Monday, 10 January 2011


An amusing question has been raised on Twitter, if the election in Oldham East and Saddleworth were run under AV, how would you vote? The answers are interesting, but it got me thinking.

Were there an AV referendum (or any other preferential vote) on what voting system should be used for the House of Commons how would you vote?

To me there are two cases, different decisions depending on the situation. I'll focus on the first one which I think is more likely, but the second should be mentioned because it may happen.

First case: coalition plan.

The House of Lords is wholly or partially elected on the basis of PR, possibly either STV or regional party list.

  1. Current constituencies with AV. AV is a system that is largely agreed to select the best person to a single office. To me this is exactly the aim of such an election. You need an election not under PR, this way you get a greater diversity between the two houses. You need the two houses to disagree, otherwise there's no point having two. You need one house to represent the nation on a party level, to have a fair reflection of the people in terms of their preferred party. But in another house you need something different, you need to reflect local views and have someone who can complain that legislation unfairly affects one area of the country. To me then each constituency needs a representative, and their mode of election should pay no regard to the parliament. So, AV.
  2. Current constituencies with FPTP. FPTP is not a good system to choose one member, but you need some way, this seems the most natural if AV is rejected. The current arrangements are terrible because FPTP creates zero-sum politics where every gain by one party is seen as a loss for another and combines this with a growing need for coalitions. This last election was not a fluke, we will see more and more coalitions as time goes by. And with the Lords changed to reflect that diversity a lot of the antagonism towards coalition government could be reduced.  
  3. STV over 5 member constituencies. This is the natural extension of AV to 5 member seats, this keeps the local focus as well as possible with a PR system. 
  4. Regional PR with candidates chosen in open primaries. This gives local accountably to each individual but would essentially mirror the upper house, disappointing.
  5. Regional PR with candidates chosen by closed party list. Worst of all possible worlds. The house does nothing to disagree with the Lords so no checks on power and each person is there at the whim of the party. Awful awful idea.
Second case: Status quo

The House of Lords stays like it is now and looks to say that way for long enough to make thinking about .

  1. STV over 5 member constituencies. Each MP has a strong mandate but a more proportional system better reflects how the British feel. It's unlikely any party could get a majority, so politics undergoes a shift. Firstly there's an acceptance that sometimes Labour and the Tories might dare to enter the same room as eachother without both becoming class traitors. And a much stronger position for "others" especially regionalists in negotiations as at lest some of these would generally be needed to form a government. If a government is disliked people vote out those parties seen as being the cause of that problem.
  2. Regional PR with candidates chosen in open primaries. Those elected are slightly more distantly accountable, with slightly less personal connection between them and their constituents. But still maintains the broad representation.
  3. Single member AV. The reverse of the last one, each MP is extremely accountable locally, but with no pretence at being representative nationwide.
  4. Single member FPTP. Slightly less accountable locally, but still reasonably so. This is the current system. Doesn't work well, but not terrible.
  5. Regional PR with candidates chosen by closed party list. Worst of all possible worlds. The only people in the whole of government who are their because of an election are the remaining 92 hereditary peers in the House of Lords. An absolute and total disaster.
How would you vote?

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