By Myles Cook
The up-coming election has a special bonus round in the form of the rarely seen animal in the UK, a referendum. You should have heard about it as it’s been in the news quite a lot recently. This referendum, however, is not on an issue of that great an importance. It’s not about whether or not we should remain in the European Union. It’s not about whether or not the Coalition Government’s public spending cuts are acceptable to the person in the street. What it is about is how the voting system used to elect MPs to the House of Comics, sorry, Commons is changed. AV or not AV – that is the question.
Now, I’m in favour of electoral reform, as I believe that the current system does not reflect the genuine wishes of the electorate. A lot of people do not vote as there seems to be very little trust in any of the candidates put forward by the political parties therefore a minority effectively dictates who gets into power. That said, I think that the Alternative Vote system is not only a worthless compromise to the more radical alternatives, but also further compounds the inadequacies and unrepresentative nature of the current system. To demonstrate, we have to look at the AV system…
The new system requires a voter to rank the candidates in order of preference, marking a 1 by your first choice, a 2 by your second choice and so on. If a candidate receives more than half the votes on the first count, they win outright. If, however, no single candidate gets more than half the votes, the second choice votes for the candidate with the fewest votes are then redistributed to the other candidates. This redistribution of votes goes on until one candidate receives the majority needed to win. Sounds like a good idea, right? Wrong! The AV system is still unrepresentative as it does not take into account or encourage people to vote so a minority may still determine who gets into power. It takes no account of the fact that some voters may not be able to choose a second, third or fourth choice because the candidates open to them are diametrically opposed to one another or at least have some conflicting views that make it impossible to rank them in order of preference. It also, in some respects, seems to give some voters, in essence, a second vote; this may not actually be true but it is used as an argument against the Alternative Vote system.
My own views on how the electoral system should be changed are a matter of record, all you have to do is look at my previous blog on this site (Myles’ Blog: Don’t Vote!), and my view has not changed since then. What this country really needs is a proper protest vote, backed up as it is in Australia, with a fine for non-participation. I believe that politicians would have to work harder to make sure they are elected. This would also make them much more representative of society as a whole and would make sure that people do not vote for political parties with extreme views simply to protest against the main parties.
If you think that the voting system needs reforming, then why not send your suggestions to our local MP to pass them on? I’m very much in favour of making our MPs work harder!