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The sacrificial Lib Dem

23 Mar 11 | Re: Political permutations

Last week I wrote a bit about Alternative Vote and its impact on the Liberal Democrats. Well, despite every other newspaper article about it starting with “It might only be of interest to wonks, but...” the topic grabbed me enough to make me email the man behind the leaflet, local Lib Dem Mike Pitt. He’s been good enough to reply to me, essentially saying that he supports AV, that he agrees that it will make the graph redundant, but that the graph works as a way to attract tactical voters under the current system. That’s fair enough, I suppose - you don’t have to like the rules of a game to give yourself the best chance under those rules.

However, there is something that I think the Lib Dems are missing.

Here are some reasons to vote for people under First Past the Post:

Under AV, the first four of those voting reasons are still valid. The fifth, the tactical voting, the resigned abandonment of idealism in the face of an unsatisfying political reality, is not (hooray). That means that the parties who benefit most from AV would seem to be those who currently receive the fewest tactical votes; conversely, those who receive a lot of tactical votes will suffer.

Now, which UK political party do you think gets the most tactical votes at the moment? I would say the Lib Dems. They are the obvious choice of voters in safe and safeish Lab and Con seats who don’t support the incumbent. As the graphs show, tactical votes are a big part of many Lib Dem campaigns. Logic would seem to dictate, then, that it is the Lib Dems who will do worst out of AV, at least in the short term.

Why are they supporting it? I can think of two reasons. The first is that they think it’s a bit like PR, which would benefit the Lib Dems. People who think this are quite wrong - AV is a close cousin of First Past the Post, and is nothing like PR. The second is more encouraging: perhaps some Lib Dems see the AV campaign as an end in itself; perhaps they support it not because they think it will give them an electoral advantage, but because it is a better, fairer system that Britain would do well to adopt. After all, they are the Liberal Democrats, so one might expect advancing democracy to be one of the main aims of the party. AV would do this, so they should support it, regardless of what is in their short-term interest.

If this is the case then I applaud the Lib Dems for their self-sacrificing and principled position. Perhaps we will look back in fifty years’ time, in an enlightened society governed by tip-top, AV-elected representatives, and express our gratitude to Nick Clegg and the other soldiers of democracy who forsook their own political careers in order to free us from First Past the Post. Perhaps Nick Clegg’s support of all those unpopular Tory policies is even a ruse to make it easier to vote for a system that will kill off his party. Let’s make that happen. Let’s make the right choice on 5th May. The Democrats will die - long live Democracy!

Posted by DOLOHOV at 13:19

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