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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Ed Miliband on the case for AV

Ed Miliband's office has written an article in his name in the Standard neatly setting out why people should vote Yes to AV. This is a simple re-statement of the arguments for voting Yes, all the better for not overstating the case. Very simply, I think that the Alternative Vote is a better system than is First Past the Post, which is why I urge people to vote Yes to AV.

When I stood in Hendon last year, Matthew Offord was elected as the Conservative MP with 42.3% of the vote, just ahead of Labour's Andrew Dismore on 42.1%. Under the current system, that was it, Matthew Offord was elected - given that 57.7% of people had just voted against him, how do we know that he was actually the favoured choice of the majority? Under AV, voters' later preferences would have been used to find out who people would have preferred if asked to choose only between Matthew Offord and Andrew Dismore, the big two when the votes were counted. That is far more democratic, as either Mr Offord or Mr Dismore would then have been clearly chosen in preference to the other as Hendon's local MP. As it is, Matthew Offord wasn't clearly chosen as the local MP, because most people voted for someone else.

So that's one good reason to vote Yes to AV. Another is that it is a much more honest system, because it removes the need for a certain kind of tactical voting. Lots of people told me in Hendon that they would like to vote Liberal Democrat, but didn't feel able to, for fear of "letting the Tories in" or "letting Labour in". In other words, they felt unable to vote for the party that they actually supported, in case they split the anti-Labour vote or the anti-Tory vote and  so let in the party that they most disliked.

That's awful - in a democracy, people should feel able to vote for the party that they most want to win, rather than having to vote for some other party to keep someone else out. Under AV, those voters in Hendon could have voted Lib Dem if they supported my party, while still expressing a preference between the Tories and Labour, which would have been counted once I'd still come third and been eliminated. So nobody would have had to vote against anybody, but just vote for what they believe in, while still expressing a choice between the Conservatives and Labour. It's not a complicated system and it is an improvement on First Past the Post.

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