Ok, so this is why I’m for the Alternative Vote system.
Basically, at the moment I live in a constituency where only one party is ever going to win. That happened because of a boundary change a few years back that moved us out of the city of Exeter and into the Devon East district. I’m told that our MP is a good man – but strangely enough he seems to back projects that guarantee him more votes from his core constituency rather than engaging with pressing issues of those who may not naturally support him.
Basically, he doesn’t even have to try. He’s got enough of the vote to make sure that he will always win. My vote is wasted, even when I voted tactically. I find myself politically closest to Labour – not a perfect fit, but the closest currently on offer. Now, even with AV my seat wouldn’t change hands – but it would mean the incumbent would have to work a little harder to win voters other than his core constituency to carry him over the 50% threshold. Locally, then, not much would change – so why bother?
It’s when we look at the national totals that we see the starkest reason for why the current system doesn’t work.
The Tories won (by any count – most seats, highest individual proportion of the vote). They received 36.1% of the vote. Labour won 29% of the vote. Lib Dems won 23% of the vote. Others received (Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Independents) 11.9%.
If we allocated parliamentary seats by percentage of vote that would have looked like this (out of 650, rough percentages):
Conservatives – 234 seats
Labour – 188 seats
Lib Dems – 150
Others – 77
So, what did they actually get?
Conservatives – 307 (+73 seats)
Labour – 258 (+ 70 seats)
Lib Dems – 50 (-100 seats!)
Others – 28 (-49 seats)
It surely can’t be right that we’re governed by a party that gets a minority of the share of the vote? If we count just the Labour and Lib Dem vote (which under the first system would have made such a coalition completely viable) that means the ‘opposition’ parties have 52% of the vote, to the FPTP winner’s 36.1%. Even if they persuaded the ‘minority’ parties (possibly only the Unionists from NI would work with them, though) the Conservatives would only achieve 48% of the vote.
It might seem like I’m a bitter Labour supporter – but I would argue that it wasn’t right for Labour to have won the 1997 election with 43.2% of the vote, or 2001 with 40.7% of the vote, or 2005 with 35.2% of the vote.
I guess I’m arguing for a system whereby the majority of voters do have a say. That can only come when we move beyond the First Past the Post system. At the moment, AV is the offer on the table. Even though it isn’t perfect, it’s a heck of a lot better than FPTP.
AV isn’t the best solution. But it does mean that the person who wins the constituency vote is the person who attracted the highest percentage of votes – be it core party voters, or those who vote tactically after voting with their conscience with their first choice (people like me!). It marks progress.
Proportional Representation provides the most democratic model, meaning much greater diversity of choice for the voter, and the need for parties to move away from our adversarial approach (‘Calm down, dear’ – I mean…come one. That’s not the grown up way of doing politics) to a politics of consensus. Yes, more coalitions. Yes, more negotiation. Yes, more centre ground politics (although, in fairness the voting record suggests that the massive majority of the electorate leans Left of Centre…but then that fact wouldn’t appeal to the Conservative minority who have dominated politics since time immemorial!). Actually, I don’t care particularly about the constituency link (for the reasons outlined at the beginning of this far-too-long essay!) – and to my mind having a number of MPs elected for an area can only increase the number of people working on my behalf in Westminster, rather than limit it!
PR is the final goal for people like me…but it’s going to take a while…for now, AV will do.
Ok – far too long winded a post…and I’ve probably confused more than educated…but in the meantime watch this video that sums it up much better than me…