Sunday, 4 July 2010

It won't be the AV referendum that ends the coalition

An awful lot of guff has been written about the AV referendum in the last couple of days, which I am now going to add to. Most of the media thinks that if it is lost, that will be the end of the coalition. Rubbish. It won't last that long. If the LibDems stayed in the coalition and ended up losing the AV referendum after selling out all of their other policies and principles they'd look prize chumps.

Let me spell out where I stand on this. I'm against change unless it can be proven that change will be better than what we have at the moment. The current system is clearly supremely unfair but it has served the ruling elite very nicely thank you and I see no reason to try and come up with anything more equitable. So for that reason I am against AV.

I cannot see how the question will be worded and think it will be met with indifference by the electorate as it is all hidden beneath a cloak of confusing jargon. Most people don't even know what AV stands for (is it audio visual? even I am not sure) let alone STV, HGV, SPIV, CBBC and all the other varieties of proportional representative systems. This is all deliberate of course as if people really understood the issue they may come dangerously close to changing things. Not that Cameron has anything to worry about. If it looks like too many people's preferred choice is "yes" to change, the government can simply reallocate their second preference of "no" to achieve the correct result.

But despite this, the LibDems should be allowed to have their silly little referendum if it makes them happy, he said patronisingly. We don't want them throwing their toys out of the pram just yet - we need their buy-in for all sorts of unpleasantness first.

I am not against any form of electoral reform out of ideology. For instance, I'd happily countenance STV for X Factor or Britain's Got Talent. But for the House of Commons, the constituency link has to be retained, and whatever its proponents say STV definitely weakens that. People may disagree but the constituency link is vital. The current system works well because all MPs represent areas in which they were born and bred, and have a real empathy and grasp of local issues. Some of them are even happy to live in their constituency. They are not simply parachuted into seats in areas they have never previously visited just to gain a step on the ladder of power.

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