LibLink: Chris Huhne – The alternative vote is not the solution

Over at The Guardian’s Comment Is Free site, Lib Dem shadow home secretary Chris Huhne argues Labour has got it wrong in proposing a referendum on the Alternative Vote: only the Single Transferable Vote will remedy the unfairness of the present system. Here’s an excerpt:

[The Alternative Vote] is very similar to first-past-the-post in two key respects. Because it is based on single constituencies – a virtue for its proponents, who say they prize the constituency link – the parties continue to select one candidate each, and the voters only have one choice for each party.

That means that in the majority of parliamentary seats, the important decision about who should be the MP will continue to be taken in party caucuses rather than at the public ballot box. Although most MPs will have to reach beyond their tribal base to get the second preferences of other parties – an important discipline on unpleasant characters and behaviour – the choice for the voter remains very limited.

Compare AV in this respect with the Liberal Democrats’ preferred option, the single transferable vote (STV), which is the system used in the Republic of Ireland, Scottish local government and in most Northern Irish elections. Each multi-member constituency has three to five members of parliament, so that each party has the incentive to put up two or more candidates. The voter therefore has the choice not only of party, but also of person.

Such a system is clearly the most liberal: it gives the maximum opportunity to the voter to express their preferences, and reserves the minimum power to the party machines. It is perfectly adapted for the world of the MPs’ expenses scandal. Unlike AV, voters can stick with their party and vote for a “clean” MP or for an MP who shares their particular enthusiasms. With AV and first-past-the-post, voters have to change party to punish an individual MP. …

Conservative opposition to electoral reform gives the lie to David Cameron’s pretence that he wants real change, and Labour’s half-hearted commitment to the alternative vote is just a deathbed conversion from a party facing a historic defeat at the ballot box. Not only does AV fail to give voters the power they should have, but it also fails to remedy the unfairness of the present system.

You can read Chris’s article in full here.

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This entry was posted in LibLink.


  • So Chris WHY did you vote for it last night? Brown should have been pushed to include a vote on more than one type of system, but you failed.

    I wonder if voting with Brown last night, as added strenght to the Tory posters of “vote Yellow get Brown”.

  • It is interesting to note that our STV amendment was supported in the division lobby not merely by Liberal Democrat, Scottish Nationalist, Plaid Cymru and SDLP MPs but also by two former Labour Cabinet Ministers – James Purnell and Andrew Smith.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th Feb '10 - 12:01pm

    Of course, a cynic would say that every party voted in whichever way would best serve its own interests.

  • Whichever way we jumped we were damned. Vote for AV and we’ve compromised our pro-PR principles, vote against and we’d be “opposing reform”

    AV is perhaps marginally better in some circumstances and it breaks the link with history so any propsed change to PR cannot be countered with “but this is how we always do it.”

    It’s a toughy. Made no less tough by the fact the Tories will just ditch it in May anyway.

  • I saw it. Pickles was rude but Chris didn’t help himself by being ungracious

  • I so made the right choice in the leadership ballot.

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