By Andrew RT Davies
At great cost, increased complication, and with very little enthusiasm you will be asked, next month, to vote for what Nick Clegg famously called “a miserable little compromise. A voting system that the Jenkins Commission declared to be “even more unfair and disproportionate” than the one currently in use.
It is an obscure, hugely complicated and largely unloved compromise – deemed fit for purpose in just three countries across the world.
In spite of its supporters’ claims to the contrary, AV is not a fairer system. In fact it breaks the fundamental principle of ‘one-person, one vote’, and gives those who favour unpopular candidates two, sometimes three bites at the cherry as their preferences come into play.
In Australia it has also led to increased tactical voting with parties issuing detailed instructions on how to vote in order to prevent rivals winning. This kind of tactical voting is cynical and negative. Surely it is not desirable to switch to a system that inherently favours the ‘least-disliked’ candidate at the expense of the most popular?
Neither is AV necessarily more proportional than First-Past-The-Post. The Jenkins Commission, established after the 1997 General Election, found AV exaggerates the popular will, making landslides more likely. The Electoral Reform Society has also conceded that AV “does nothing” to tackle the issue of safe seats.
Of course, under FPTP 10% of the vote doesn’t necessarily equate to 10% of the seats. It does, though, make it less likely that marginal parties can hold disproportionate power and influence in choosing our government during the negotiations that follow.
A system where coalitions are more likely is one where the Lib-Dem leader is perpetual king-maker. That might not be so appealing to those who voted for the Liberals last year because of their pledge not to increase tuition fees.