Virtually all public discussion to date about the forthcoming referendum on Alternative Voting (AV) has focused on whether or not it would be fairer than the current First Past the Post System (FPTP). The most important dimension of all – whether changing to AV would be good or bad for parliamentary democracy in this country – has been ignored.
The very essence of our parliamentary democracy is that when the Government of the day forfeits the trust and confidence of the electorate, the next General Election provides the mechanism (which – at least until now – has been widely regarded as legitimate and free of corruption) for removing the discredited Government peacefully and replacing it with another that commands a majority in Parliament and so can , at least if they do not emanate from Brussels, repeal or modify policies that contributed to its predecessors losing electoral trust and support. This may not be “fair” but it is certainly democratic.
Under FPTP, discredited Governments are held directly accountable by the electorate, who do not need to have recourse to revolutions, civil wars or coups to get rid of governments which they no longer trust.
In contrast to Proportional Representation or AV, under FPTP, the electorate decide the result.
The electorate through their votes choose the next Government. (In 2010, the electorate showed that while they definitely had had enough of the discredited Labour Government, they were not sure they could trust the Conservatives with unfettered authority, hence the – exceptional – need for a Coalition.)
Under AV, the electorate do not decide the result. It is left to horse trading in back rooms – whether smoke filled or not – under which the losing Government may well hang onto power and/or some parties remain permanently in government, irrespective of the votes cast or how discredited the electorate feels them to be.
That is simply undemocratic and therefore unacceptable.
The present FPTP system is not perfect, but AV will solve nothing and will seriously damage our democratic heritage.
Kenneth J Jordan, Chailey