Rene Kinzett: Yes to AV

At Platform10 we are always willing to listen to and promote discussion. Today, we’re publishing two views on the alternative vote – this, from Rene Kinzett who wants us to vote yes. This morning, Phil Cane made the case for us to vote no.

When Gordon Brown found his long-lost reformist zeal just before the General Election, his proposals were hopelessly top-down and driven only by political expediency – a way of showing a bit of ankle to the Liberal Democrats in the hope of a post-election bunk-up. The Coalition Agreement and the Alternative Vote Referendum now offer us the chance for real change and such an opportunity will not re-present itself for decades to come.

That is not to say that “any reform is better than no reform” and I do want to engage in a sensible and informed debate about the problems associated with AV. But those who argue against reform must do more than attack AV (often using examples of some hybrid system used in obscure US local/judicial elections with no relevance to the UK proposals); they must tell us why FPTP is a system worthy of keeping.

There are those who argue that the Conservatives would have done worse under the AV system in 2010, but new polling from Lord Ashcroft has shown that the Party could actually do much better in marginal seats. Regardless of partisan advantage, I still see it as undemocratic that our 47 per cent seat share in the House of Commons is rather larger than our 36.1 per cent of the share of the popular vote.

AV is currently used to elect the Chairs of Select Committees in the House of Commons and for the Leadership of the Conservative Party. Interestingly if the Party Leadership elections of 1997, 2001 and 2005 had been fought under FPTP, the outcomes would have been Clarke, Portillo and Davis respectively. The AV nature of the contest meant that the eventual winners of those races (Hague, Duncan-Smith and Cameron) represented a broader cross-party view than those who came ahead in the first round of voting. If we can see the benefits of AV for selecting Commons Committee Chairs and for our own internal Party elections, why can’t we comprehend the advantage for the wider electorate when they come to vote for their MPs?

AV would also end “wasted” votes. Candidates campaigning against Labour incumbents from a third-place position have to endure countless bits of paper going through doors from the Liberal Democrats telling electors that a Tory vote would be a “wasted vote”. The instant run-off nature of AV allows electors to make a more sophisticated choice, expressing their support for the Party they support the most, then going on to make subsequent preferences which will only count if their first choice is “off the menu”, as it were. It is the ultimate “consumer is king” form of voting.

AV really does put the voter in a more prominent position in terms of exerting influence on incumbent MPs than the current FPTP. It encourages MPs and candidates to reach out into new parts of the electorate in order to earn second and subsequent preferences. In seats where MPs feel vulnerable to subsequent preferences, perhaps it would be incumbent upon them to build a dialogue with the supporters of their smaller opponents? The MP would simply no longer be able to ignore the 60 per cent or so of people who did not vote for them and every party really will have to work all year round!

The politics of the outcome of the 2010 General Election meant that David Cameron had to go against the instincts of many Conservatives and offer an historic referendum to give the British people the opportunity of gaining an electoral system with many more benefits than the current FPTP system. The chance for change is now upon us and we must seize moment and vote for reform.

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12 Responses to Rene Kinzett: Yes to AV

  1. Rene Kinzett says:

    Just a quick update from discussions over on Phil’s “no to AV” posting…some counter arguments/points from me in reply to his list of the “good” things about FPTP:

    - It gives a chance for popular independent candidates to be elected.

    FPTP rarely gives the chance for an independent candidate to be elected, we need only three fingers to count how many times that has happened in recent electoral history (Wyre Forest, Tatton and Blaenau Gwent) and the issues leading to these results in two out of three were about political corruption or internal party struggles. Nothing to say that a popular independent candidate wouldn’t be elected under AV, esp if they had broad appeal, came second and could capture subsequent preferences (under AV I would predict that Dr Richard Taylor may have had more chance of holding onto Wyre Forest for example).

    - Third parties are able and do get elected, as do minor or nationalist parties

    Again, why would elections under AV be any different? With no “wasted” votes, every person could cast their 1st pref for the party they really wanted to support. It could lead to some big surprises in levels of support for all parties, esp in areas where a party has been cast by opponents as a “can’t win here” party.

    - It stops extremist parties from being elected to the Commons

    AV would only allow eg BNP in if the BNP already had STRONG support and came close 2nd in a any seat AND that the subsequent preferences of supporters of parties who came behind the BNP actually WENT to the BNP. Name a place where this scenario is likely!

    - Provides strong, stable government

    FPTP hardly lived up to this promise last May, did it?

    - It perseveres the principle of ‘one man one vote’

    So does AV and it gives more choice.

    - Allows for a decisive vote for a single candidate

    And if a candidate is elected every election with barely 40% of the vote, how decisive is the endorsement of that candidate to be the MP?

    - On the whole allows for single party government

    But FPTP had produced small majorities/hung parliament since WW2 in 2010, 1979, 1974, 1970 (Heath had to bunk up with UUP to get 31 seat maj), 1964, 1951 (National Liberals and UUP giving Tories 17 seat maj) and 1950, leading to either new elections or “back room deals” or uneasy alliances WITHIN Governments with small single party majorities.

    - Very simple to understand and lowest per invalid vote system in the world

    Is AV too complicated for the average voter who has to make more complex preferential choices in terms of being a consumer every day of the week?

    - Allows for quick counting and easy change of government

    This does not take into account the possibility of using electronic voting/counting methods. Also how “quick” an election is to count is secondary imo to how fair the system is, how much choice is gives and how accurately the result mirrors the general will.

  2. [...] here, criticising Colin Firth for the heinous crime of not apologising for voting Liberal Democrat. Yes to AV – Arguments for AV from a Conservative perspective, which may be of use in persuading people [...]

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by René Kinzett, René Kinzett, René Kinzett, René Kinzett, Matt Borum and others. Matt Borum said: Platform 10 » Blog Archive » Rene Kinzett: Yes to AV – AV would only allow eg BNP in if the BNP already h… [...]

  4. @AGilinsky says:

    Why do #No2AV campaigners have to defend FPTP? The referendum is just a yes/no on AV.

  5. “@PlatformTen: New blogpost: @ReneKinzett argues #yes2AV” Only 16 weeks until I have to make up my mind.

  6. RT @ReneKinzett: Good #yes2AV v #no2AV debate going on over on @PlatformTen with me in the YES corner and @PhilCane in the NO corner

  7. [...] of Conservative supporters, activists & commentators” has featured this article by Rene Kinzett as part of it’s discussion about the Alternative Vote & the referendum about whether to [...]

  8. Hamish says:

    @AGlinsky: “Why do #No2AV campaigners have to defend FPTP? The referendum is just a yes/no on AV.”

    Do you imagine that if AV is rejected we’ll have no electoral system at all? The choice is between AV and FPTP. No to AV means Yes to FPTP.

  9. Rene Kinzett says:

    Well said, Hamish…I thought the answer too blindingly obvious to write yesterday but you are spot on. There is a CLEAR choice between remaining with FPTP or moving to AV. Therefore anyone arguing for a YES vote must extol the virtues of AV and point out failings of FPTP and anyone arguing for a NO vote must point out the failings of AV but ALSO to tell us why FPTP makes a better system than AV.

  10. Rene you’re wrong about 1951 and 1970. The UUP were an integral part of the Conservatives until Heath abolished Stormont – there was no “bunking up” before then. The National Liberals formalised their alliance with the Conservatives in 1947 and from then on operated as a party within a party, fielding joint candidates, until they wound up in 1968. Again Churchill did not have to go hunting round for a majority.

    All systems have the occasional hick-up that force the odd hung parliament but the system usually restores itself in one way or another as voters resettle around two main options. Voters are rarely enamoured when the winning party is denied power.

  11. Rene Kinzett says:

    Voters ain’t turning cartwheels in the streets when the “winning party” holds onto power for years with less around 43% of the vote, either!

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