The Platform 10 website, “a platform for a wide-range of Conservative supporters, activists & commentators” has featured this article by Rene Kinzett as part of it’s discussion about the Alternative Vote & the referendum about whether to upgrade our elections to AV or stick with the current system of First Past the Post. While my own preference when debating & thinking about the ongoing campaign of “AV or FPTP” is to steer clear of party-political point scoring & to stick with the general benefits I believe AV brings for the vast majority of the voting public who aren’t diehard supporters of any particular party, it’s always good to see thoughtful arguments from a different political perspective.
While reminding us that AV need not spell out bad news at all electorally for a modern centre-right Conservative party, as borne out by research by Lord Ashcroft, Kinzett also mentions something rather unfair about last year’s general election- that (rather like Labour) Conservatives enjoyed a larger share of the seats than their overall share of the popular vote. (Conservatives won 47% of the seats with 36.1% of the vote).
Also noted is the fact that a form of AV is used in Conservative leadership elections, with mention that the contests of 1997, 2001 & 2005 would have all been quite different had they been ran using just FPTP: in ’97 Ken Clarke would have won instead of William Hague (maybe that’s why Clarke has stepped up as a No2AV figurehead!), the 2001 result would have seen Michael Portillo installed as leader rather than Iain Duncan Smith & in 2005 David Davis would have prevailed against David Cameron. As Kinzett continues:
“If we can see the benefits of AV for selecting Commons Committee Chairs and for our own internal Party elections, why can’t we comprehend the advantage for the wider electorate when they come to vote for their MPs?”
Kinzett then takes the perspective I’ve been waiting for from someone on the political right to do- the pro-choice angle, which Conservatives value highly in many other areas:
“Candidates campaigning against Labour incumbents from a third-place position have to endure countless bits of paper going through doors from the Liberal Democrats telling electors that a Tory vote would be a “wasted vote”. The instant run-off nature of AV allows electors to make a more sophisticated choice, expressing their support for the Party they support the most, then going on to make subsequent preferences which will only count if their first choice is “off the menu”, as it were. It is the ultimate “consumer is king” form of voting.”
I also fully agree with Rene Kinzett’s view that AV would increase the power that voters themselves wield, & that MPs that have previously won with less than 50% of the vote will probably have to build a dialogue with those who’ve voted for minority candidates & certainly won’t be able to ignore the majority who didn’t vote for them as easily as they used to, especially if that MP wants to keep hold of their seat!