A thoughtful pro-Alternative Vote Conservative perspective

Though many Conservatives are normally very wary & often hostile towards electoral reform, here’s some more evdience that not all of them hold this view at all, courtesy of an excellent article over at ResPublica.

Written by it’s Director, Phillip Blond, “Why the Conservatives should not fear AV” explores some of the reasons why Conservatives have previously feared such voting reforms, while focussing on how the current FPTP system actually works against them in some areas & in terms of the disparities between votes cast in total against actual seats won. He also puts forward thoughtful arguments as to how & why AV could actually help the Conservatives in broader centre-right support terms & also restore some legitimacy to elections that has been lost with a situation where a party can win a majority of seats with barely more than a third of the national vote.

As Blond points out-

FPTP’s bankruptcy is apparent at the local and national levels. Being a constituency MP is a position of enormous local power and responsibility and in multi-party politics FPTP often awards this to a candidate who fails to have the backing of a majority of those voting, and sometimes has a large majority of local opinion against them…

The existing First Past the Post (FPTP) system is creaking at the seams, it was defensible when the threshold for winning an election was around 45 per cent of the vote and the two parties that alternated in power could each rely on 40 per cent or more. As recently as 1992 and 1997 the two leading parties shared three quarters of the popular vote, but in 2010 this had shrunk to around 65 per cent. To replicate Labour’s achievement of sneaking back to power on 36 per cent of the vote in 2005 is not an admirable ambition, and an insufficient basis of popular consent to make radical changes. It betrays an instrumental view of democracy that feels profoundly unconservative.

The Alternative Vote (AV) … is a simple adaptation of the current system, and is in effect a more representative variant of FPTP… It is not a proportional system, but it does make more votes count and enables an appeal for votes on principle rather than tawdry ‘X can’t win here’ tactical electioneering. By creating a difference between voting with your heart and trying to block the candidate you like least, FPTP creates a fundamental dishonesty in the relationship between voter and vote, and AV does at least remove this.

..And the way AV realigns UKIP votes to the Tories should deepen Conservative interest in AV, why? Because UKIP polled not far short of a million votes on Thursday 6th of May with no MPs to show for it (something which highlights how the system is increasingly unfair). Under AV, most of its voters would channel their second preferences towards the Conservatives.

Phillip Blond also carries on to talk very positively about the AV+ system put forward in the 1998 Jenkins Report, which though put on ice by the Blair government at the time, could still be a reasonably straightforward future addition to our elections if an appetite for reform is demonstrated by a Yes to AV victory. He also cites the London Mayoral elections as further positive examples of how preferential voting can be of real democratic benefit, as well briefly comparing the forthcoming referendum to the “great leap in the dark” that was Disraeli’s 1867 Reform Act. While those of us with a more left or centrist viewpoint might not agree with some of the party-based arguments of this article, Blond makes some very valid points about the benefits of AV (and other more proportional systems).

You can read the full article here.

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