Arguably, the main price of coalition for the Conservatives was the commitment to hold a referendum on electoral reforms – specifically on AV.  That was the Lib Dems red line (or orange line, I guess) issue – they want a system which is more proportional and, incidentally, one which will deliver them more seats.  But I’m not convinced that AV delivers on the first of those aims (though it probably will on the second – but that is probably a lesser concern).

So, why am I verging on being opposed to AV?  Well, several reasons.  First off, don’t confuse me for a First Past the Post apologist (see Harris, T – and while I don’t agree with him here, his point is well made).  I’m not.  I do believe we need electoral reform, and that we need a system which delivers a more proportional – more fair – outcome, one which provides much more in the way of a correlation between the votes cast for a party and the seats won by the same party.  You will note in that previous sentence I didn’t just say “more” but “much more”, and this is partly where AV does not deliver for me.  Yes, it will be (marginally) more proportional than FPTP but it does not go far enough to be proportional.  All we would be doing is making sure that voters in each constituency gave one candidate over 50% of the vote – and on a larger scale, all that would do is make landslides even bigger (since people would tend to vote for a popular party further down the ballot, even if they were not their first preference).

The second reason I’m opposed is that AV (whether the referendum is won or lost) precludes a properly proportional system being implemented – probably for the next 30 years at the very least.  What do I mean by that?  Well, it’s taken, what, three hundred years (and several reforms to the franchise) to get to the point where politicians are thinking about changing the electoral system, and even then they can’t agree on what to change it to.  So now we’re to have a vote on a system which is marginally more proportional than the current system, and it is a lose-lose situation for me.  If AV wins, we’re stuck with a system which does not adequately provide any real proportional element to the system.  If AV loses, we’re stuck with the status quo – a FPTP system which ignores the preferences of up to 70% of the electorate in any single constituency.  Either way, we’re unlikely to see any further change to the electoral system for the foreseeable future.

Without trying to be too negative here, I blame Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats for putting me in this position – its rock and hard place stuff.  Do I vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum, and end up stuck with a system which is in no discernible way a massive improvement on the FPTP system we currently use?  Or do I vote ‘No’ and make us stick with the not-proportional-at-all system we currently have until we get offered something a bit better?

I’m inclined to go for the latter.  There are other reasons, but those outlined above are the main two – the lack of proportionality and the fact that it precludes moving to a more proportional system.  I’m sure you (particularly the Lib Dems, who don’t much like it either, but will probably vote for it anyway) disagree as, indeed, my co-editors do – why?

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