We are having a referendum in May on changes to the voting system. As I understand it (and I could be wrong; it's happened before) we will be voting on whether to adopt the Alternative Vote system in place of the current First Past The Post. And I am in a quandary. Which way to go?
I have long thought the AV system to be a good idea, ever since I first heard of it when I was a student. But there are so many forms of AV (Wikipedia lists several, and does the maths, and it's tricky) that I am not sure what I would be voting for. A simple system where you put the candidates in your preferred order seems a good idea. I have lived in too many constituencies where my vote was effectively wasted, either because my preferred candidate was a shoo-in, or didn't stand a chance. Either way, whatever I put on the ballot paper was irrelevant. If it were possible to vote for the candidate you really want, but be able to express a preference for the next-best if your candidate were unsuccessful, I think that would be a good idea. For example, given the Coalition's recent performance, I would be quite likely to vote for UKIP at the next opportunity - except that this is a marginal Tory seat, and a vote for UKIP might well let Labour in, and that is the last thing I want to happen. So I will probably vote Tory, as the only effective way of keeping the bandits of socialism out. But if I had the opportunity to express a second preference, then I might vote UKIP and put the Conservative second. A lot of people might do the same, and UKIP might stand a chance of getting elected.
That's fine, as long as the link between constituency and representative is maintained. One constituency; one MP. The problem is that AV might start us down the road to having a party list system, where the results are 'balanced' to represent the overall votes in the constituency by adding people from a party list - people who have never been voted on, and people who might only be there because of their party loyalties. Think Jim Devine*. That is the first step on the road to remote and unresponsive government, a bit like the EU.
Which is, I assume, the whole point, given the affiliations of many of those campaigning for AV.
Of course, the No side point to the FPTP system and say that it has served us well for many years. No it hasn't. It has given us governments that most people didn't vote for, who are in power for five years and can do what they like. They might be red and they might be blue, but the result is the same. No-one feels that they have any influence on the government of the day. And then we wonder why turnout is so low. We get five years of one direction, and then five years of another direction, to and fro, see-saw, and then they suggest that this is the best of all possible systems which should be imposed on the rest of the world, by force if necessary.
I'm against the Yes compaign, because I believe it will be a stepping-stone to a system that will be unrepresentative and remote, and will bind us further into an EU that most people want out of. But I can't pretend that the present system works well.
Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.
*Yes, I know he was elected, but so would a retarded chimpanzee in that constituency if it had the right colour of rosette. That's not election, that's acclamation.