AV does not humble the “safe seat” holder

 

              The Yes campaign has put up misleading posters as part of their contribution to this bad tempered referendum campaign. They want voters to believe that AV will make MPs in safe seats more accountable, and force them to appeal beyond their party suppport to those of differing views. This is wrong on so many counts.

              The most obvious way it is wrong is it ignores the arithmetic of AV polls. By definition  a “safe seat” is one where the current MP already gets more than 50% of the vote. It is deemed to be safe, because it does not matter how the opposition vote is cast, as more than half support the winning party. If a candidate already gets more than 50% of the vote with his or her current approach to politics, why should he or she  change it because AV has been introduced? The MP might well conclude that the “core vote ” strategy had worked in the past and would work in the future.

            It is wrong because it falsely assumes that MPs who get more than 50% of the vote behave in a tribal party way under FPTP. Sensible MPs understand two important things about democracy. The first is, MPs are elected to represent all the people in their area, however they voted or whatever their views. The second  is there is no such thing as a permanently safe seat. Some candidates have managed to lose seats that their parties have held for a long time and where they used to have very high proportions of the votes for that one party. Bermonsdey, for example, was a very  “safe” Labour seat  but the Lib Dems toppled them many years ago. The Conservatives have lost Ryedale, Winchester, Eastleigh and various other “safe” Conservative seats in the past.

              The two truths are related. If an MP did seek to abuse his position of trust with a large majority, and failed to look after the minority in  his area, this could become a matter which started to undermine him. It might lead to his party wishing to remove him as future candidate before it got out of control, or it could become a major issue in an election which damaged his vote or even lost him the seat.

             The Yes to AV campaign wish to side with those who dislike any arrogance or assumption by politicians. Unfortunately for the Yes to AV camapign there can be no monopoly of the anti politics feeling on any one side in this referendum, as everyone knows it is politicians that are the driving force behind both sides. The Yes campaign have misjudged this argument badly – AV would not humble any arrogant safe seater, but any sensible MP reaches out well beyond their party in order to represent their constituents in the round and to the best of their ability.

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67 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Clearly AV will have little effect on MPs in safe seats. Anyway one of the main problems with most MPs is they pretend to be all thinks to all voters keeping their view hidden. So no one really knows what their real views are or what they will do once elected. Or will they just do as bidden by the party at the logic or their position usually dictates.

    AV will just make this even worse.

    If Chris Huhne wishes to find some really big lies he should look at the claims made in relation to “green” energy, his area of responsibility and absurd feed in tariffs not the no to AV campaign.

    see the link below from – adamsmith.org

    http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/environment/chris-huhne's-subsidy-sleight-of-hand/

    There is no sense to any of the complex feed in tariffs, as far as I can see and certainly no reason to subsidise low carbon energy at different rates depending on the particular technology.

  2. norman
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Normally I thoroughly enjoy reading this blog with my morning coffee but couldn’t get past the first sentence today – this AV stuff really is dire. Not this post, but generally.

    Thank goodness it’ll all be over in a couple of days.

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      norman

      Agreed.

      The sooner its over the better, only hope we get a massive no vote, so it is not discussed again for very many years.

      Much more important is to get the constituancy boundaries right so that no party has an inbuilt advantage.

      The only vote we need is: In or out of Europe.

      • Gary
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        alan,

        Fixing the boundaries is NOT democracy. That is geography. That is the beginning and the end of the problem with our so called democracy. Democracy is about the votes of individual people, not the arbitrarily gerrymandering of a map that is sold to us as democracy.

        • rose
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

          Fixing the boundaries means reflecting population shifts from Labour inner cities to Conservative suburbs, rather than catching up ten years afterwards and only in retrospect, as the boundary commission is legally obliged at the moment to do.

        • lojolondon
          Posted May 4, 2011 at 6:34 am | Permalink

          Gary,
          “Fixing the boundaries” is common practice and it is electoral fraud, as is our postal voting system. Liebour energetically practiced both for the last 13 years. So it needs to be correct to reflect democracy in the FPTP system. A national ‘topup’ system would help to level the situation and the abuse that goes with the constant requirement for meddling with boundaries.

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        As you say “The only vote we need is: In or out of Europe.” It is a clear outrage that we get a vote on AV and not one on the EU. The UK cannot really be called a democracy in any real sense when parliament in no longer really sovereign, and it only asks the questions of the public when it likes to, in the way it likes, with the quorum and wording it chooses perhaps of a selected region, or carefully selected dates and when it feels like it.

        Then at the general election voters have just one vote on hundreds of contradictory issues for one of two or three MPs who will likely not do as promised pre-election anyway.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        Which other vote you have no obvious means of getting.

        And even if you did somehow get it you would almost certainly lose it, as should be clear from this referendum.

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        Alan, Haven’t you noticed? When the (idiotic) voters vote in a referendum, the choice is continually put before them until they come to their senses?
        Even if they never do vote correctly (the idiots), the thing goes ahead anyway.

        • lifelogic
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

          That certainly seems to be the EU way.

  3. Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I think the fact that MPs represent all their constituents, regardless of how they voted is something that a lot of people are not that aware of.

    A Labour voting person might turn to their Tory MP in extremis, but might not think to do so normally because there is the perception that the MP is a member of the Tory party first, and a constituency representative second. And visa-versa.

    I have on occasion advised people to write to their MP, and they are often surprised at the idea or that an MP from “the other team” would want to be involved in a problem.

    That is the downside of the tribalism within politics – and is a direct result of how the media leap on “dissent within the ranks” within Westminster, not appreciating that an MPs first loyalty should be to the constituents, not the party.

    It would help if some members of the yes2av campaign would stop treating the referendum as an attempt to “kick the Tories out forever” – that is tribalism at its worst.

  4. forthurst
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Why should we be surprised that the promoters of AV are liars? Did Dave and his crew seriously believe that a sensible and well-informed public, having been fairly presented with the facts, realising they were not being offered the real McCoy, would easily opt for the status quo? The general public is extremely easily misled as was more than adequately demonstrated yesterday. However, there is an advertising standards agency, so maybe it should be alerted?

  5. Richard1
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Had I lived in Barking at the last election and had there been AV, I would have voted Conservative 1), because I’m a Conservative. With no enthusiasm at all I would presumably have put LibDem at 2). Then I might have put Labour at 3), though I expressly voted to kick the Labour Government out, in order that the BNP candidate had less chance of winning. The Labour MP would have been elected just the same. But instead of it being a Labour marginal, she would have been able to claim ‘over 50%’ of the vote – including mine! The concept that AV means MPs will have the support of at least 50% of their electorates is nonesense – they will have the same as they do now. But it will mean that they claim support from voters from whom they certainly do not. A further blow for representative democracy.

    • rose
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      This is a classic e.g. of where you need to get tactical and not put preferred votes down after your first choice.

  6. Susan
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    The question really is, why are we having this referendum in the first place? There seems very little demand by the public to change Britains voting system. It also costs money at a time when there are many more important demands on the UK finances and more important issues for Government to deal with. Therefore, one has to say it is being held merely to appease the Lib/Dems in this Coalition. The logical conclusion, which the ordinary electorate will deduce from that is, the Lib/Dems value their own need for power as a party above solving the immediate fiscal problems of Britain. It is to be hoped therefore, for the no vote, that a low turnout does not reflect this apathy, that the public do not see this change in the UK voting system as an important issue.

    The referendum is already unfair, due to the fact the devolved Governments electorate will be out voting on who will run their Country. This means the turnout will be much higher in these Countries and they will inevitably vote for a change to AV. So the change to AV may come in without a proper mandate from the public.

    I have listened to Chris Huhne and to my mind this man has gone too far with his rhetoric on the subject of AV to remain in this Coalition. The same could be said of Vince Cable, who should have been forced out long ago. Neither are doing a very good job in their present positions in Government anyway. Oh how I wish the Conservatives had never entered into this Coalition with the toxic Lib/Dems.

    • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      Oh, how I wish that 557 MPs hadn’t voted to Bomb Libya.

      How much is that costing us?

      • Susan
        Posted May 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        Conrad

        I agree with you. I have come to the conclusion that there is a belief by a lot of the political elite, that the only way Britain can remain a force in the World, is by constant interference in other Countries. After all in Global terms, the balance of power economically has shifted to Countries such as China and India. Britain is in decline through debt, lack of reform in key services and limited growth policies, yet the UK Government still provide aid to Countries who are quite able to look after their own people, but refuse to do so. Britain still involves itself in conflicts which usually cost a lot of money and end badly. It seems to be, therefore, that the UK Government do this, to hold onto the belief that they can still demand the Worlds attention. Otherwise Britain would just be another small Country, with nothing to offer the new Global age.

        In this sense the public is much more wise than the politicians, as a majority of them see the bombing of Libya and providing aid to Countries as a mistake.

    • Simon
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      “There seems very little demand by the public to change Britains voting system. ”

      That is your opinion , it might not be other peoples .

      Without the choice of PR this referendum will do little to measure the demand either .

      Reply: I judge these things by my conversations on doorsteps and by the emails and letters sent to me. I can assure you there has been little enthusiaism over the years for voting change, beyond the requests of Lib Dem members and activists who have always wanted voting reform.

  7. chefdave
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I agree John, AV will turn every seat into a “safe” seat by guaranteeing the winner at least 50% of the vote.

    No wonder the political classes support it!

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      A complete misapprehension. Second preference votes given to a candidate in one election can just as easily be denied in the next election.

  8. Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    The other deceit central to the Yes to AV campaign is that MPs who currently do not get 50%+ of the votes cast do not have “majority support”.

    This relies on equating a vote cast for any candidate other than the winner as a vote “against” the winner. However the central tenet of AV is that people can express positive preferences for more than one candidate. It is therefore impossible – or disingenuous – to make the first arguement and also hold up the second.

    Studies since 1983 of what might have happenned under AV instead of FPTP have shown that less than 100 seats would return a different result. The logical conclusion of this is that 550+ MPS still retain “majority support”, even if they don’t get more than 50% of the votes cast under FPTP.

    Another example of the Yes to AV campaign misleading the electorate.

  9. David Price
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Why are we wasting valuable time and treasure that we cannot afford on this deck chair re-organisation exercise? No one seems to really want AV anyway and yet this money is being frittered away rather than being spent on NHS or Defence, or even not spent at all and so not increasing the deficit.

    Amidst all the dire mud slinging around AV I have not seen lots of esoteric rhetoric on its so-called benefits but not a single justification for spending the money now.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      It is the price of Liberal cooperation in the coalition. What I wonder will be the new price if/when they loose the vote I wonder.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Denis,
      It is the price we are forced to pay to have the LibDems as part of a coalition government. If they have their way and we switch to AV they expect to be permanently in government and so they will regard it as (our) money very well spent. It tells you so much about the LibDems that refusal to give them this referendum would have been a coalition deal breaker and yet they happily resiled from their pledges on tuition fees.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        David,
        Sorry I called you Dennis!

        • David Price
          Posted May 4, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

          That’s OK Brian, I quite liked the actor though I don’t believe I am related.

          I think I understand why some politicians are pressing for this, I don’t understand why everyone else is playing along though. It’s as if £90m, or whatever the incremental cost of this referendum will be, is nothing. Thats the annual taxes from about 15,000 private sector workers on average wages being thrown away on make work that won’t improve the situation one bit.

  10. alan jutson
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    The statement that AV will ensure that an will Mp represent all of their constituants more than first past the post system is false because it pre supposes that if anyone approaches an MP at the moment, for any sort of assistance, they are asked “did you vote for me”.

    Clearly as any vote is supposed to be a secret vote, I would not expect any MP to ask such a question of any of their constituants, neither would Iexpect any constituant to give an answer.

    The fact of the matter is, a member of Parliament has a duty to represent all of their constituants, no matter what their political leanings. In fact, an MP may get even more votes (support in future) if they can actually help people (when asked) who voted for another candidate.

    • rose
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Hear, hear Alan. Our cybertutor is the Member for Wokingham, not the representative of the Conservative voters there, and we can be certain he works hard for all his constituents. (We once had an MP who did that, but we lost him in 1997, thanks to the effects of entry into the ERM.)

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

        Good old Major and his failure to understand basic positive feedback, the ERM and simple risk/reward analysis. Cost to the country perhaps £3,000 per person in pointless damage to the economy and still no apology for pointlessly burying the country’s industry and the Tory party that I have heard.

        He still seems to think he is some kind of wise elder statesman.

        Still at least he did not go into a pointless and losing war on a clear lie and with inadequate equipment I suppose.

        • rose
          Posted May 4, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

          Do you remember the PPS Tony Favell resigning over ERM entry? He wasn’t given much coverage at the time, and none that I can think of since. The establishment never apologises for getting things wrong, nor does it give credit to those who pointed it out at the time.

  11. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Well, if you believe what the Sun claimed yesterday, and think about it, then your conclusion must be that the “yes” campaign is largely right about this.

    According to the Sun:

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3558426/137-losers-would-be-MPs-under-AV.html

    “MORE than 100 candidates who came third at the last election could have been elected with the Alternative Vote, it was claimed yesterday.”

    Clearly as the general rule a candidate has the best chance of winning if he comes top on first preferences, and less of a chance of displacing the leader if he comes second, and much less of a chance of finally winning if he’s initially in the third position.

    In fact the Australian commentator Antony Green says that having examined the ca 1500 state elections contested under the variant of AV we would have here, he has found just ONE case where the candidate who came third on first preferences ended up as the winner:

    http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2011/04/can-a-third-placed-candidate-win-under-av.html

    So if as the Sun reports this could have happened in 137 cases out of 650 at the last general election, obviously it has neglected to mention the many more cases where the candidate who came second would have won.

    Hence there would have been few seats in the country where the outcome had NOT been changed by the use of AV, and a good number of the MPs in previously “safe” seats would indeed have been thrown out on their ears, confirming the truth of the claim made by the “yes” campaign.

    Alternatively, of course, you could conclude that the “yes” campaign is definitely over-claiming, and that AV would not have the major and immediate impact on safe seats that they suggest but a more limited and gradual impact, while on the other hand the Sun is knowingly printing complete tosh, “shock findings” which have simply been fabricated by NO2AV in the correct belief that friendly newspapers will co-operate in spreading their latest falsehood to the general public.

    Including this extraordinary claim:

    “Even one wannabe MP who finished EIGHTH might have made it into the Commons.”

    but without naming the constituency where there were at least nine candidates, and the one who came eighth under FPTP could have clawed his way up to win the seat under AV.

    I wonder whether JR really wants to be associated with a campaign of this character.

    Reply: I set out my views and campaign on the basis of the arguments I put forward. The fact remains that someone with a safe seat already gets more than 50% of the votes so they cannot be removed by changing over to AV

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      As you’ve replied to my comment, please could you take it out of moderation?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      It’s not that simple, because it can’t be assumed that if a candidate got a certain number of X’s in an election held under FPTP then he would have got the same number of 1’s if the election had been held under AV.

      If the electors felt that the result of a FPTP election was going to be close then some would switch their support from “no-hope” candidates to one of the leading candidates in an attempt to block the other leading candidate, while under AV they would be free to give their 1 to the candidate they really preferred and back that up with a 2 for the leading candidate they least disliked.

      However it’s fair to say that if the outcome of the election was widely perceived to be a foregone conclusion then those voters who didn’t really support either of the leading candidates would feel much freer to give their X’s to “no-hope” candidates, and if the election had been held under AV then the distribution of 1’s would have been closer to the distribution of X’s under FPTP.

      At the last general election about a third of MPs were elected with more than 50% of the votes, the X’s. If instead it had been held under AV then some of them would still have got more than 50% of the 1’s, but some would have dropped below that and would have had to rely on attracting 2’s from electors who’d given their 1’s to other candidates.

      Therefore I’d say that the claim that AV would “end” safe seats exaggerates the truth severalfold.

      On the other hand the Sun claim that 137 candidates who came third under FPTP would have won under AV exaggerates the truth at least a hundredfold, and the claim that a candidate who came eighth could have won is effectively an infinite exaggeration.

  12. Alte Fritz
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Here is a modest proposal. Let us continue to cede more and more powers to the EU, and then as Westminster has all the power of a parish council, we can cease to worry what system we use since it will not matter.

  13. Gary
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    A strawman has been erected. Everyone can’t stop taking about fairness, if they were really being fair we would be having a referendum on full blown PR, the only truly fair electoral system. But real fairness is not on the agenda when there is a cozy duopoly to stitch up and label it “democracy”.

    • rose
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      How do you vote for the best candidate under PR?

      • Simon
        Posted May 4, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

        I see your point .

        You end up voting for a party .

        At least with the current 1 man one vote FPTP the electorate gets to choose all the personnel who have a vote in the Commons .

  14. Anthony Harrison
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I cannot believe that I am the only one to feel surprisingly dispassionate about this, even neutral – almost. I have felt not so much disenfranchised – clearly, I have a vote, so that term is technically incorrect – as distanced from the political process, neutered, an impotent observer on the sidelines who watches while powerful, sectional, ideological interests carve up my country, give it away, wreck its economy, undermine my liberty, and so on. I’m not dispassionate about those things – when I think about it I feel on the verge of being incandescently angry, and murderous toward the smug political class for whom it’s a game; but I’m dispassionate about the AV referendum.
    My vote has so little effect it is meaningless. I am more politically active than most, in that I’ve written a heck of a lot of letters (and latterly emails) to my MP(s) and Ministers over the years, then visited them too; my activity stops short of party membership, canvassing, etc. I have no patience with people who tell me that if I want to make a difference I have to get involved, agitate for change, join committees: like the vast majority of people I am too busy with work, home, family and personal interests, and also like the majority I rather despise politics and most politicians (I hasten to add that in all honesty John Redwood is one of very few MPs I respect). We are entitled to live our lives without being directly politically active: we are entitled to a system that secures our liberties so that smug coteries of ideologues cannot decide our fate for the worse, behind closed doors.
    So with this in mind, I’m voting Yes to AV. It might make things a teeny bit better. It might aid the fortunes of UKIP – the only party I can cast an honest vote for. Things are so screwed up, and the major parties are so damn dishonest, that frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn – I have nothing to lose by voting Yes on Thursday.
    It might have a beneficial effect, it might not. But I distrust utterly not only the “Yes” camp whose foolish dishonesty is discussed here, but the “No” camp too – who have behaved exactly the same.

    • Tedgo
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      I totally agree with you, I shall vote for AV for the same reasons.

      • BobE
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        me three

    • Simon
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      If AV is chosen it may prove so bad in practice that it precipitates another voting system referendum which has an option for PR .

      What a pity there isn’t a PR option so that we don’t have to exhaust all the inferior options before having a choice between FPTP and PR .

      Who was it who said of America that you can always rely on them to do the right thing – after they have tried everything else .

      The naff options of this referendum just go to show we are ruled , not served . What right do politicians have to decide the options we can choose ?

  15. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    The AV campaign is based on deceit. Firstly, those advocating it don’t really want this system anyway but see it as a stepping stone to what they really want – proportional representation. They say there will be no more “safe seats” when it won’t affect “safe seats” as they already have more than 50% of the votes. They link the current voting system with the MPs’ expenses scandal as though if AV had been in use it would never have happened when there can be no justification for that linkage. Does anyone really think that if AV had been the voting system it would have made a jot of difference to the abuse of the expenses system? They say AV gives you a vote that counts but forget to say that it gives some people multiple votes that count, whilst others will effectively have one vote. Much of this is driven by the LibDems thirst for permanent power in coalitions as they think that they would be most people’s second choice and also an unholy alliance of politicians and their supporters who would do anything to keep the Conservatives out of office.

  16. Mark Cannon
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I seem to remember reading that Ian Paisley was careful to look after all of his constituents, including Roman Catholics. No doubt he was wise to do so.

    There is something to be said for AV if you just see MPs as local representatives, which, for decades, is all that Liberal or LibDem MPs were. Once you see a vote in a general election as a vote for a government and appreciate that coalitions will be more likely under AV than FPTP, then AV becomes less democratic. You end up with one or more minor, “centre” parties not only permanently in government but also deciding on which other party or parties will be in the government. Their votes (or voters’ votes) count for far more and, as we know, under a coalition, election manifestos are mere the starting point for negotiating a programme for government, not a series of promises to which the electorate can hold their representatives.

  17. acorn
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    As it’s Tuesday, I am batting for the no side today. The following is not a recommendation; but, those who play with numbers would not choose AV (Alternative Vote) given a choice; which we aren’t, cos we are too fick to make educated choices.

    So, if JR allows, have a look at the following links. It will save me a lot of typing time. Be aware that on this side of the pond, AV is the Alternative Vote (Thursday’s offer), which is IRV (Instant Run-off Vote) on the other side of the pond. AV is the Approval Vote; a form of Range Voting, on the other side of the pond. Geddit? You will see the Scottish system in these MMP.

    http://www1.cs.columbia.edu/~unger/articles/irv.html
    http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/polit/damy/BeginnningReading/types.htm

  18. rose
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Why didn’t the PM just say to John Humphrys this am, “Calm down Dear and let us get back to the question – is AV good for the country or not?

    Someone should point out that the Liberals were happy with FPTP for the 150 years or so they predominanatly held power; that they opposed giving women the vote; and that when women and all working class men finally got the vote, the Conservatives became the natural governing party for the next hundred years or so. That and only that is the reason they have ever since their strange death wanted to tinker with the counting of votes.

    In other words the Liberals used to win on a restricted franchise, with some men one vote, but once it was one person one vote, they no longer did.

  19. Bryan
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    The biggest reason not to vote Yes to AV is that it is supported by both the LibDems and the Green party.

  20. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Your assumption is based on the assumption that voting behaviour would not change under a different voting system.

    Isn’t there a tendency for voters in Safe Seat constituencies to not vote as they see little point in voting for an opponent candidate as the seat is safe?

    A safe seat candidate who got 49% may not necessarily win as he may only be popular to a specific base and not popular on a broader base across party lines.

  21. BobE
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    The whip is what needs to be got rid of. It distorts the vote so that only a few at the top get to choose the policies. Imagine if a bill needed a majority of MPs who could vote on their own opinion. That is what was supposed to have happened. The whip brings it down to a semi dictatorship by a few.

  22. Robin
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    You have convinced me Bryan.
    Although I will be voting “No” Iwould really like a referendum on EU membership or, at the very least, sufficient number of UKIP MPs to have my voice heard.

  23. Jonathan
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    It won’t affect MPs in safe seats, but it will reduce the number of safe seats out there. If we take your seat in Wokingham for example, or your next door neighbour in Bracknell; both of those are safe Tory seats, but they only get around 50% of the vote. Under AV, you would need to reach out to the voters of other parties to make sure you get enough 2nd preference votes to take you over the line, whereas at the moment, you can pretty much take the seat for granted. The previous incumbent in Bracknell certainly did take the seat for granted and that would be much less likely to happen under AV.

    Reply: I received more than 50% of the vote so for the last election I did not need second preference votes to win. I do not believe any seat is safe for an individual candidate, and think all sensible MPs know this and work hard for all their constituents.

    • BobE
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      John you recieved 52%. Thats pretty close.

  24. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    When my grandfather was Vicar of Wisbech, he was a very important man in the local community. He modestly stood at the back in his clerical garb but he was in every important record of the time. The Church was packed.
    My father presided over the decline of the Church. I can remember in the 1960s when the church was full twice a Sunday. At Evensong, he walked to the back of the church and a veteran of the War laid a kneeler out for him.
    Today at Wisbech, the Church is all but empty (5 last year at Easter) and the Vicar comes from Australia.

    MPs have followed the same downward spiral, methinks. Our own MP, chosen by Primary, is little more than a Social Worker and Happy Visitor at fetes.

    That is why it doesn’t really matter how he gets elected: he does not matter. He is little more than lobby fodder and we all know that. Even so, parliament is pretty well a rubber stamp for the EU.

    We live in the socialist 21st century.

    Worse luck.

  25. Anne Palmer
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    So, when the referedum on the EU comes round, will it just be a straight forward “Yes” to remain in the EU, and a “NO” to be free? Or will it be using the AV system , “I don’t know’? Perhaps we should join the USA? Or better to close down both Houses of Parliament altogether and start again? Or our Government always wanted the EU to fly from every British Flag Pole?

    • BobE
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      We defended our country over many European wars but this time the carpet baggers have sold us down the river.

  26. Peter
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m AV-ambivalent, but you are misdirecting when you say that a safe seat is one where the incumbent has more than 50% of the vote.
    Would you prefer to have:
    (a) 50.5% of the vote against 49.5% for your opponent – or
    (b) 45% against 28% for your closest opponent.

    The safeness of a seat is defined by the swing required to lose it. Under FPTP, a seat held with 45% of the vote might be safe in some circumstances. Under AV a seat would probably be considered safe if more than, say, 60% prefer the incumbent to the next most popular candidate.

    I suspect that there would be fewer safe seats under AV

  27. Stephen Gash
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    I would like an explanation as to why we in England are having a referendum on AV when we have already voted against it. Labour was the only party with AV as a policy going into the general election and we in England unceremoniously booted Labour out of power. Scotland voted Labour and yet again we are having Scottish wishes imposed on England.

    If the Scots vote for AV and England does not, but the overall vote is “yes to AV” due to diffential turnouts, then let we in England keep FPTP and the Scots have AV. I see no reason why the tiny tartan tail should wag the mighty English mastiff.

    AV was in neither the Conservative nor he Lib Dem manifesto, so why are we having a referendum? I for one am fed up with the smokescreen of coalition government being wafted across the legislative and policy processes, leading to things we never voted for, such as GP consortiums and AV. I believe the rest of the UK have coalitions in their devolved chambers (I wish we had an English Parliament) so do those political artifices impose policies on their respective electorates that never appeared in manifestos? If not why do we in England have to put up with it? Is it yet another “benefit” of devolution only the English “enjoy”?

    • Simon
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      Stephen ,

      You make a good point about manifesto’s and politicians doing what they want with complete disregard to the electorate . IMHO the “coalition” thing is just a convenient excuse not the cause .

      However , to claim we should not be having a referendum on AV on the basis that “we have already voted against it.” in a general election is both disingenuous , falacious and unhelpful .

      LibLabCon could on the same grounds claim we have voted against leaving the EU because none of them had such a policy in their manifesto .

      • Stephen Gash
        Posted May 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        Simon, your analogy is incorrect with respect. As I said, Labour was the only party with a policy favouring AV and Labour was comprehensively beaten in England. Both Tories and Lib Dems opposed AV going into the general election. Now their coalition is offering us a vote on it, entirely contrary to their stance at the general election. Some might say this is dishonest.

        As you say, the LibLabCON has no policy on leaving the EU, so there is no choice. The electorate denies itself a choice because people are afraid of “wasting their vote”, so they vote for established parties rather than smaller parties offering a choice. This is why Labour is likely to do well today in England.

        Voting in England has been reduced to protest voting. It is no longer about voting for principles because, with all due respect to John Redwood, politicians are now considered to be completely unprincipled. This is what happened in the general election. People in England were protesting about being treated as third class in this so-called United Kingdom. They have truly been let down by the Tories over devolution and this let-down continues. There have been a couple of recent dissenting Tory voices in the new intake of MPs, such as Andrew Selous, but they have now been silenced.

        The LibLabCON have all but destroyed democracy in England. Today’s AV referendum is a sop and a smokescreen, a delaying tactic, that’s all.

        • Stephen Gash
          Posted May 6, 2011 at 12:23 am | Permalink

          Why has my comment not been posted? It might be a tad long, but I’ve not insulted anybody. If it is because of my comment about politicians, well unfortunately it’s true. When voters are having policies dumped on them that did not appear in manifestos then they regard politicians of being unprincipled. That is why the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg in particular had such a hard time over tuition fees.

  28. sjb
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    The Electoral Reform Society (“ERS”) defined a safe seat as one that “will not change hands even with a landslide on any conceivable scale”. In April 2010, the ERS identified 382 seats that fell into that category.
    http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/news.php?ex=0&nid=461

    The General Election result seemed to validate the ERS analysis because only about a 100 seats changed hands. Despite almost a million people voting for UKIP the party has no representation in the House of Commons. By contrast, the DUP has eight MPs having polled under 170,000 votes.

    I think it is fair to say that more people would have voted for UKIP but held back for fear of Labour staying in power. But shouldn’t a voting system reflect people’s preferences rather than their fears?

    Writing of fear, it came as no surprise that Beckett, Blunkett & Reid are strong supporters of FPTP.

  29. wab
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    Yes, the pro-AV “safe seat” argument is ridiculous, but all Lib Dem campaign literature (on any matter) is similarly facile.

    Some alleged expert on Radio 4 last week claimed that any MP with at least 35% of the vote will most likely still win under AV. So AV is unlikely to make any real difference, except in the odd constituency.

    Needless to say, what the pro-AV people really want is PR, and they are presumably hoping that if the electorate votes “yes” to AV, then in a few years, after we all find out that AV has made no real difference either to outcomes or to the behaviour of MPs, then the electorate will be happy to vote to change to PR.

    FPTP in the Commons and some sensible variant of PR in the Lords seems like a reasonable way to go.

  30. Alan
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    I am a strong supporter of AV. I think it would result in a House of Commons that more accurately reflects the views of the electorate.

    However I think it would have the additional benefit of removing some types of safe seat, like the one that I live in where the incumbent has about 50% of the vote and the opposition consists mainly of two parties whose total vote is also about 50%. In such a circumstance the incumbent has nothing to fear from a First Past the Post election but in an AV election would fear that all the first and second preference votes would go to his opponents and that one of them would be elected. So some safe seats are likely to be abolished by AV.

    By now I am reconciled to the referendum resulting in a majority for ‘No’. What has disappointed me most about the campaign is the Conservative Party putting its full weight behind the ‘No’ campaign. Political parties should have remained neutral on this. I cannot avoid suspecting that the Conservative party sees a party advantage in First Past the Post and have argued persuasively against AV not because they think it is a poorer system but because they think it would be less likely to result in a Conservative victory.

    Reply: You cannot stop political parties having a view on these matters and campaigning – Lib dems have campaigned as a party for AV. I think AV is unfair because I do not see why some people vote more than once when the rest of us only vote once.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      JR: “I think AV is unfair because I do not see why some people vote more than once when the rest of us only vote once.”

      Yet we’ll be using a form of AV to elect police and crime commissioners next year, under Clause 57 of Theresa May’s Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill which has passed through the Commons and is now with the Lords:

      http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldbills/062/11062.33-39.html

    • Alan
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      In reply to Mr Redwood’s response to my comment:

      You don’t get more than one vote with AV. Each person gets one ballot paper and in the final round – the one that elects the MP – each paper is counted once.

      Reply: In the final round some people are allowed to change their vote or vote twice. The fair way of getting to 50% for a single candidate is the French system, where you have successive rounds of voting where everyone does get an equal opportunity to change their vote in the light of the previous result.

  31. rose
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    “Safe seats are the nursery of statesmen.” (Mr Gladstone)

  32. Posted May 5, 2011 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    The basic problem with our system is that to vote for a government, you have to vote for a particular local representative. This is because the Parliament was originally a counterweight to an executive monarch; then, the Parliament gradually usurped the monarch’s power, and thus its power became absolute. No amount of tinkering with how to vote is going to change that. The Parliamentary system is- if you believe in the principles of democracy- fundamentally broken.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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