When Britain’s two main parties won over 90 per cent of the vote between them First Past the Post was a fair system that generally reflected the true political feelings of the nation.
But in the four decades in which the United Kingdom has had multi-Party politics that fairness has been fading away. At the last election the two largest Parties took just 65 per cent of the vote between them, and the turnout was lower than at any time in the 1950s.
In short first past the post has enabled Parties with the support of less than 30 per cent of the electorate – to wield 100 per cent of the power.
That is the central and abiding argument for changing from First Past the Post to an Alternative Vote system in which the consistently non-conservative majority can cast meaningful votes for their progressive preferences in every constituency instead of making hopeful tactical guesses.
The change to AV would not be huge – voters who only wished to vote for one candidate and Party could obviously continue to do so. But it is enough of a shift to wake up British politics, give a new vitality to our democracy, and make the choices in all constituencies more real and effective.
They are all positives. By contrast, the campaign against changing to the Alternative Vote is composed entirely of negatives. No clear reason for retaining First Past The Post is advanced by “No” supporters. They simply declare that it provides protection against the “instability” of hung Parliaments and that it’s cheaper.
The claim that AV requires “machine voting” is complete rubbish. In Australia, which has had AV for 90 years, they’ve used a pencil to mark the ballot paper and manual counting of votes just as we do here. That would continue if the UK had AV. There is absolutely no need (or demand) to spend £130 million on machine voting. There is no law or finance to facilitate it.
The First Past the Post system in which the anti-conservative majority is divided has served the Tories well. That’s why they are so desperate to keep it.
Labour people should recognise that reality. It is fundamental to understanding why and how the future can be better than the past and it re-enforces the solid practical democratic reasons for supporting AV.
I hope that everyone who wants to increase accountability, foster plurality and strengthen democracy will think hard – and then, on May 5th , vote YES to progress.