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Daily View: Alternative voting referendum

Clare Spencer | 11:55 UK time, Thursday, 17 February 2011

Ballot box


After MPs finally managed to get their bill through Parliament, a referendum on alternative voting (AV) has been confirmed for 5 May.

Commentators discuss which way they will be voting and predict the outcome.

Simon Heffer says in the Telegraph that AV will lead to more coalition governments being voted in. This, for him, is enough reason to vote against it:

"[I]t will be easier for parties that are not Labour or the Conservatives to win seats at Westminster. There would not just be Lib Dems, but also Scottish and Welsh separatists, Greens, possibly even one from Nick Griffin and his chums. It would become far less likely that a single party would be able to form a government.
"Therefore we would have more highly successful, productive and happiness-inducing coalitions like the one with which we are currently saddled. It would also be increasingly rare that these would be dominated by a Right-of-centre party (not that one any longer feels the Conservatives are a Right-of-centre party, and not that they appear to be having much success in giving a Right-of-centre flavour to the existing Government). AV would then be the thin end of the wedge: soon, full-scale multi-member constituency PR would be introduced."

Steve Richards predicts in the Independent that people will vote for alternative voting and says the outcome will be explosive:

"For what it is worth, I have changed my mind and would place quite a lot of money on a majority supporting change, having worked on the assumption for months that the "Yes" campaign was doomed.
"I might even go and place a bet."

The Labour leader Ed Miliband says in the Guardian that he is supporting AV:

"AV is a first step to end the disconnect between politicians and people. Next comes the House of Lords...
"AV offers an opportunity for political reform, ensuring the voice of the public is heard louder than it has been in the past. And given the standing of politics that is an opportunity we should take. It is a system that combines the direct representation of first-past-the-post with one that will make the votes of more people count.
"We should be in no doubt. If Britain votes yes in May's referendum it will be a vote to challenge the status quo."

In the Times David Aaronovitch says the "unbelievable" horror stories against the alternative vote are comparable to calling it a "headless pirate witch":

"Here is an example: 'Under AV we would have permanent coalitions and institutionalised breaking of election promises.' And now the Scooby-Doo version: 'Like, there's a snow green witch in an abandoned marina!'
"With the alternative vote, voters in constituencies rank their preferences in numerical order (that's 1, 2, 3 etc, for non-Trollope readers), and if no candidate gets more than 50 per cent of the votes, then the bottom candidates are eliminated and their votes transferred, until someone does.
"It is not a vastly more proportionate system than our current first-past-the- post, and consequently not very much more likely to create coalitions."

In the blog Political Betting Mike Smithson says following the referendum result, all eyes should be on the Liberal Democrats' reaction:

"If there is a YES vote then AV will not come into force until late 2013 when the boundaries will be finalised.
"So we have a double lock which binds the coalition partners together until, effectively, 2014. The Tories don't want the next general election until the constituency measures are in place - the Lib Dems won't want one until, assuming the referendum goes their way, AV will operate.
"The big question is how the yellows will react if the referendum outcome is a NO."

Links in full

Simon Heffer | Telegraph | The coming 'Yes' vote will be explosive
Steve Richards | Independent | The coming 'Yes' vote will be explosive
Ed Miliband | Guardian | Why the alternative vote gets my vote
David Aaronovitch | Times | Alternative vote: it's a headless pirate witch!
Mike Smithson | Political Betting | Was it Labour peers who blinked first?

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