In little over two weeks the Country will have the chance to take part in a Referendum on how we elected MP’s to Parliament. The Government is giving us a choice between the current system of First Past the Post (FPTP) and Alternative Vote (AV). The last time anyone outside of Wales and Scotland had the chance to take part in a Referendum was in 1975.
So what are the differences between the two options? The simplest way to understand is to watch the short and simple film provided by The Electoral Commission. This also saves me from boring you to death with lots of words!
My personal feeling with this referendum is AV is fudge on what could have been achieved. If we really had the choice I would have preferred Single Transferable Vote (or at least a choice of different systems than the current two on offer). This in my opinion (for what it is worth) is far better then listing a whole host of candidates and then picking them in order of preference. For me, I would probably just vote for one candidate or at a push, pick one other if I thought they had like minded views.
Why would I only pick one, or at a push two? This is because outside of Wales and Scotland it is a three party state. Contrary to what is going on at national level they all during an election campaign and preach they are different. Of course, there are parties who are not in the gang of three, but if these other parties are to be elected to Parliament in any significant numbers it would take a complete change of mindset from the citizens of the UK for that to happen, not just a change to the voting system.
The real interesting point to this Referendum is even if the AV vote is won, it does not necessary mean AV will be used. The reasons are because it depends on the rest of the Bill on boundary changes getting though Parliament, and that my friends, is a whole different kettle of fish. The plan under the Bill is to get rid of at least 50 MPs and their seats. You can imagine these 50 MP’s and the party which is likely to lose the most (Labour, but around 13 from the Cons) seats are not over the moon for having to vote in favour to receive their P45’s. Of course there is always the House of Lords to help ease their way into retirement as an incentive to say yes to the Bill. That is if there is any room left after the latest round of ‘re-balancing’ the Lords.
For the Duchy/County/Independent Country (depending on your viewpoint) of Cornwall the change to the boundary will have a further ‘bonus’ of probably having to ‘share’ an MP with our neighbours in Devon. That means those MPs from Cornwall who support AV will have to vote in favour of a shared MP if they wish for AV to become a reality. If they do, then no doubt at the next election this point will be on ALL the rivals’ election material.
As there are no Parish, Town or Unitary elections in Cornwall (until 2013) turnout is likely to be low. My guess is if turn-out in Cornwall gets past 20% this will be a good result. Nationally I fear the turnout will be in the low 30%. Which is kind of ironic as a point that the pro AV claim is most MPs are not elected by the majority; this could lead to a counter claim of a change to the voting system that is made by a minority?
Lastly, and I believe real issue which should be addressed is why so many people at national and local level choose not to vote. The average turn-out (Cornwall Unitary Election 2009) at local level was 40.1% and national (General Election 2010) was 65.1%. I doubt the main reason as to why so many don’t turn out is not because of the current voting system. Most I believe will say I am not interested, it does not affect me, or they are all the same and nothing changes.
How do we change people’s lack of interest in voting? Well, we could go down the Australian route and make voting compulsory? Or is making people turn up an affront to democracy, the right to freedom of choice, and the right to vote or not?