Alternative Vote is the least unpopular voting system
Yet today MPs vote on an amendment to the Constitutional Reform Bill on whether or not to scrap this tried-and-tested, trusted, straightforward, clearly-understood method in favour of the Alternative-Vote system. Under that, you have to rank candidates in order of preference and if on the first round no candidate wins a majority, the candidate who comes last is eliminated and their second-preference votes are apportioned accordingly. That is to say, the winning candidate is sure to be the least unpopular of all the candidates.
It is a bizarre system which permits the most popular candidate to be beaten by the least unpopular candidate. And John Redwood explains a further inherent unfairness:
‘If you vote for one of the two most popular parties you only get to vote once. If you vote for a party that cannot win you effectively vote twice, as your second preference then helps decide which of the front runners has won. Why is this fair?
‘If I go to a horse or car race, I expect the car or horse that comes first to be the winner. I do not expect the judges to say that as the first and second were close they will ask the losers who they would like to win. Nor do we say that as it was close the first and second place have to run it again without the others to see if one is faster without the others getting in the way.’
The intercession of the Prime Minister for the AV system is a cynical death-bed conversion in an attempt to attain political salvation by fooling the electoral gods.
The people are not so stupid as to fall for such a ploy.
But the Liberal Democrats?
It is likely that they will support the Prime Minister and bequeath to him a Commons majority in favour of holding a referendum on this reform. It is not quite the Proportional Representation of their long-desired Single-Transferable-Vote system, but they will view it as a stepping-stone to that utopian end. The nationalists are also likely to support it as anything which weakens the centuries-old electoral mechanisms inherently favours their ‘modernisation’ agenda. The move will also appeal to liberal-minded voters of all persuasions who want to ‘break with the past’ for no rational reason other than to feel the sensation of progress: it will certainly attract the Liberal Democrats into power-sharing with the Labour Party in the event of a hung parliament.
Of course, there is insufficient time to put it on the statute book before the General Election, and so the Prime Minister’s strategy is evidently to portray the Conservative Party as the dinosaurs of the status quo, intractably opposed to much-needed electoral reform.
There is not doubt that First-Past-The-Post produces strong and stable governments. And Tim Montgomerie is of the opinion that 'AV penalises the independent-minded and boosts the dullards, the mediocrities, the lobby fodder'.
And yet it is the system by which David Cameron was elected to lead the Conservative Party.