Friday, 18 March 2011

What's all this about an alternative?

What's all this about an alternative?

In May 2011 – as independent candidates become 'tellers' at polling stations – the UK will be invited to take part in the second ever UK-wide referendum. We shall vote on whether or not we want to change the 'First Past the Post' system to an alternative electoral system, the Alternative Vote. The various parties are sitting on their various sides of the fence, with party politicians being allowed that rare freedom to choose whether they campaign for yes or no.

Here at the Independent Network we're much more interested in the questions the referendum raises about political alternatives within our current democracy. In fact we will be holding a debate about the referendum during our event on Thursday 7th April.

If a change to the voting system will ensure that voters' and constituents' needs are placed above the dictates of a political party then such a change might be of interest to independent candidates across the UK. However we're not cpersuaded that it is this question of good representation that is prompting our second-ever UK-wide referendum.

Independent candidates have been in touch highlighting a range of questions that the referendum raises. We've compiled some of those questions below. Give us your feedback - what do you think when you see the NO2AV or YESTOFAIRERVOTES campaigns?

Legitimacy and representation: Will the AV system make governments more legitimate in the eyes of the voters and capable of taking big decisions on our behalf?

Coalition government: Will AV result in more coalition government than First Past the Post (FPTP) and is this a good thing? Will it result in more or fewer broken manifesto promises?

Proportionality: Is AV a more proportional system of voting and is proportional government necessarily a good thing in itself?

The cost of voting: The ‘no’ camp are placing a lot of emphasis on the cost of the referendum and the cost of counting AV results in future – especially at a time of public spending cuts. Is this an important consideration?

Framing and referendums: Is a referendum the right way to decide this issue, and are we being offered two options that we don’t really like when a better one could be on the table?

Political context: Different parties have different views on how this will effect the outcome of elections. Supporters of AV may be swayed by the possibility that this system will result in more of their political preference getting elected. Presumably, opponents will do the same. Is this a debate about the ethics of voting or is it really crude political gamesmanship? Should we simply vote for the option that will return the most MPs for our preferred political party? Are we being offered an alternative at all?

These are important questions worth slow consideration - after all it is not every year (not even every 30 years) that we are given the opportunity to use our vote in a referendum. If the voting system just gives more party representation, is that an alternative or is the only alternative vote for an independent candidate?

Join us on Thursday 7th April for an Independent Network debate on the alternative vote. Email for information and tickets.

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