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AV for small parties

Submitted by Anthony Tuffin on Wed, 25/08/2010 – 13:23


I’ll vote “Yes” in the AV referendum on 5 May 2011, because I know it will be better for voters and the country than first past the post FPTP), but most politicians and many loyal party supporters (especially of small parties) will wonder how it will affect their parties.

Let’s admit at once that AV is unlikely to help small parties as much as proportional representation (PR), such as STV, would but that’s not the point. The comparison will not be between AV and any type of PR; it will be between AV and FPTP. AV is better than FPTP and should benefit small parties.

With FPTP, many Green and UKIP supporters often vote Labour to keep the Conservatives out or vice versa instead of voting for the candidate and party they really want to support. This makes it impossible to gauge the real level of support for UKIP and the Green Party and makes it hard for those parties to break through.

The same is true for one or other of the major parties in certain constituencies. For example, Labour probably has more potential supporters in Carshalton and Wallington than the 4,015 who voted Labour there this year, but the most of the rest probably voted Lib Dem to keep the Tories out and some may have voted Tory to keep the Lib Dems out. Interestingly, many Conservative and Lib Dem voters probably voted Green in Brighton Pavilion to keep Labour out. With AV, the Tory and Lib Dem support there would probably have been stronger, but Caroline Lucas would probably have still won for the Greens with transferred votes.

The essence of AV is that voters can express several choices instead of having to plump for one candidate as they do with FPTP for electing MPs.

This freedom of choice will allow Green and UKIP supporters to vote for their own parties first and for one of the larger parties second or later, so they can both support their own parties and avoid wasting their votes. This will reveal the true level of support for their parties and encourage more people to vote for them, thus increasing their chances of election.

Although in theory the BNP could do the same, they would be unlikely to achieve the same level of success as they have done in Council elections under FPTP, where they can win seats with only about 25% of the votes. This is because a candidate cannot win with fewer than half the valid votes with AV and supporters of mainstream parties will tend to give their second and third preferences etc to other mainstream parties rather than to the BNP. No wonder the BNP opposes AV! But it has some strange bedfellows – politicians who claim to be democrats.

How to vote by Alternative Vote (AV)

Submitted by editor on Fri, 06/08/2010 – 13:17



Each constituency will continue to elect one MP, so it is very similar to the present system and there will be no need to change constituency boundaries*.

Voting – very simple –

1. Instead of voting with an “X”, you will vote for your first choice with a figure “1”.
2. If you wish (although you don’t have to), you can also show who your second and third choices etc are with “2”, “3” and so on. You can show as many choices as you like.

Key advantages:

AV ensures that every MP is elected by at least half the final votes. This gives MPs a mandate that most do not have now; fewer than a third of them had half their constituency votes in May 2010.

Voting by AV will allow you to vote positively for the candidate you really want to support. There will be no need (or point) voting for Smith just to keep Jones out if you really want Black to win. You would vote “1” for Black and “2” for Smith. This eliminates tactical voting and reduces wasted votes.


*The Government wants to change boundaries to reduce the number of MPs and make constituencies more equal in size but that is a separate matter; it has nothing to do with AV.

Cameron confident

Submitted by editor on Wed, 28/07/2010 – 14:39


David Cameron said on the BBC’s “Today” programme this morning that he was “very confident” that the AV referendum would go ahead:

Trust the people!

Submitted by editor on Wed, 28/07/2010 – 10:13


The BBC reported yesterday that the (Labour) Shadow Cabinet had decided to oppose the legislation to hold a referendum on whether to elect MPs by the Alternative Vote (AV). How hypocritical! How unprincipled! The Labour Party was the only party to promise a referendum on AV in its election manifesto less than three months ago. Now it is the first party to oppose the very legislation it had promised.

I suspect that its main motive is to try to split the coalition and bring it down. Of course, Labour MPs would prefer to be in Government and, indeed, many Liberal Democrats might have preferred to share power with Labour than with the Conservatives, but the voting arithmetic was not right for that. The people spoke and gave more votes and seats to the Conservatives than to Labour.

However, Labour’s stated reason for opposing the legislation is that the Bill links the AV referendum to reducing the number of constituencies and equalizing their electorates. If Mr Cameron is serious about holding the referendum and keeping the coalition together, he should separate the referendum legislation from the other. Then, either Labour will support the referendum legislation and it will be passed or the party will be shown to be really unprincipled.

There also some unprincipled Conservative MPs who threaten to vote with Labour against holding the referendum. Although they are entitled to oppose AV itself, they are not entitled to renege on their party’s agreement with the Liberal Democrats. If they expect Liberal Democratic support for some Conservative policies, they must support the referendum legislation.

Conservatives who oppose the coalition should also consider the voting arithmetic. The people did not give them enough votes or seats to form a Conservative Government but, in coalition, they can get some Conservative policies through IF they support certain Liberal Democrat policies such as the AV referendum.

They may think that, if the coalition falls, Mr Cameron can call an election and sweep to one-party power but I doubt it. Voters may well blame the Conservative Party for breaking the coalition agreement and punish it in the polls. In any case, the public still seems to distrust politicians and would be reluctant to give total power to one party.

The bottom line is that the only legitimate way to oppose AV is to oppose it in the referendum itself. MPs should no more decide how they are themselves elected than bankers should decide what laws should control banking. It is deceitful, underhand and undemocratic to try to stop the referendum being held; it reeks of desperation. Let the referendum be held and trust the people to decide.

Desperate tactics

Submitted by editor on Tue, 27/07/2010 – 20:58


Some MPs are trying to change the referendum date from 5 May 2011 because, they say, holding it on the same day as English local and Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections would artifically increase the turnout. What would be artificial about that?

British electors are notorious for not wanting to vote frequently, so it makes sense to hold the referendum on the same day as scheduled elections.

It looks as though the MPs who object to this arrangement fear a good turnout; they recognize that most people would vote “Yes”, so they hope to win on a low turnout. This gives me great hope that commonsense will prevail and the people will vote “Yes”. It is deperate tactics by these MPs to try to stop a “Yes” victory.

Don’t MPs and commentators complain about low turnouts, so doesn’t it make sense to encourage people to vote in this important referendum?

If holding two ballots on the same day “artifically” boosts turnout and in some way invalidates the vote, how valid was the election of MPs and Councillors on 6 May 2010?

The question

Submitted by editor on Thu, 22/07/2010 – 16:24


The Government published today the question to be asked in the AV referendum on 5 May 2011.

The full text of the question is: “Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the ‘alternative vote’ system instead of the current ‘first past the post’ system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?”

Under the alternative vote (AV) system, voters rank candidates in their constituency in order of preference.

There is no doubt that AV is better than first past the post. Two key advantages of AV is that each MP would be elected by at least half the votes and voters would no longer have to vote tactically to make their votes count instead of voting as they really feel.

Mandate? What mandate?

Submitted by editor on Wed, 21/07/2010 – 10:51


Does your MP have a real mandate? The odds are 2:1 that (s)he doesn’t!

In the 2010 general election, only 216 MPs (33.23% of them) received more than half the votes in their constituencies. As many as 434 (66.77%) received fewer than half the votes. Source & more details:

If you agree that’s undemocratic, you can help put it right by voting “YES” in the referendum on 5 May 2011. The referendum is to change the voting system to a “choice voting” system that will ensure that every MP is elected by at least half the votes.

In the meantime, you can keep up to date with the campaign by becoming a Supporter of STV Action.

STV for Guernsey?

Submitted by John on Sat, 26/06/2010 – 18:15

Vote Change is sought

Commons uses STV

Submitted by editor on Wed, 09/06/2010 – 10:11

The Commons used STV to elect its Deputy Speakers and Chairs of Committees. (I expect it was the AV version for the Chairs.)Speaker Bercow announced the results yesterday. So it’s the best way for MPs to elect their representatives. Why don’t they admit it would be the best way for the rest of us to elect them?

Your country needs you!

Submitted by editor on Sat, 15/05/2010 – 20:30


What should we do now that the coalition Government has promised a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) for elections to the House of Commons?

We welcome it. Although it falls far short of STV, it is a small but significant step in the right direction because it introduces preferential voting (voting 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc) for the first time. It would also give all MPs the legitimacy of being elected by at least half the constituency voters. AV would be easy to introduce with, unlike most other systems, no boundary changes needed. A subsequent change to STV would be as easy. The public would already be used to voting by numbers and clusters of existing single-member constituencies could simply be grouped together to form multi-member ones for STV.

I believe both coalition partners will do their best to honour their joint programme, including passing legislation for a referendum, but we need to remind them and encourage them to get it on the Statute Book without delay.

Thereafter, we shall have a very hard campaign for a “Yes” vote. Although the Conservative Party is committed to whipping its MPs to vote for holding a referendum, the Party is free to campaign in the referendum for a “No” vote. We should do our best in the meantime to encourage the Conservative Party and its individual members to support a “Yes” vote.

Also, although the Labour Party promised in its manifest to hold a referendum on AV, there is no guarantee that it will support the coalition’s legislation and, if it does, it may still campaign for “No”. So we should also do our best now to encourage Labour both to honour its manifesto commitment by supporting the legislation and then to campaign for “Yes” in the referendum.

We can’t afford to wait for the referendum; we must start building support and engaging the public now – recruiting supporters and members for pro-reform organizations, especially STV Action and the Electoral Reform Society, which both want preferential voting.



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