AV: “But it certainly gives voters at least the illusion of power…”

The Guardian’s Michael White is, rightly, sceptical of the arguments in favour of the proposed proportional representation on offer in the UK’s AV referendum.  From the Guardian Political blog

I have to say right away (I suspect it’s obvious anyway) that my heart remains with the FPTP crowd for several reasons I still think compelling, not least my distaste for political quick fixes. If you want to believe that PR voting will make politicians work harder, be more honest and responsible, fine. But don’t go to Ireland.

On the other hand my head recognises that a significant chunk of the electorate is no longer content simply to vote Labour or Tory as more than 90% happily did in the early 1950s. It was the high point of a voting duopoly that had ebbed and flowed for 100 years with a third party – Labour before it overtook the Liberals – there to grease the cogs.

That’s a powerful argument for change that would allow those who want to back the Greens, socialists, nationalists, including the BNP variety, Euro-bashers like Ukip and assorted independents to cast more than one vote and have it “transferred” to their second choice when their candidate falls – as they usually do.

It’s a way of addressing the “wasted vote” argument, which I happen to think is morally offensive – surely no hard-won vote is “wasted”? But the Liberal Democrats have earnestly promoted it as a means of justifying “fair” votes. By that, of course, they mean fairer to them.

They may not be right in assuming that AV or even STV will work to their advantage. That’s the joy of electoral reform. The politicians think they’ve done something clever which will help them and hurt the other side, but no, the voters think they’ll use the new rules for their own agenda. Ha, ha, ha. What agenda? We’ll find out.

For example, the notion that AV or STV would end “tactical voting” (what’s wrong with tactical voting, by the way?) as used under FPTP is a joke. When the new taoiseach, Enda Kenny, managed to get three more Fine Gael TDs (MPs) elected on his coattails in his five-seat constituency of Mayo in the far west (next stop New York!) it was both a record – 4 TDs out of 5 – and a triumph for what activists called “disciplined vote management”.

Read the whole thing.