Monday, 6 September 2010

Conservatives Seeking to Conserve: Change You Can Ignore In

There is a somewhat crude irony that the Tories, as highlighted by ConservativeHome and Iain Dale, are arguing for a threshold on the Alternative Vote (AV) referendum to keep the First Past the Post (FPTP) status quo. The reason being that as recently as May 6th the majority of people in the United Kingdom supported a party that advocating a replacement of FPTP. Both Labour and the Lib Dems advocated change along with many of the minor parties.

There is another irony that on American Labor day the min supporter of AV at that election, the Labour Party are seemingly opposed to voting for it. Not they claim because of AV itself, but because it is paired with making the seats of equal size. Somehow they think that in making every vote have equal value that this is gerrymandering, many of us have yet to find this definition in any dictionary (of for that matter as a footnote or definition in the Blair memoir).

So the threshold argument is just one way to appease Tory MPs not happy with it being in the agreement, but the decision to have a referendum is in the agreement. The fact that the Tories want to have a threshold suggests to me that they know they will lose the argument against change. Be 'conservatives' change is never part of their remit.

AV means that some of those safe, almost hereditary, seats in the shires can't be handed out to some London based, Oxbridge graduated, loyalist for services rendered to the party. Who no more know their constituency that a tea leaf knows the history of the East India Company. Who have no more intention of living or staying in their constituency that the Loch Ness monster has of taking a regular bow to the tourists.

I'm no great supporter of AV, like Iain Dale I believe it is the least step away from AV , but unlike Iain I believe the people want and deserve more. They want a system that allows them greater proportionality. Many, like me, have never cast a vote that makes a difference in who our MP was, AV a least will give them that.

However, the more the advocates of FPTP try and argue that it is the best voting system out there for a multiple party system such as ours the more determined I am to get the referendum to pass on 5 May next year. Of course the first step is today getting it started on its path through the House of Commons.


  1. I am not a Lib/Dem voter. Even so the Lib/Dem election campaign had major appeal for me. I was deprived of my vote by being out of reach of a postal vote - how odd that a two week holiday does that, but I was, for the first time in my life, a floating, though disenfranchised, voter.

    The election result has taught me something.

    It has taught me that, certainly so far, a coalition of views and parties appears to work far better than a single party. The excesses of zeal of each individual party are curbed.

    If electoral reform will lead both to my vote counting and excesses of zeal being curbed, I have started to become convinced that FPTP is a poor system.

    I am already convinced that equal sized constituencies are a better concept, but there will be never ending disputes on boundaries. But I hate safe seats. I moved from one to one. MY vote feels devoid of value. But I think "equal size at all costs" could be as much of an error as the status quo. It may simply produce different safe seats, and unwisely so. We need more reform that constituency size.

  2. I agree with you that equal size at all costs isn't the be all and end all Tim. Of course my preferred option of STV allows for multi-members seats and they don't all need to have the same number of electors but roughly the same number of electors per MP. Therefore they may have more members elected in urban seats and less in the remoter rural ones.

  3. I tend to prefer multiple transferable vote to single, but I question the ordinary elector's ability to cope with single. As a student I found MTV to be a simple and straightforward way of handling it, but, almost by definition, students tend to have a decent standard of understanding.

    Whatever the outcome of the deliberations we need something that can be understood by the least among us as well as the greatest.