Monday, February 22, 2010

Right question - wrong answer

I received an email asking me what did I think of Gordon Brown’s alternative vote suggestion? Well, it’s a shame that it has taken 13 years and almost certain defeat for Labour to suddenly realise that there is something wrong with the electoral system but this is not the answer.

Because the Liberal Democrats are, unfortunately, unlikely to form an administration and the Conservative party have opposed all constitutional reforms for nearly 200 years (see my blog entry of 30 June 2009) then the Labour party are one of our few hopes for reform in this direction.

My objection is that Alternative Vote does not remove safe seats. Half of parliamentary seats have had the same party represent them for over 40 years. Many of the MPs caught in the expenses scandal were in these safe seats with over 50% of the votes and thus it would have made little difference.

My parents live in the new constituency of Meon Valley in true blue East Hampshire. Question Time viewers will have seen angry Teeside steelworkers who will return Labour MPs regardless. Under AV, these seats will still be the same colour. Meanwhile I live in a marginal – so my vote is more important because I don’t know which party will win the seat.

All votes should be equal. Voters should be able to choose between candidates of the same party – hence choosing the individual rather than the party – so the best and fairest way is using multi-member constituencies via Single Transferable Voting. Then there would be no such thing as safe seats – every individual MP would have to work much harder to get your vote.

So it’s no to Alternative Vote. We will only get one chance to change the electoral system so let’s get it right.

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