Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Will David Cameron support the Alternative Vote?

Paul Linford writes on his blog:

Last week, I suggested that the enthusiasm with which Prime Minister David Cameron has embraced his new Liberal Democrat partners hinted that coalition might have been the election outcome he wanted all along.

If I’m totally honest, I don’t think there is any ‘might’ about it. As several other commentators have remarked over the past week, Mr Cameron is clearly more at ease with his Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg than he is with most of his own backbenchers.

Had he succeeded in gaining a narrow overall majority on 6 May, Mr Cameron would now be at the mercy of a bunch of hardline right-wingers, much in the way that John Major was throughout the 1992 Parliament.

If the coalition suits David Cameron so well, how can he make it more likely that it will endure?

The answer is by supporting the Alternative Vote when the referendum agreed as part of the coalition deal takes place.

In the short term this would make it more likely that the public would vote for the Alternative Vote and thus make it less likely that the Liberal Democrats would break up the coalition after a year or two.

And in the long term - and far more intriguingly - if the next election were fought under the Alternative Vote system it would make it possible for the coalition to be maintained even in the campaign.

For David Cameron would be able to say something like this to Liberal Democrat voters:
If you are a convinced Liberal Democrat supporter then you should, of course, vote for them. But if you think the coalition has provided good government and would like to see it continue in the next parliament, I would ask you to consider giving your second preference to the Conservative candidate.
Nick Clegg could make a similar appeal to Conservative voters.

Note that there would be no need for anyone to stand down or to moderate their attacks on the other party locally. Such an arrangement would dispense with all the angst and sacrifice of the Alliance years.

Note too that such an arrangement would be of more use to David Cameron than to Nick Clegg. There are far more Conservative/Labour marginals that could be decided by Liberal Democrat second preference votes that their are Labour/Lib Dem marginals that could be decided by Conservative second preferences.

He's a clever politician, that David Cameron. The only problem is that Alternative Vote might be so good for the Conservatives that he would find himself with an overall majority after the next election and thus "at the mercy of a bunch of hardline right-wingers".

1 comment:

Matthew Huntbach said...

AV reduces the need for "tactical vote" calls, but does not eliminate it.

The tactical vote consideration under AV becomes harder to explain, but it is still there. We saw it a little in the London Mayoral election, although it was mainly us trying to push it and not doing a good job. As it involved a little bit of maths and logic it was, of course, beyond the ability of the commentariat to think it through.

Under FPTP, we have the second placed party squeezing the third, we have become experts at this with our "two horse race" and "it's a straight choice" stuff.

Under AV, the principle tactic would be the third placed party squeezing the second. The third placed party would argue that in a run-off between the first and second, the first would win. But if it, the third placed party managed to move up and become second, then what was the second placed party would transfer its vote to what was the third placed party and the third placed party would win.

Is this too complex to be worth trying should we ever have elections under AV? It would be where we are in third place but not too far behind second placed Labour. We would argue that if we are eliminated, our second preferences would split evenly between Labour and the Tories, and the Tories would win. But if sufficient Labour supporters made us their first preference, Labour would be knocked out, most of their second preferences would go to us, and we would win. We could even tell the Labour people it's a win-win bet, because if we are wrong and we remain in third place, their first preference for us gets transferred to their second preference vote which would be Labour anyway.