Cllr Alan Dean

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Stansted North on Uttlesford District Council and former Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Learn more

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Fair votes

by Alan Dean on 19 February, 2011

Yesterday’s launch of the Fair Votes referendum illustrated the contrasting approach to democracy between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Conservatives think they own democracy; Liberal Democrats think the people own it.

David Cameron said it would be fair for the winning runner in a race to be overtaken and have the cup awarded to a runner-up. But a runner wins by his or her own efforts alone. In an election the winner succeeds only by the democratic choice of many voters.

First-past-the-post (FPTP) elections mean we get some MPs elected by 25-35% of voters only, with 65-75% wanting someone else. No MP can claim legitimacy when twice as many people voted against than for him or her.

Around a third of voters might as well have stayed at home as their votes didn’t make any difference to the result; they, THE VOTERS, don’t count under FPTP!

That’s why the Alternative Vote is better. ALL VOTERS’ votes will count towards the result because they are allowed to say “if my first choice can’t win, I want my vote to go to a candidate who is more likely to win”. What’s wrong with that Mr Cameron? 

In Norwich South last May, Tory voters’ votes, whose candidate came third, would have counted under AV (because they could have cast a second or third preference vote), but they didn’t under the present FTTP system. In Watford, Labour voters’ votes would have counted under AV (because they could have cast a second or third preference vote), but they didn’t under the present FPTP system.

FPTP is only any use when there are two parties and two candidates. Those days are gone for ever, so the election system must change too. That’s why Nick Clegg is right to say that UK politics needs to be cleaned up in many ways including the voting system, along with MPs’ expenses.

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