Gale's View  - 6th April 2011
 
You will not find the emerging democracies of North Africa clamouring for an Alternative Vote.  In countries where dictatorship and suppression has been the order of the day for years the fundamental principle of “One Person, One Vote” that in the UK people have fought and died for is regarded as a goal and a prize.
 
It is surprising, therefore, that there are those in this Country that wish to abandon a system that has, over decades and across centuries, delivered stable governments and to replace it with another system  - AV – in which some people`s votes are worth more than others!
 
Under AV, if you vote for a major political party – Labour, say, or Conservative – your second, third and fourth “preferences” are unlikely to be re-distributed.  It is those who vote for fringe minorities and extremists who will find themselves able to give their multiple votes an importance out of all proportion to their relevance to the election.  It has, in fact, been estimated that the votes of BNP supporters, for example,  might well have a defining influence in between thirty and forty parliamentary seats and I cannot, myself, see how that can be desirable.
 
At the time of writing Libya is, with United Nations support,  still struggling to shake itself free of the dead hand of Gaddafi that has throttled democracy in that country for two generations. In Egypt and in Tunisia interim administrations are groping towards the processes that will facilitate free and fair elections for Presidencies and parliaments and they are looking to the Mother of Parliaments in the United Kingdom for help, advice and example.  Even those who wish to see the introduction of proportional representation here are not suggesting that those countries and others that hopefully may yet emerge from the “Arab Spring” should adopt the Alternative Vote.
 
The reason for that is that, far from “making all votes count” AV is institutionally biased in favour of the “loser” and will in many cases lead to the person who has come second or third in the race taking the position at the top of the podium – with all of the sense of injustice and instability that attaches to such an outcome.  And instability is the last thing that is needed by either established or emerging  democracies.
 
Our First-Past-The-Post system is understood, is tried and tested and fair and is used  across the world.  I believe that he Alternative Vote represents not “progress” but change for the sake of change .
 
In just a very few weeks those who take the trouble to go to the polls in our local government elections, or those many who now vote by post (do you need a postal vote?)  will have the opportunity, also, to vote  secure the future our own British  democratic system. One person, one vote. Make your mark. 

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