There are two central claims from the pro AV campaign that are misleading. I have shown why I do not believe their claim that AV would make holders of “safe seats” more accountable – and all the implied nonsense that politics under AV would be transformed, with more responsive and well behaved MPs.
Today I wish to explain why their claim that every MP under AV would have the support of more than 50% of the electorate and this would be fairer can also be false in certain circumstances.
Let us take a three way marginal, the type of seat where AV could make a real difference to the outcome. Let us suppose the result of counting first preference votes was
Lib Dem 32%
This is the the type of seat the Lib dems reckon should fall to them under AV. They think that when Labour second preferences are brought into play, many more Labour voters will back them than the Conservatives. In this case they hope say two thirds of the Labour voters vote Lib Dem and one third vote Conservative when they get their second vote to determine the election. This would make the final result
Lib Dem 52%
However, there is a snag with this thinking. Labour voters may not be as keen on Lib Dems relative to the Conservatives as the Lib Dems hope. It could be the case that in such a seat many Labour voters decide they have no wish to express a second preference between the other two parties which they do not like. As opponents of the Coalition they may not be that keen on Lib Dems either. So we might have a situation where only half the Labour voters expressed a second preference. Let us suppose that 15% vote again through their second preference, and that 11% back the Lib Dems and 4% the Conservatives. The final result could then be
Lib Dem 43%
People not expressing second preference 15%
In this circumstance AV would reverse the first past the post result, but would not give the winner 50% even though Labour voters had the chance to vote twice .
It is difficult to see why this way of counting votes and allowing second votes is either fair or gives a better result than the original First Past the Post one person one vote.
The case I have described would be quite common under an AV system. There would of course, also be elections under AV where the second votes of BNP,UKIP, Green and Independent candidate voters could determine which of the three main parties wins without needing to redistribute the votes of one of the three main UK parties. These are the cases which have attracted more attention than the three way marginal.
I do not believe voters will want to make such a change. On the many doorsteps I have visited to talk about this and local matters there has been a strong view that it is better to stick with what we have. Conservatives feel that strongly. Even some Lib Dem voters tell me they want a truly proportional system, and they do not like AV especially as it could produce even larger Parliamentary majorities for leading parties.