Or more precisely it’s:
“At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?”
On May 5th Brits have the opportunity to put a ‘X’ against ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ (please vote in my own poll below).
We are having to do this because of the Liberal Democrats. This was the negligible price they demanded for forming a coalition with the Conservatives.
Since the general election last May the Lib Dems. have reneged on their pledge not to introduce tuition fees and have voted that it is legal to save the lives of Libyan Arabs, having once voted that it wasn’t legal to save the lives of Iraqi Arabs.
There are 650 constituencies in the UK and whichever candidate gets the most votes in his/her constituency at a general election becomes a Member of Parliament. Whichever party gets the support of 326 MPs becomes the government.
Those in favour of AV want each MP to be elected by at least 50% plus 1 of the votes. At the moment one can become an MP on, say, 30% of those who vote, as long as he/she gets more votes than any other individual in that constituency. Voters can only choose one candidate to vote for.
Howevere, under AV you can put a ‘1’ next to your first choice and ‘2’ next to your second choice and then ‘3’, ‘4’, ‘5’, etc.
The number 1 votes for each candidate are then counted. If a candidate wins more than 50% he or she become MP.
If no one gets more than 50% the candidate with the fewest number ‘1’ votes is eliminated and his/her number ‘2’ vote (if there is one) is added to the latter candidate’s pile of votes.
This is repeated until one candidate achieves more than 50% of the vote. So the winner in the first round might not necessarily become MP.
My main complaints about both AV and this referendum are:
1. Arbitrariness – Achieving 50% plus 1 vote seems an arbitrary limit. Why stop at 50%? Why not 75%? The person who wins with 50% plus 1 might have lost in the next round of counting. In fact, why not count every preference to see who wins? By stating the winning post to be 50% plus 1 the will of the people has not been fully expressed as there is still enough information available that has not been considered and which could have determined that another person should become MP.
2. Timing – Why are we not having something crucial like this on the day of a general election when turnout will be greater? Ironically, AV could be approved by far less than a 50% turnout of voters. At a general election turnout will be more than 60%.
3. Cost – The government is cutting jobs and services, so this referendum is an unnecessary expense right now.
4. A highly unfavoured candidate could end up winning under AV.
5. AV seems to be nothing more than a glorified version of the current first past the post system, the only difference being that the winning threshold is set at 50% plus 1.
I would like to retain the first past the post system but there should be compulsory voting with a financial penalty given to those who fail to vote (like with the census form we have just had to fill in). There would be a box marked ‘none of the above’ on the ballot paper if you don’t want to vote for any of the candidates.
This is the only way, in my view, that we will get a clear picture of the will of the people as to who they wish to govern the country.
I think that AV will, rightly, be rejected on May 5th but maybe my analysis is wrong. Please let me know your view by voting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to AV in my poll below. I promise I won’t fine you if you don’t.
Whichever choice gets the most votes will determine which box I put my ‘X’ in on May 5th.