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)
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)
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) ?