Leading academic lambasts AV


[First Published on Friday 19th November 2010]

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 It contains facts and opinions which may have been superseded by subsequent events.

Simon Hix, professor in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science, has strongly criticised the Coalition’s proposals for electoral reform in an interview with The Constitution Society.

Coinciding with the Second Reading debate of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill in the House of Lords this week, Hix stressed that the Alternative Vote would not bring about the changes expected of it.

AV is a bad system … It’s like First Past the Post in that it’s not very proportional, it doesn’t give us much choice, but it doesn’t guarantee single party government”.

The LSE academic was not, however, against electoral reform in principle.  The political landscape in the UK has changed dramatically since the 1950s, “where 90% of people voted for Labour or the Conservatives” and as a result the current system of First Past the Post is no longer fit for purpose.

We’re heading towards a multi-party system and there’s nothing that First Past the Post can do to stop that.”

So what is the alternative to the Alternative Vote?

Proportional Representation, claims Professor Hix.  The ideal system would be one consisting of multi-member constituencies made up of three or four MPs, which offers voters a choice of representatives within as well as between political parties.

Answering his critics, Hix went on to deny claims that PR leads to less stable government and said that the transition to such a system could be less confusing to voters than a move to AV, where they would have to become accustomed to numbering candidates on the ballot paper.

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.