One from the archives … Chris Huhne slams the Alternative Vote

Actually, I’ve not trawled back that far – just five months, February this year, when the Lib Dems’ Chris Huhne launched a salvo on The Guardian’s Comment is Free against the Alternative Vote as a means of electoral reform:

[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. …

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.

We linked to it here, and you can read the article in full here.

Of course, as David Cameron noted on the day the Coalition Government was formed, “We’re all going to have things thrown back at us. We’re looking at the bigger picture. … And if it means swallowing some humble pie, and if it means eating some of your words, I cannot think of a more excellent diet.”

On this occasion, I imagine Chris agrees with Dave.

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  • I think it’s deluded to see AV as a step in the right direction. At the rate the British so-called constitution allows itself to be reformed it’ll be a generation before voting reform is back on the agenda whatever the outcome of next year’s referendum. By offering AV the Tories have lanced that growing boil, and by accepting it Clegg has pissed away the head of steam that was building for proper reform.

  • IainM,
    In your analysis you are assuming that we’ll be in a position anytime soon for any form of voting reform greater than AV.

  • Daniel,
    What I think is that there was still a [i]possibility[/i] of achieving proper reform over the next couple of parliaments, because we were starting to win the argument, but thanks to Clegg’s vanity that possibility is now gone for a generation. We’re either going to be stuck with a system only slightly less shit than the one we have just now, or, more likely, we’ll be stuck with the status quo.

    Cameron must wake up each morning laughing his tits off at ease with which he’s made a fool out of the Lib Dems.

  • Ian Sanderson 18th Jul '10 - 8:14am

    What Chris said is true. AV is only a short step towards a proportional system.
    It is not guaranteed to have the effect of of ensuring proper representation for evenly spread but substantial parties in Westminster – like the LibsDems across GB and the Tories in Scotland and Wales – you need AV+ or STV or other forms of proportional representation to go further on that road, as in Scotland, Wales and Greater London.

    It does however have several strong advantages over FPTP.
    Firstly it starts weaning the English (outside London) voters from voting with an X alone.
    Secondly, it really has enormous advanatages for the individual voter. With AV the voter can vote both HONESTLY and EFFECTIVELY in all cases. Voting first for a minor party does not stop you having a say in the contest between the two leaders in a count, whoever they may turn out to be. It should avoid the present situation where an individual MP can be hated and despised from the start by the majority of those who voted.

    I wouldn’t guarantee that the issue will be carried this time. Like the Scots and Welsh parliaments in the 1970s, it may fail either through conditions in parliament or at the ballot box, but it could, like then, be the start of a long and succesful campaign and lead to better voting for Westminster.

  • I agree with Chris

  • The Tories have in the past been more in favour of STV than AV. In two votes on the committee stage of the Representation of the People Bill in the summer of 1917, the Tories voted 38 for STV to 85 against and 2 for AV and 113 against.

    In April 1921 in the vote on a private member’s bill to introduce STV to British parliamentary elections, 34 Tories voted for and 178 against.

    In the third reading in June 1931 of the Electoral Reform Bill which provided for the introduction of AV, Winston Churchill called for STV for constituencies in the large cities.

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