. Posted July 15, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    A problem with AV is that it gives greater weight to those who want to vote against a party than those who want to vote for. For over a decade this would have worked against the Conservatives. Now it will work against Labour, hence their sudden coolness to the idea.
    So, as a result, you will get more negative campaigning, to encourage the opposition to be despised. More power to the likes of Mandleson and Balls then. Less to those who really want to serve the country above party interest.

  44. Posted July 15, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    CDR.. thank you for voicing my thoughts exactly.

  45. Posted July 15, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    I've said this before on your website. AV does not only give a second vote to those who choose the least preferred candidates. It gives everyone a second vote. However the second vote of those who choose the more popular candidates goes to those candidates in the second round. You know this too, John. So why do you continue to mis-characterise the process? Nothing to do with being a member of one of the larger parties, who might then lose out, I hope.

    • Posted July 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      John is right. Consider a near three way tie. Voters for A give second preference to B; voters for B give second preference for C; Voters for C give second preference for A. If C gets least votes, A wins; if B then C wins; if A then B wins. Now when C gets least votes, the more numerous second preferences of voters for B are ignored, although together they would constitute a majority in favour of C. Likewise, A's second preference votes for B are also ignored. See Arrow Impossibility Theorem.

  46. Posted July 16, 2010 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    At the AV referendum I shall be voting "No"

    But should this option not receive sufficient votes to win, my vote will then go to my second choice "Yes".

    Seems reasonable enough to me.

  47. Posted July 16, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    It seems overindulgent of the Lib Dems to press for this early referendum.

    Troops dying as we exit Afghanistan, a transition of jobs from public to the private sector, business still starved of finance by the banks (this is a big problem)

    For coming a poor third the Lib Dems have got all the props that they could have dreamt of, better to see how they perform for a few years before indulging in a voting system that will make these Lego governments more likely?

    Don’t forget it’s this bunch of Coco’s that would have had us in the Euro.

    If we’ve got to have a referendum then why not a EU based one related to “ who governs us” , rather than how we rank also ran’s?

    It’s a good simple system as it is, winner takes all and the system is tough on third parties.

    I suppose that the only fair way of organising the for and against camps is to have two campaigns not “owned” by any party.

    I would like to see the hurdle for a “yes” vote being a double majority, in the UK and in each of the four parts of the kingdom.

  48. Posted July 16, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    It seems overindulgent of the Lib Dems to press for this early referendum.

    Troops dying as we exit Afghanistan, a transition of jobs from public to the private sector, business still starved of finance by the banks (this is a big problem)

    For coming a poor third the Lib Dems have got all the props that they could have dreamt of, better to see how they perform for a few years before indulging in a voting system that will make these Lego governments more likely?

    Don’t forget it’s this bunch of Coco’s that would have had us in the Euro.

    If we’ve got to have a referendum then why not a EU based one related to “ who governs us” , rather than how we rank also ran’s?

    It’s a good simple system as it is, winner takes all and the system is tough on third parties.

    I suppose that the only fair way of organising the for and against camps is to have two campaigns not “owned” by any party.

    I would like to see the hurdle for a “yes” vote being a double majority, in the UK and in each of the four parts of the kingdom.

  49. Posted July 16, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    John, comments made regarding this and other issues seem to be getting “lost” and don’t appear as posts

    Reply: This morning the computer failed to transfer all the appoved ones to posted, so I am having to do them all again

    • Posted July 16, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Cath, I have one as well, probably held in modration for a second read/ammendment before being released to probably protect all concerned !

  50. Posted July 16, 2010 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I am completely against AV. The Tories should never have agreed to a referendum but then again they should not have elected Cameron as leader either. I don't want to prioritise my votes in a least worst way. I might rather have PR than AV.

  51. Posted July 16, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Set up a constitutional assembly. Discuss ALL possible systems. Explain the pros and cons for each. Hold a referendum.

    As usual, this is all going to be discussed by the misfits in the House of Commons; the rest of us won't get any say at all.

  52. Posted July 16, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    This all seems very confusing to me I just hope others know what this means to both themselves and to the country.

  53. Posted July 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    The French have a saying, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." – "The more things change the more they stay the same." Up to 80% of legislation that affects people living in Britain comes from the unelected and unaccountable EU civil service via approval by the EU parliament. The Welsh have a parliament of sorts, the Northern Irish have their own assembly, so do the Scots. But the English who are by far the largest majority do not. It's interesting that none of the contributers has suggested the possibility of new parties being formed as a result of AV . e.g there are 15 million pensioners in the UK most of whom vote. A pensioner party might emerge along with who knows what others. I'm sorry to say that at the moment, our democracy is not working too well, and I doubt very much that AV will alter that. I voted Conservative and got Coalition. I want a referendum on Europe, but Lib Lab Con will not allow this. Democracy? Of a kind yes, but a long way from what it could and should be.

  54. Posted July 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    According to this yesterday:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jul/15/ni

    "The deputy prime minister also said he would be proposing the optional preferential AV system, which does not require voters to list all candidates in preference."

    So presumably those who want to continue to vote for only one candidate will be allowed to do so.

    I will vote for AV.

  55. Posted July 21, 2010 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    AV does not give anybody a "second vote", say the person in last place is eliminated, so their votes go to the person who would have got their votes had the person in last place not actually ran in the election, so why should, as so often does happen, a person running in the election who can't win actually end up deciding it's result, UKIP a Labour and a Lib Dem MP elected. In a normal run-off election they don't tell people who voted for the last place candidate in the first round your vote is going to be worth less in this round, do they?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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