Debate:What effect would the Alternative Vote have in the United Kingdom?

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The United Kingdom will almost certainly hold a referendum to switch from the First Past the Post (FPTP) system to the Alternative Vote (AV) system in 2011. If this referendum leads to implementing the AV system, what effect will it have on the political landscape in the decades to come?

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Fighting for the central ground.[edit]

I think the ultimate result of AV in a three-party system will be the three parties fighting for the central ground. The parties have converged massively in post-Thatcher Britain and I think that would be ultimatley cemented by AV.

AV, in a three-party system, has a unique quality, in that it penalises the party which steps away from the centre, it seems. This is because if you're a supporter of Party A or Party B, and Party C becomes further to the left or right than they previously were... Under FPTP, you would still vote for your party. However, if Party C becomes moves towards one of the poles of the spectrum under AV, it increases the chance you'll vote for B or A as your second choice, rather than them.

For example, I believe the Tories are less right-wing than Thatcher's Tories, and Labour are less left-wing than the Labour party of that time. Now, we'll always have the hardcore groups who'll vote Tory or Labour, but its the swing voters who really matter. If I'm quite central, lets say I'm going to vote LibDem, but I'm not sure if I'll vote Tory or Labour as my second choice - if one moves away from the centre, the one in the same place will probably get my vote: The others are simply too far away from me, politically.

This addresses some of the problems of FPTP, notably the extreme flip nature which can happen... look at Michael Foot and Margaret Thatcher in 1983. It wouldn't have meant a bit swing either way for these COMPLETELY different ideologies to rule the country, and I think this is a good thing. But, on the other hand, fearing alienating voters more than they already do could seriously lead to parties being reluctant to do much at all. If this is a good thing (leading to consensus-building) or a bad thing (which political stagnation in some policy areas) remains to be seen. DalekEXTERMINATE 04:49, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Smaller parties[edit]

It might usher in an expanded role for smaller parties, which I would not look upon as altogether a positive development, since the smaller parties tend to be more radical. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 04:53, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

I find this argument distasteful when it comes up, and as a advocate of full Proportional Representation, I think it's essential to accept minority-view representation, however extreme. I think that any argument in favour of FPTP which says that it keeps racists, bigots and idiots out... could easily be modified to an argument for a one party system. In my view, if we have 650 seats, and more than 1/650th of the public want to elect a racist, nasty, vile man... then that's democracy! DalekEXTERMINATE 04:56, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
I submit that you would change your tune rather quickly if more than 1/2 of the public wanted to vote for such slimeballs. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 05:00, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Er... then they would no longer be a "smaller party"... Blue Talk 05:01, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
If Dalek is serious about the "democracy" and the "proportional representation," that is irrelevant. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 05:07, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
It is very relevant. If a radical party had the majority, they'd be mainstream then, right? Blue Talk 05:10, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Take two: I am not discussing my point about smaller parties, but Dalek's point. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 05:15, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
I wouldn't change my tune. If more than half of the country voted for slimeballs, then the idea that they should form the government and hold the legislature is beyond question. What I mean to say is simply that it should not be the role of government or the electoral process to keep people out of politics. I hold the idea that, "I think what he says is disgusting, but I uphold his right to say it," applies here. If 4% of the population vote for the Green Party, and 4% vote for the BNP, then 4% of seats (or the closest number possible) should go to each party. Can somebody offer me a reason why this shouldn't be the case? DalekEXTERMINATE 05:19, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
That's what I expected. I don't believe people should have representation denied for ideological reasons, whether they're fringe right, fringe left, or whatever. Blue Talk 05:27, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Can anyone give me a reason why this shouldn't be the case? If 51+% of the vote went to the BNP, it is reasonable to expect that they would disenfranchise large sections of the electorate, thus undermining the very system through which they were elected. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 05:36, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Ah. That gets into British constitutional issues which I have little knowledge about. In the US, at least, disenfranchisement would be impossible without amending the Constitution, which is of course quite an arduous process. Is it similarly arduous in the UK? Or can a majority in the House of Commons amend it? Blue Talk 05:42, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Unfortunatley, a majority in the Commons and Lords, or just the Commons with use of the Parliament Acts would allow for this to happen. However (and I should've been clearer), I am a huge advocate of a written constitution as soon as we're a republic. I think that Parliament having complete supremecy isn't the right approach. BUT lets be clear that under FPTP, 40% of the public could vote a party in and give them a majority, they could do all of this shit. Under PR, >50% would be required. DalekEXTERMINATE 05:45, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, an Act of Parliament giveth, an Act of Parliament taketh away. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 05:49, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
A practical case. I live in the Barque country where ETA occasionally kills people - on a couple of occasions I have heard bombs going off in the distance. The number of people who actually support violence here is around 2% - a figure which is smaller than the margins of error of the pollsters. However the number of people who vote for the political wing of ETA is between 15 and 20 percent. Some years ago this party was banned. That party is now making noises about changing its stance on terrorism in an attempt to get itself unbanned.
Was banning the party correct?BobSpring is sprung! 07:27, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Interesting parallel with Sein Fein (sp?) and the Provisional IRA. Jack Hughes (talk) 13:04, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, but it's easy to get carried away on the parallels.BobSpring is sprung! 16:52, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The important point to remember is that AV is not a proportional voting system. Realistically, AV is more like FPTP+ and I would be astonished if any party won a seat after getting less than 30% in the first preference vote (barring real oddities like this in 1992). The chances of the BNP winning a seat are almost zero. –SuspectedReplicant retire me 13:07, 18 November 2010 (UTC)