Tomorrow the UK has a referendum about whether to change from the existing “First Past the Post” (FPTP) system to an “Alternative Vote” (AV) one. It is perhaps an inadvertent irony that this two-horse vote is the only situation where the system chosen makes no difference and, to my mind, the only one where the present system manages to provide as democratic a result as the new one.
I am strongly in favour of switching to AV. I think it would be better to be represented by someone who most people consider acceptable rather than one who has edged ahead by a nose even if the majority of voters are left dismayed and feeling disenfranchised by the result. Whoever is elected has the responsibility to represent everyone in their constituency, not just their supporters. I think that data on how the votes accrued should be available so that, even though small parties are perhaps even less likely to win, they are probably more likely to keep their deposits create a signal for the winner as to significant blocks of feeling that the winner needs to consider.
So far, all the bloggers I have followed who have expressed their opinion (doubtless a very non-representative national sample) are of the same opinion. Charlie Stross presents some good arguments and Ian MacDonald managed to find a video that explains it all cogently in terms of cats and dogs. I know many people are still undecided though or, worse still, confused by the choices.
I think it is a shame we are not getting value for money from this referendum by tacking on some other electoral issues. I would have proposed a one-term maximum for the post of Prime Minister and perhaps a two-term maximum for a party to be in power (the latter would be harder to implement but both are predicated on the observation that the best decisions tend to be ones you are confident will stand when you are no longer there to defend them) and, above all, the inclusion of a “none of the above” option on all voting slips (even AV ones).
Above all, please do vote, even if that cancels out my vote. The invisible “couldn’t be bothered” party has been the unacknowledged winner in far too many recent elections.