FPTP is fundamentally flawed

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[First Published on Tuesday 12th 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 It contains facts and opinions which may have been superseded by subsequent events.

Lord Kinnock recently spoke to The Constitution Society about his support for AV and his reaction to the negativism of the no campaign in the lead up to the referendum on May 5th.  Here we report his thoughts.

The reality of multiparty politics, is, Neil Kinnock asserts, “evident” now and for future generations. The use of First Past the Post in this type of political system is “fundamentally flawed”.

The current situation of political parties being given 100% of the power for less than 40% of the vote is not “sustainable, proportionate or acceptable”.

We need electoral reform in the UK and should support The Alternative Vote because it is “the only useful change on offer”, he argues.

“The existing political system is resistant to reform but has had to concede this modest step”

The former leader of the Labour party was sure of AV’s advantages when compared to the current system. It would make more votes count; providing “a real opportunity for the consistently non-conservative majority to cast meaningful votes in every constituency.

Lord Kinnock also rebuffed a number of claims made by the no campaign, the “negativism” of which he described as “repulsive”.

AV does not give some people more than one vote. “It is still one person, one vote. People do not have multiple votes but multiple preferences”, he explained. Whether people choose to express those preferences is their choice.

AV does not necessarily lead to hung parliaments and coalition government. In Australia, the system has produced “one hung Parliament in 90 years and no formal coalitions”.

Indeed, with 10 Parliaments in the last 100 years that began or ended “hung”, says Kinnock, FPTP is more likely to produce hung parliaments, and with the added danger that it is “operated on the assumption that this is not the case.”

It would be a much “healthier” system, he suggested, were the electorate more aware of the possibility of coalition government and given the opportunity to vote in light of this.

Finally, he asserted, “AV would not necessitate a huge cost”.  Contrary to claims made by the no campaign, Lord Kinnock was certain that “AV does not need machine voting or counting, as the Australian system proves” and that there would be no need for great expenditure on voter education.

All AV needs is a customary pencil” he asserted; “the weapon of democracy”.

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.