Iain Dale yesterday posted a piece attacking the Alternative Vote system which doesn’t bode well for a well informed campaign.
That’s a shame because there’s a sensible debate to be had – with Lib Dems being the first to admit that the Alternative Vote system isn’t the best of all possible options, though most would rate it as a great improvement on what we have now.
There’s a reason only one other country in the world uses AV. It’s a half way house. It tries to be a PR equivalent of the First Past the Post system, but in reality it is no more proportionate than straight out FPTP, and in some cases can be less so.
It simply isn’t true that only one other country uses AV (Australia, Fiji, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea). If we want to choose our electoral system based on which is most used elsewhere, the list system would be a prime candidate – and almost no-one in the UK wants that. I’d hope that the UK could choose a system based on what’s best for us, not what’s most popular elsewhere – though it’s useful to see how a system has worked in other countries in practice.
Dale is right to say it’s a half-way house: that’s the whole point, of course. It’s a compromise between the Lib Dems who favour proper PR with the Single Transferable Vote and the Conservatives who want to hold on to the current First Past the Post system.
The question is whether it’s better that First Past the Post. Supporters of the Yes campaign will argue that it is, and Iain Dale offers no evidence to the contrary.
Dale, oddly, then spends much of the rest of his piece attacking a different voting system – STV. That’s the one favoured by the Lib Dems, but not one that will appear on ballot papers as an option next May.
He finally moves on to attack the list system used for European elections, although he does admit “I realise this is not pure STV“.
Sorry, Iain, it’s not STV at all, and STV isn’t AV. The list system invites you to rank parties and not even vote for individual candidates.
By this stage, AV has been left far behind but Dale still seems to be under the impression he’s providing arguments to vote against it in the referendum.
He argues that few of us know the names of our MEPs, therefore multi-member constituencies must be a bad thing. If we get to have a referendum on STV at some time in the future, that argument will doubtless be wheeled out.
Supporters of STV will, at that stage, point out that few people knew the name of their MEP back when he or she was elected by First Past the Post. They’ll also point out that there’s a big difference between MEPs elected for a whole region and sitting in a parliament that gets virtually no media attention, and one elected for, say, a London borough who’s parliament is in the news daily.
After spending most of his article attacking the Single Transferable Vote system, Iain Dale concludes by saying
So I will be campaigning against the Alternative Vote. It doesn’t do what it says on the tin, and there may be faults in our existing system, but AV won’t fix it.
There are real debates to be had on the merits or otherwise of Alternative Vote and First Past the Post. It will be a shame if, through either ignorance or a lack of confidence in their own case, the No campaign resorts to this sort of misinformation.