The Labour and Conservative MPs who were in favour of AV before they were against it

Here’s a curious detail about the voting record of MPs on the alternative vote: before the general election, the House of Commons agreed to introduce elections for select committee chairs using the alternative vote (and the first set of these such elections have now been held).

Most of the Conservative and Labour MPs who have said they oppose AV for public elections were also MPs when this decision was taken – and not one of them forced a vote on the matter, let alone vote against introducing AV. Instead, they all let the introduction of AV go through.

Now of course that would be a reasonable approach, if – but only if – the reasons they use against using AV in general elections are all ones that don’t also apply to other sorts of elections. Because if they are general anti-AV arguments, then the question is – why didn’t they oppose AV for their own use?

So I’m 100% we’ll not see any of those Labour MPs use any of the arguments the No campaign has been pushing which apply to the voting system generally, such as how votes transfer at full value or how the person who comes first on first preferences might not win. After all, that then would be a matter of saying that a voting system that’s good enough for MPs to use somehow then isn’t good enough for the rest of us.

So I’m 100% sure, as I said. I’m sure you are too.

(Well, actually – make that 99% sure, because after roping in the views of a military dictatorship on the best voting system to use, who knows quite what No campaigners will do next?).

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54 Comments

  • We could also look at pledges? All politicians take the course that will benefit themselves most including Lib Dems. I am afraid that trust in all politicians is now at an all time low, can’t believe a word they say.

  • I completely agree with Anne; this blog is irony in it’s purest form.

  • @Anne & @James – all goes to show that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw the first stone.

  • @Anne & @James, spot on I have to agree

    The rest of us?

    Just who is the rest of us?
    Because there is a campaign for a no vote, so the rest of us are divided or did you mean by the rest of us the supporters of AV, just trying to be clear here
    If you mean the public, the electorate of this country, the rest of us get our say in May which system we would like.

    And the last thing I would like is AV or PR because it is already in use by MPs in house, it might be good enough for them, but I like most of the public would like to be asked after all it is our electoral system.
    The rest of us have yet to have our say, and you know what, it might not be the same as what the “rest of us” you refer to.

  • Leviticus18_23 31st Dec '10 - 12:08pm

    It’s ‘fair’ and ‘progressive’ to say one thing before an election and do the exact opposite afterwards. 

    Welcome to a new era of politics and an end to broken promises…

    Let’s not get rid of trident
    Let’s have more nuclear power
    Let’s sell off the forests
    Let’s forget about having an inquiry into the energy market

    I can’t wait for the control orders u-turn…

    Stop the finger pointing. I don’t care what Labour did. I care what you are doing. At the moment all I see is attempts to distract people from how badly the LibDems are selling out for a sniff of power. 

    You’ll have to do much better than than that if you want to have any MPs in the next 60 years…

  • There is a notable difference in the two elections.

    The party of Chairmen of select commitees is, I believe, chosen in advance. All candidates must have a set number of nominations. This means that MP’s are, in effect selecting the individual they believe is best for the job without having to consider party. It is therefore more plausible to rank these in some type of order. The best chairs are truly independant of their party leaders and often have good cross party relationships.

    Although it is not meant to different in parliamentary elections, most people vote for the party of their choice regardless of the merits of the individual. Asking an MP to list candidates in order of preference to undertake a specific role having seen them operate over a period of time, and knowing their voting and campaigning records is different to AV at a a general election.

    Whichever way you look at it, the election of a single individual to a single role, from a single group of voters, could not be achieved by true PR. It is realistically a choice of AV or FPTP. When it come to 10’s of millions of voters over an entire country neither AV or FPTP give a fair reflection of their views. True minority parties gain nothing.

    Much as I abhor their views, UKIP should have a parliamentary presence in proportion to their votes. It’s a bit like giving the condemed man in Utah the choice between firing squad or lethal injection. Whichever is chosen the best option is not available.

    Some of us don’t want the least worst option, in fact I remain to be convinced AV is even that.

    I see only one party benefitting, and that is the party whose leadership have let me down badly since convincing me to lend them my vote in May.

  • Keith in Bristol 31st Dec '10 - 12:20pm

    Leviticus18_23, your remarks might be somewhat fairer if we had a Lib Dem Government. We don’t. The Lib Dems only got 57 seats. How do you expect them to force the other 300+ Government MPs to do everything their way?

  • David Boothroyd 31st Dec '10 - 12:22pm

    When are Lib Dems going to stop this rubbish form of argument? There is nothing wrong with having different electoral systems for different purposes. The fact that someone may support STV for local elections does not mean they are being inconsistent if they support FPTP for Parliamentary elections, and so on. This post adds nothingness to the debate.

  • @Steve Beasant

    Incorrect. Your MP is actually sticking to his principles. He proposed that a fuller range of PR choices should be offered to British voters, including STV. Unfortunately the proposal for a referendum on Proportional Representation was blocked by Lib Dem MPs in the House of Commons in October.

  • Leviticus18_23 31st Dec '10 - 12:31pm

    @Keith in Bristol.
    While they can’t control policy or all the outcomes if votes, I would expect to see them upholding the things they stood for prior to the election.

    I didn’t see ‘terms and conditions apply’ or ‘subject to fair usage policy’ at the bottom of any leaflets prior to re election.

    If you expect people to vote for you because you promise to oppose tuition fees, you can’t then vote for or abstain. They promised to oppose.

    If they choose to use the ‘well, it’s a coalition’ excuse, they should have got someone to negotiate in who knew what they were doing…

    I guess I just feel really let down every time they open their mouths.

  • I’m still proud to have voted Liberal Democrat, and think this Government is hugely improved by having Lib Dems inside the tent, regardless of all the cheap shots you find on here. If the swathes of people claiming to have been ‘betrayed’ by the Liberal Democrats actually got out and voted Lib Dem in May we would perhaps have a very different Government to the one we have now…

    But anyway… back to AV. Attacking the Liberal Democrats for any perceived wrongs does not shield MPs from accusations of duplicity. In this case it is particularly apparent.

  • If you expect people to vote for you because you promise to oppose tuition fees, you can’t then vote for or abstain. They promised to oppose.

    When I voted Lib Dem it never occurred to me that this meant that they would oppose no-matter what the circumstances were. Such a dogmatic approach would seem to me to be profoundly illiberal and narrow-minded. I think the Liberal Democrats called the Tuition fees right, and the Coalition has finally introduced a graduate contribution scheme more akin to a Graduate Tax than fees, something that we should have had years ago.

  • @Mark Pack

    Any chance of a list of LibDem MPs who defeated an amendment to add PR as an option to the referendum bill?

  • Mike(The Labour one) 31st Dec '10 - 1:04pm

    This is a nonsense post. Like I’ve said before, it isn’t inconsistent to support different voting systems for different purposes, any more than it is inconsistent to support different remedies for different illnesses. ‘Such and such used to support chemotherapy, so why is he choosing strepsils for his sore throat?!’

    There is no need to worry about producing coalitions, for instance. These ‘basic’ criticisms of AV that you mention do not apply to select committees.

    If you wanted to try a coherent post, you could actually have a look at their complaints and then decide if they fit select committees, rather than implying that they don’t without actually bothering to do any work to find out.

  • Any chance of a list of LibDem MPs who defeated an amendment to add PR as an option to the referendum bill?

    You mean the amendment that would have killed off electoral reform for a generation by making the bill unacceptable to the Tories?

  • @Tom

    So that’s the new test for LibDems is it? Support for a policy or position is dependent upon its acceptability to Tories?
    And as for killing electoral reform for a generation, that is what a NO result will produce. Mainly as a response to the perceived betrayal by LibDem MPs.

  • @Tom

    Not so. There are a number of Tories who support a PR referendum and the Tories only have 306 of the 650 seats.

  • Mark – an odd article considering this site hasn’t done something similar along the lines of:

    “The xx Liberal Democrat MPs who signed a pledge to abolish tuition fees but then voted (or abstained) to triple them”.

    High irony indeed…

  • @Steve Way
    Posted 31st December 2010 at 12:19 pm
    “I see only one party benefitting, and that is the party whose leadership have let me down badly since convincing me to lend them my vote in May.”

    I agree wholeheartedly and I will vote against AV.

  • @ Tom

    “If the swathes of people claiming to have been ‘betrayed’ by the Liberal Democrats actually got out and voted Lib Dem in May we would perhaps have a very different Government to the one we have now…”

    …or of course, we might just have some more LD MP’s, and much the same train wreck we have now! The mindset of LD loyalists on this point interest me; they are totally convinced by the “there was no alternative” and “we did the best we could” narratives, and yet the LD’s basically rolled over for the Tories by accepting that what was important was not the relative % of the popular vote, but the number of MP’s gained in our gerrymandered parliament.

    Why the supine acceptance that this was in any way a “fair” outcome in the coalition negotiations? You came out with NO major cabinet posts, not a single ministry in LD hands!!

    The way to ensure people on the centre-left continue to vote for you isn’t by pursuing the policies and programme you are now! the deal that was struck after the GE was weak, flawed, and pathetically unrepresentative of what your membership, voters, and the country as a whole wanted.

    You have simply allowed Cameron to use you as a way to neutralise the carpet biters on the Tory right, and to put into practice policies you could have done more to stop and/or ameliorate if you had had refused to go into Coalition, or at least negotiated more intelligently for a stronger LD element.

    I don’t really care whether your party faces electoral oblivion, as it will have been self inflicted. I do care if your crass actions lead to the failure of the AV vote largely due to voters giving you a bloody nose for unrelated reasons, and I do care that your support of the Coalition allows the Tories to enact most of the programme that your party attacked so strongly.

    What you have achieved is too slight, what you have risked is too important.

  • @Galen10 – if there had been more Lib Dem MPs, it would likely have been in Tory / Lib Dem marginals like Richmond, so would have made a Labour / Lib Dem coalition even more likely….

    “You came out with NO major cabinet posts, not a single ministry in LD hands!!” So the Chief Secretary isn’t significant? Nor is the Business Secretary (formerly Trade & Industry)?

    “accepting that what was important was not the relative % of the popular vote, but the number of MP’s gained in our gerrymandered parliament” – last time I checked, the Tories had the highest votes and number of seats, so the debate was a non-starter.

    If the Lib Dems had gone into a “supply and confidence” deal and rejected outright the immigration cap (instead of limiting its bite,) tuition fees and much of the spending cuts in the budget, do you think we’d have got this far without an election – something which I don’t think the public really wanted?

    @jayu – no, the AV referendum is what Bismarck would have called “realpolitik” – the ability to do what you can when you can’t do what you want. The Tories would never have supported a bill with STV in it, and along with (probably) the NI Unionists would have been able to scupper the whole plan. Instead, we have the opportunity to change the system to one which – in Nick Clegg’s words – is a “baby step” in the right direction (and the move from AV to STV isn’t as huge a leap.)

  • Douglas Carswell MP (Con) has argued for PR for sometime. At the Conservative Party Conference earlier this year, he said voters should be given the “fullest range of options possible” in the referendum:

    Keeping First-Past-the-Post system
    The Alternative Vote system
    The Single Transferable Vote system
    The Additional Member system.

    I believe the Lib Dem MPs who rejected giving voters the full referendum choices will come to regret it. This wouldn’t be the first time. When in power, David Lloyd George rejected Proportional Representation and subsequently regretted it. Seems to be a case of history repeating itself.

  • @KL

    Why then did the LibDem leadership call AV a miserable little reform, that was not proportional, and say that they would fight to make changes to Labour’s proposals to that effect? But once in government decided against doing so? It’s example like this, that explain the plummeting of trust in the LibDems, and the leadership in particular.

  • @KL
    “The Tories would never have supported a bill with STV in it, and along with (probably) the NI Unionists would have been able to scupper the whole plan.”

    You’re making too many assumptions. The issue cuts across both Conservative and Labour parties. The Tories only have 306 seats and, I seem to recall, were offered a ‘free vote’ anyway.

    The Daily Telegraph assessed the situation earlier in the year. They concluded that even if all the Tories voted against, though some support electoral reform, the LibDems, the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, the unionists, the green, and a big chunk of Labour MPs would outvote them.

  • For me, a better argument would be to term-limit MPs. Say no one can serve in the Commons (Lords to be different) for more than three terms. That would give some freedom from the party whips, but would still prevent the free-for-alls that can be a problem with PR.

  • @Mark Pack

    “…but for me what really matters is how well or badly the system works for the voters, not for MPs. Democracy is something for all of us, not just for elected politicians.”

    Quite – which is why I was puzzled when Lib Dem MPs blocked giving the electorate a proper choice. It goes beyond party interests, but they chose to put party before country.

  • The lib dems were very foolish to agree to a conditional referendum on AV and instead should have demanded STV for local gvt like they did in Scotland.

    That might have led to a trickle down effect of more people campaigning for electoral reform after seeing it work at a local level and would have fitted in with the lib dems ‘so called localism agenda’

  • @Mark Pack

    I Don’t think they should, I am saying most will follow party loyalty because they are MPs, they are politicians, and in my life not once have any political party been truthful, even when speaking to the wider public in a general election broadcasts, MPs, leaders of those MPs and the support party to those MPs have been shy at being open and honest, or short with the whole truth and some even lied to gain power knowing they could not or would not deliver on what they promised or pledged.

    The Liberal Democrats see AV and PR as a means to more power; the main parties know that the only way for Liberal Democrats to gain more power is for them to lose that power…
    The public have now had a taste of coalition government, so now it is up to them, I personally don’t think they will vote for AV, I don’t even think it will be close… but I may be wrong I cannot see into the future.

  • jayu
    “Any chance of a list of LibDem MPs who defeated an amendment to add PR as an option to the referendum bill?”

    My understanding was that, for the most part, that was a classic “wrecking amendment”.

    Are you saying otherwise?

  • I was in favour of AV as I thought Coalition governments were a good thing.
    However, now I’ve seen a Coalition in action, I’m 100% against.
    I want MPs to be accountable for their actions.

  • Mike(The Labour one) 1st Jan '11 - 2:26am

    @Mark Pack: Maybe you should read the rest of *my* comment.

    ‘There is no need to worry about producing coalitions, for instance. These ‘basic’ criticisms of AV that you mention do not apply to select committees.

    If you wanted to try a coherent post, you could actually have a look at their complaints and then decide if they fit select committees, rather than implying that they don’t without actually bothering to do any work to find out’

    Instead of making the assumption that they are ‘general’ AV complaints that would apply to both, you could actually find out couldn’t you? Do you think it’s enough to say ‘maybe their complaints aren’t valid. I’m not going to bother finding out what they are, but it’s possible that they’re invalid. Vote Yes’? Because no is the answer, it very much is not.

  • And what about the famous case of a Party Leader who was against AV before he was for it ?

    We are of course talking about Nick “miserable little reform”, who by his actions couldn’t care less if this historic chance to change the voting system is lost for another generation.

    He has his nice ministerial job and when he’s finally booted out as Leader he’ll get a nice Europe or Banking job so why should he care that the only chance of changing the voting system for decades is sinking faster than his own poll ratings ?

    Nice to see that the draconian measures against free speech on this site are still being carried on into the new year.

  • @Dane
    “You would like the LibDems to continue to be under-represented in relation to votes cast for them. Do you have any conception of fairness in representation?”

    So how will AV give smaller parties such as UKIP or the Greens better representation? AV isn’t proportional therefore does not produce fairness in representation. It does appear to only benefit one party.

    I don’t want the Lib dems under-represented, but I don’t believe that fixing the problem only for the third party is the answer.

  • I will never put the three ‘main’ parties in any ‘preference’. I don’t want any of you. So, unless there is a candidate from another party or Independent that appeals, I shall not be voting at all. Will the coalition try to bring in compulsory voting as well if AV is won? This is an important issue and the question needs to be addressed now. Many now want FPTP back in Australia. Is that because they are forced to put candidates in preference even when they do not want to? I would just have to pay the fine except I will not have the money (prison?).

  • Keith in Bristol 5th Jan '11 - 1:24pm

    @Leviticus18_23

    “While they can’t control policy or all the outcomes if votes, I would expect to see them upholding the things they stood for prior to the election.”

    I agree, and I agree with you especially on the point of tuition fees – though perhaps I disagree with much of the party in that, in my view, those pledges on tuition fees were a mistake to begin with and are clearly no less so now, the fact is that you had individual MPs making personal pledges and their electorates had a reasonable expectation that such personal pledges would be upheld.

    But on your earlier list: let’s face it, we had the Lib Dems who had a policy of not renewing Trident on a like-for-like basis, and the Tories who were for renewal. Either one of the parties or both had to give ground. As it happened, they both did: what we got was renewal kicked into the long grass, to be dealt with by a subsequent Government. The Tory Right are not exactly happy about it.

    As for the comment “I didn’t see ‘terms and conditions apply’ or ‘subject to fair usage policy’ at the bottom of any leaflets prior to re election”, if there’s to be a coalition at all (granted, some believe there should not have been – fair enough) then it has to be a coherent Government and not a pushmepullyou. The Lib-Con coalition could not deliver that without a lot of inter-party compromise – which entails that some of the things one hoped to deliver during an election campaign, one cannot deliver after the event. No coalition could form without some promises being broken, IMO.

    Sure, that means quite a few people will be unhappy with the result. A lot of people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 clearly aren’t. Nor, for that matter, are many on what one might call the ‘Tory Right’.

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