Yes2AV debate invokes the support of Churchill
But His Grace has received an invitation to a debate on the Alternative Vote, to be chaired by the eminent Paul Goodman of ConservativeHome.
The circulated information included this summary:
What are some of the arguments in favour of First Past The Post?Aside from some obvious mendacities (like criticism of FPTP not being a de facto argument for AV; and there being no mention of the fact that AV is likely to lead to more coalitions whose governmental agendas will be decided irrespective of manifesto pledges), it is curious that the mighty weight of Churchill was invoked (at some length) as the final persuasive point for the pro-AV argument, with no mention at all that the great man later said (in 1931) that AV allows democracy 'to be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates'.
• It gives strong government. One party has an overall majority which guarantees it the ability to get its programme through Parliament.
• AV is obscure: only three countries in the world use it for their national elections: Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea.
• It enables an electorate to kick a government out.
• AV is complex. The Government will spend millions of pounds explaining to voters how AV works to prevent a fall in turnout at elections. In Australia, the only reason they have a high turnout is because they made voting compulsory.
• The alternative is expensive. Under AV ballot papers cannot be counted by hand on election night. Local councils will have to purchase electronic counting machines that are very expensive and prone to malfunction.
• There are lots of ways of genuine reforms which would go some way to restore people’s trust in politics – but changing of voting system to AV is not one of them. That’s why it’s a shame that we’re about to spend £90 million and five months debating a system that nobody wants.
What are some of the arguments in favour of the Alternative Vote system?
• MPs receiving more than 50 per cent of the vote have legitimacy. Currently barely 1 in 3 of MPs are supported by a majority of their voters. Under AV they would have to be. Eight MPs were elected in the last General Election with less than 20 per cent of their electorate voting for them.
• It’s simple, tried and tested. With AV you can rank as few or as many candidates as you feel are up to the job. It is used to select party leaders, The Commons Speaker, indeed any role which requires a winner to have the widest possible support.
• The end of Tactical Voting. Voters face unwelcome “tactical” voting decisions in every election. AV eliminates the need for it. Supporters of parties large and small can vote sincerely for their favourite party in the knowledge that their vote can still help to decide the winner.
• AV shuts down extremism, who almost invariably scrape in with minority support. Winners need the goodwill of the majority. For extremists, AV is a brick wall.
• A chance to have a more permanent approach to the real problems of Britain such as the economy, transport and health, so they are no longer political footballs.
• Winston Churchill, speaking about our electoral system in 1909, said: “The present system has clearly broken down. The results produced are not fair to any party, nor to any section of the community. In many cases they do not secure majority representation, nor do they secure an intelligent representation of minorities. All they secure is fluke representation, freak representation, capricious representation.”
His Grace trusts that Paul Goodman, an undoubted chairman of integrity, might point out to the assembled parties that this referendum literature was a little biased in its content and distorted in its presentation.