Letter: Votes that count
Thursday 12 August 1999
Sir: Donald Macintyre suggests that the alternative vote (AV) - part of the Jenkins Commission's recommended formula (AV + top-up) for elections to the House of Commons - "institutionalises tactical voting" ("Liberal Democrats have a noble tradition, but it needs redefining", 10 August). On the contrary, it is first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting which obliges many voters to choose between heart and head when voting in a marginal seat, as anyone who voted tactically in May 1997 will affirm.
As a member of the Labour Party in Bristol West, I didn't have that dilemma: an Observer poll on the weekend before election day showed that Valerie Davey (now) MP was best placed to topple William Waldegrave, but I am aware of many Liberal Democrat supporters who voted tactically to give Bristol West our first ever Labour MP. We can't always rely on opinion polls, and shouldn't have to engage in the second-guessing that FPTP voting produces.
Preferential voting would allow us all to make more considered and honest choices, and ensure that no MP could be elected on as small a share of the vote as 26 per cent, as has occurred with FPTP. Adding a small top- up to achieve proportionality, as recommended by Jenkins, would ensure that most voters would see some reward for their visit to the polling booth - wherever they lived.
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