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May 01, 2011


Tom Freeman

It's an intriguing prospect, isn't it? But given, as you say, the party desire for unity and control, I think a likelier long-term possibility isn't diversification within parties but fragmentation into a greater number of separate ones.

Tom Freeman

Tried to put a link in there but it didn't work: http://viva-freemania.blogspot.com/2010/05/av-could-be-surprisingly-revolutionary.html


The other possibility is high-profile defectors from the parties running as independents. That could lead to real breakaway parties as Tom suggests, but it needn't. You could easily get a parliament with a dozen or two defectors, publicly associated with parties but not actually under the whips.

On the PR question, someone (John Kay, perhaps?) pointed out that we could get an AV election in which three or four minor parties between them get 30% or 40% of first-preference votes, but no seats, and that that could produce pressure for PR.


"In this sense, moving towards AV might actually delay the adoption of PR."

It might do, but in any case I don't think we will see PR for a long time. Thus, we should just evaluate this referendum in isolation.

If we do that, well, AV is just FPTP+. It retains many of the problems, but eliminates the spoiler effect. It's a no brainer.

Peter Briffa

If we had had AV in 1983 the Liberal Democrats would never have been formed. The SDP and Liberals would have stayed separate, and we'd have probably seen a Tory split over Europe. Blair might even have ended up in the SDP, and Clarke and Redwood might not have been in the same party.
One of the curiosities of those promoting AV is how they have underplayed its potential radicalism.


On the OP, the first party to try this would be about as popular with the other parties as that guy who stood as a "Literal Democrat" - and I'd expect the rules to be clarified to prevent it soon afterwards.

Cahal - the advantage of AV over FPTP is that it offers representation to at least 50% of the electorate in any given constituency, as opposed to at least 33% (since 1945 only 30 MPs have been elected on less than 33% of the vote). In any given constituency, the winner is likely to be somewhere between 2% (50/49) and 50% (50/33) more representative than the winner would have been under FPTP.

The disadvantage of AV over FPTP is that it assembles that 50% out of second and third preferences, which may favour the runner-up or even the third-placed candidate in terms of first preference votes. This means that bland or opportunistic candidates & parties will tend to be favoured over those with more extreme but more strongly-favoured positions. (STV, which I favour, doesn't have this problem, as the multi-member system ensures that the 'plurality candidate' gets a seat.)

Whether you think the advantage outweighs the disadvantage is up to you, but it's misleading to say that the disadvantage doesn't exist.



I'm not even sure the disadvantage you named could be called a disadvantage. You could easily substitute 'balanced' for 'boring'. If parties are kept in check by the 50% mark then they might not be so hamstrung by their respective left and rights.

If you're saying that over time parties would become more and more similar, well, that already happens. I think it is an inevitability of democracy.


"AV would, therefore, allow for a wider choice and hence healthier representation."

Please define 'healthier representation'. But on any reading, doesn't'healthier representation' require that the wider choice leads to a wider set of candidates being elected, not just voted for?


Interesting post. It is a topic we should definitely think more about.


But by God, Cecily, you have no time to think. Forget your process sensors and come to a decision, woman.

Tim Almond

The other thing is that it allows parties of a similar shade to appear and grow quite rapidly. FPTP leads people towards 2 main parties, which also means that setting up a new party is a major struggle which can take decades to deliver seats, so this probably stops people setting up new parties (as well as the fact that their party will then damage someone like them).

That's what the real opposition to AV is about: producers facing more competition.

The parties do have to face up to the fact that FPTP is basically broken. If UKIPs vote continues to grow, the Conservatives will find themselves with a lot of seats lost to vote splitting, at which point they'll either have to cut a deal with UKIP or reform the voting system.


Considering chris thinks the future does not exist he should not be speculating like this!

PR is not more likely whatever the referendum result as it is obvious that there is no majority of MPs to vote for such legislation. At least half of Labour MPs are opposed and why would that change? Ditto for the Tories. PR means the end of safe seats and Coalition Cabinets for ever so the Reds and Blues are not going to vote for it.

the referendum is a sop to the Lib Dems which the Tories can concede as it will at most have very limited effects on the Tory position, if AV is approved.

As people actually vote for parties not on the basis of MPs characters or intra party divisions all the supposed benefits of AV are illusory Rhetoric. Another example of the trivialisation of politics.

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That's what the real opposition to AV is about: producers facing more competition.

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