Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

Why should we keep the first past the post electoral system?

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On 5th May, we will be asked if we wish to use the Alternative Vote (AV) system to elect MPs to the House of Commons.  I believe we should keep the first past the post (FPTP) system and Vote No to AV.
First and foremost, FPTP is fair.  Under the current system, the number of votes for each candidate are added up and the one with the most votes wins.  One person, one vote.   No wonder over 60 countries use the system, whereas AV is only used in three: Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.  

With AV, you can vote multiple times and some votes count more than others.  This is because if you vote for a mainstream party candidate that is top of the ballot in the first round, your other preferences will never be counted.  But if you vote for a minor party who gets knocked out, your other preferences will be counted.   Also candidates who come second or third in the first round can end up winning once alternative preferences are taken into account.  That is patently undemocratic and electors will never be sure what government they will get.

AV will also unfairly strengthen minor parties, like the BNP.  With first past the post, the BNP have never won a seat in parliament.  Under AV, however, the far-right One Nation Party in Australia won 11 seats in the Queensland state legislature, whereas they would have only won 8 under FPTP.

One person who is strongly in favour of AV is Nick Clegg despite in the past calling it a “miserable little compromise”.  Under AV, the arithmetic based on current polling of the electorate would mean the Liberal Democrats are likely to be the kingmaker infinitum in General Elections.  Both the Conservatives and Labour would be unlikely to have enough seats to form a Government giving the Liberal Democrats a choice of which Party to form a Coalition with every time.  No wonder Nick Clegg now likes AV so much!

Another reason why first past the post is a better system is because it produces strong candidates and leaders who stand out from the pack.  With AV, it is a system that benefits the bland candidate who wants to please everyone all of the time, as electors can vote for every candidate.  The candidate who strives to be liked by everyone by not offering a view or opinion on anything will have a better chance of winning because of the AV weird counting system.    I want to vote for someone who will stand up for what he or she believes in, not someone who looks to the latest polling evidence to decide what to say or do.

With first past the post, our democracy is decisive and gets rid of Governments most people don’t want in power.  If AV had been used in last year’s General Election, there is a possibility that today Gordon Brown might still be Prime Minister of our country.
First past the post is a system which is clear, produces stable Governments and is used by 2.4 billion people worldwide, more than any other system.  Above all it is fair.

I hope you choose to Vote No to AV on 5th May.

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Author: gavinmaclure

IT professional; political blogger, former Conservative councillor

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