I support progressive electoral reform. The present system does need changing. It normally delivers firm government but does not necessarily represent the collective views of the country. The present system normally allows one party with the largest minority of votes to implement its manifesto, but at least we have a good idea what this means when they are elected.
If we are going to move to proportional representation it will mean that we will have to trade the clarity of a manifesto for a compromise. But I am only willing to do this if the voting system – as to a large extent it does in Scotland and Wales – genuinely reflects the view of the electorate. In other words a serious dose of proportional representation.
AV leaves us with the chance of a botched government elected by a botched electoral system. Rather than taking into account the votes of all the people and topping up Parliament to reflect this, it allows a small minority of people to exercise their choice twice at the expense of the majority of people who will only be able to use their first preference. In many places it won’t apply at all.
In my own seat, Herts South West, for example, Tory David Gauke, was returned with 54.9 per cent of the vote, so AV will be irrelevant here. And if it was just below 50 per cent, it would be second preferences of an independent, BNP and UKIP candidate in that order, that would have been redistributed.
In East Ham it is more pronounced with ex Labour minister Stephen Timms being returned with 70 per cent of the vote – a majority of 27,826-the largest in the country. No AV there and 30 per cent of the electorate ignored. Similarly foreign secretary William Hague had 62 per cent of the vote in Richmond, Yorkshire and Gordon Brown would be unaffected in Kirkcaldy with 64.5 per cent of the vote. And also for that matter David Cameron, Dominic Grieve and John Hayes (all 58-61 per cent).
It would have made a difference in Watford (Tory gain from Labour) and won with only 34.9 per cent of the vote because all three main parties were close (the Lib Dems came second) and the bottom three shared only 5.6 per cent of the vote. But why should your second preference count in Watford but be barred in next door Herts South West?
Supporters of AV say it is a step in the right direction towards full PR but I wonder whether it could make matters worse. And I am afraid that the performance of Nick Clegg and Vince Cable in government does matter. They got elected on a manifesto that they stood on its head as part of the negotiations to get power, particularly in the grotesque way they pledged to abolish student tuition fees but instead tripled them.
I think they are unaware of how damaging this has been to politics-confirming the view that people will cynically promise anything to get elected but can’t be trusted in government. No doubt at the next election they will pledge to defend the NHS and then proceed to abolish it once they are in power. Clegg has actually left people believing he is a serial liar ( reports on the doorsteps in Dacorum include people saying they will never vote Liberal Democrat again ).
They also failed in negotiations with the Tories to use a referendum to offer the public a full choice for electoral reform. So the choice is only first past the post versus bastarised PR – AV. We are not even given a chance to vote on the system used by Scotland or Wales.
I have been disenfranchised by these shenanigans so I will stick to the present system and wait for a government to be elected that will offer real choice for electoral reform.