Sunday, 27 June 2010

Why I will be campaigning against AV

The notion of giving each and every adult in Britain an equal vote in the election of our national government has been the cornerstone of democratic government since the days of the suffragettes. It became the core principle of a free society and it has stood the test of time. In the last century Britain has had governments of every hue, coalition governments and even governments of national unity. So in the forthcoming referendum I will be defending our democracy against those who want to meddle with our voting system.

Under our current system, you mark an ‘X’ by the name of the candidate you want. Everyone’s vote counts for the same. Under the system they call “AV” some people get more votes than others. It is a complex multiple voting system with unpredictable results. Some people get two or three votes counted while others only get one.

At the moment, voters weigh up the pros and cons of each candidate and then make a decision about what they want. There are numerous factors that affect their decision. The views of the candidate, the policies of the party they are standing for, people’s experiences of those parties in the past and their chances of success in a given seat.

Under a multiple voting system, it is all about political tactics. The name of the game is to read the runes and vote tactically to try to keep out the person you hate the most. I don’t think that’s a good basis on which to run an election. The evidence from countries like Australia is that the Alternative Vote system leads to more negative campaigning and more personal attacks in politics. We don’t want that in this country.

In private company, the political activists who say they want an Alternative Vote system admit that it’s just a “foot in the door” and their real aim is to have a continental style PR system where the political parties call the shots and decide who represent them. I don’t agree with PR myself because I think it cuts voters out of decision making, but I do understand the argument for it (namely that is allows representation for minority parties like the Greens). I admire those who are honest enough to say what they really want. But what I cannot accept is the trickery of pretending you want one thing when you actually want to sneak through something else on the sly.

The AV system doesn’t even help smaller parties. If you are a Lib Dem and decided to vote Mebyon Kernow as your second preference, then that vote would not get counted. But if you were BNP and voted Labour as your second preference, both your votes would count. That can’t be right but at least we will have the chance to vote ‘no’ to this system in a referendum.