20 February 2011
My Dilemma With The Alternative Vote System
With the impending referendum on the Alternative Vote System, it seemed appropriate to rehash my thoughts on this area. I had my first foray into considering the election system during the General Election in May 2010, and having favoured the first-past-the-post system was roundly criticised for my lack of real thought, which was harsh but perhaps fair. I followed this up with a couple of blogs in August on different voting systems in the first and a discussion of the key issues relating to electoral systems in the second. Since then I have continued to mull over the issues in my mind and it leaves me with a dilemma.
While first-past-the-post (FPTP) is not a fair system, however (in my opinion) the alternative vote system (AV) is not much advance on it in terms of fairness. In fact, although AV is arguably fairer than FPTP, it is perhaps not worth the effort in changing from the devil you know for a new system unless it is palpably better and AV really is not good enough.
Conversely, we do need a fairer voting system in England and proportional representation is the only sensible system, with the single transferable vote method (STV) being the best. I like the proportionality in STV and the idea of multiple members for enlarged constituencies.
So what to do? Can AV be regarded as a good stepping stone that moves the electoral debate a smidgeon forward? Or is it a sop that will legitimise a new status quo centred on either AV or even worse FPTP, without the argument moving into the territory of proportionality and a fairer voting system?
In the end it is a gamble, or at least a game of tactics, in which I remain undecided and perhaps worse relatively unexcited.
I feel there are bigger issues than the voting system: is the "old" Western world losing out to the new and rising stars in the East? Has Britain wasted its capital by investing its wealth in non-productive assets and putting itself in hock with its creditors who all sit in the Middle East, India and China? Are we wasting our intellectual capital by letting them get involved with consultancy and investment banking rather than building the UK into something great? Does the taxation system force Britons to focus on short term returns rather than investing for the longer term to build/rebuild equity and productive assets? And so on...or should we fiddle like Nero as Rome burns.