AV would give voters more choice

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[First Published on Monday 18th April 2011]

This archive item is a window onto issues as they appeared at the time. It contains facts and opinions which may have been superseded by subsequent events.

First Past the Post “isn’t delivering clear representation of people in the country”, argues Chris Nicholson, Chief Executive of Centre Forum, the liberal think tank. “We need reform to give voters more choice”.

Nicholson is certain of the advantages of a move to the Alternative Vote, which he sees as “a sensible extension of First Past The Post”.

  • “It will give people more choice”
  • “It will help to improve the way in which we do politics in this country”
  • “MPs will better reflect the views of the people they represent”

A move to AV would reduce the number of safe seats, he argues.  This would force parties to engage with a broader section of the electorate across a larger number of constituencies, rather than focussing on “a very few marginal seats” as they do under the current system of First Past the Post.

The result would be “a more mature relationship” between the parties in the way in which they present their policies to the population.

AV would also lead to a greater focus on policy during campaigning.

By reducing the levels of tactical voting, the proposed system would remove the current tendency among political parties to focus on the “simplistic argument” that a vote for one keeps another out of government.  This, Nicholson suggests, might force parties to return to campaigning on the basis on what their policies are.

Refuting the claim that AV would make coalition government inevitable, Nicholson suggested that use of the proposed system might have led to “one or two more coalition governments over the last hundred years or so”.

Indeed he cited the use of an Alternative Vote system in Australia, where it has only “very recently” ever produced coalition governments.

Describing AV as “one step, potentially” towards proportional representation, Nicholson went on to emphasise the importance of a yes vote in the forthcoming referendum for the supporters of proportional systems.

“If the referendum vote is lost, you’re unlikely to get any change in the voting system for at least a generation”.

This publication presents the personal views of the author and not those of The Constitution Society, which publishes it as a contribution to debate on this important subject.