AV or No AV, that is the question

Thu, 05 May 2011 14:42 in News Digest
Dialogue Society News Digest

The alternative vote (AV),backed by Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband is a voting system used to elect one winner from a pool of candidates using preferential voting, whilst the first-past-the-post, supported by David Cameron refers to an election won by the candidate with the most votes. These excerpts reflect the growing debate on the AV just days before the referendum which takes place on 5th May.

Press Perspectives

The Telegraph – Thursday 5th May 2011

AV referendum: Yes vote would be a disaster for Britain, says David Cameron

Prime Minister, David Cameron fears that a low turnout in today’s referendum could mean that Britain “sleepwalks into a disaster that is AV”.

“Today’s referendum is massively important for Britain. Nothing less than the way our democracy works is on the line. First Past the Post has worked for generations,” told the Conservative Party leader in a statement to the press.

The Liberal Democrats are in favour of the ‘yes’ to AV and disagreements have led to an unsettled coalition over this issue. However, last night both Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg said the coalition would survive whatever the result of today’s referendum.

The Guardian – Wednesday 4th May 2011

Yes to AV is Yes to fairer Politics

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband believes that a ‘yes’ vote to AV would support “the kind of politics we should want: fairer, more pluralist and more progressive”. The current first-past-the-post system may have remained unaltered in the UK for decades but he expressed that this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the fairer voting system.

“Time and democracy have moved on but Britain is stuck in the past with an outdated first-past-the-post way of electing MPs, which does not serve us well. In a more splintered electorate, it is a system where two thirds of MPs are now elected with fewer than 50% support, and where many people's votes do not count in safe seats,” said Ed Miliband in today’s Guardian.

The Guardian – Monday 2nd May 2011

People want to poke me in the eye –but this reform is vital by Patrick Wintour

With recent polls suggesting that only a late swing by Labour voters to AV can save the yes campaign, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat party has appealed to Labour supporters for them to recognise that the alternative vote is the most progressive way to reform the voting system in the UK.

"Yes, I understand people want to poke me in the eye and signal their displeasure. I understand all of that – I do not want to belittle that – but this is a fork of the road for progressives which is much bigger than me. This is not about Nick Clegg or the coalition government, it is about whether you take the progressive fork in the road, or do you stick with the status quo."

BBC – Wednesday 4th May 2011

Labour should have held vote referendum says Miliband

Ed Miliband has said that Labour “should have” tried to change the voting system whilst it was still in power. Mr Miliband told Radio 4’s Today programme that the Labour party had been split over the AV issue for about “80 years”. In 1997, Labour’s manifesto included a pledge to hold a referendum for electoral change but said that it was never acted upon.

The shadow minister believes that there is "anti-Conservative majority" in Britain which first past the post "doesn't give expression to".

Key players on the field:

David Cameron: Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party

“I just feel it, in my gut, that AV is wrong. Politics shouldn’t be some mind-bending exercise.

“It’s about what you feel in your gut – about the values you hold dear and the beliefs you instinctively have. And I just feel it, in my gut, that AV is wrong.”

Nick Clegg: deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party

"AV will make MPs work harder for your vote and take them out of the comfort zone".

"This is not about an individual politician. This is about a change that will last well after I have left politics and have been forgotten. This is a once in a generation opportunity to improve our democracy. It is part of an evolution."

Ed Miliband: Leader of the Labour Party

“I believe reforming the system with the alternative vote will also be a step towards improving our arid and divisive political culture.

“Under the old system, there is no motivation for parties to go into elections pretending anything other than that they hate each other equally. No reason to find points of common ground; just to disagree. To secure a majority of votes under AV, candidates will need to be more frank about points of agreement, less keen to build up artificial arguments.”

Moving Forward:

Some members of the UK public are still unsettled over the meaning of AV in politics and the media are rushing to explain its main point. Today, May 5th the first-past-the-post system may be changed in favour of AV. Although the results will not be revealed until tomorrow 6th May, a strong indication will be revealed this evening.