In just over a month’s time the UK electorate will have a chance to decide whether to change the way we send our elected representatives to parliament.
The choice we face is with First past the Post (FPTP) or the proposed Alternative Vote. We’re going to hear a lot of negative campaigning against AV over the next four weeks. In fact it’s already kicked off. Norman Tebbit, erstwhile scourge of the left and strident critic of the new system.
According to Lord Tebbit the introduction of AV will lead directly to social unrest and discontent from the normally peaceful subjects of the Utopia which is the UK.
Tebbit argues that because AV will still allow voters to see the results of the election if fought using FPTP and that because the result would likely be different once the second and third preference votes are taken into consideration – all hell would break loose.
Er, no. Lord Tebbit of Chingford seems to forget what has happened in previous elections under FPTP. Since 1945 the proportion of the popular vote has always been unequally represented in terms of the number of seats won by any party.
In 1979 when Mrs Thatcher came to power with 43% of the national vote, the Conservatives took more than 50% of the seats in the House of Commons. The 1983 election saw a drop in popular vote and a rise in seats won. Hardly fair is it?
Yet this was not marked by an attempt by the left to overthrow the Government. Likewise when Tony Blair and New Labour swept into office in 1997 the fact that a 43% share of the vote and 63% share of MPs was not greeted by an attempt to storm Downing Street by Conservative supporters.
It might also be prudent to point out that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the streets of Britain were hardly free of social strife. Inner City riots were a staple part of the national news, but while this did have a political dimension, it was more a reaction against policy rather than the result of any disputed election.
He also argues that disputed election results have been the “exclusive preserve” of the Third World, obviously events in Ivory Coast have helped him form this view. Obviously nothing like this has ever happened in the West, isn’t that right former Vice-President Gore?
His other line is that extremist parties will benefit. How exactly? How likely does he think it is that some hate-filled minor party is gong to pick up enough second and third preference votes to be elected?
Nonsense. Remember folks Tebbit is a Conservative and conservative-minded folk don’t tend to like change.
- More information on AV is available on the site of the Electoral Reform Society.