Today MPs decide whether to hold a referendum on the introduction of ‘Alternative Vote’ for Westminster elections. It is part of Gordon Brown’s plan to rehabilitate the damaged reputation of Britain‘s politics. It is also a spectacularly bad idea.
How can an electoral system which affords less clarity, demands more fudge and disconnects lines of accountability between the electorate and its government help to revive public confidence in tarnished institutions and discredited politicians?
Of course we are accustomed to Alternative Vote in Northern Ireland because it is used in council and assembly by-elections. Like AV’s close relative, Proportional Representation, it is popular amongst politics aficionados, who relish its complexity, its labyrinthine twists and the strange vocabulary of ’surpluses’ and ’quotas’.
However, if the prime minister really wants to tackle the ’crisis of legitimacy’ which has afflicted politics since the expenses scandal, tinkering with the voting system is the wrong way to go about it. AV, and PR, might give the appearance of greater accountability, but actually they serve only to exacerbate a popular perception that politicians are a privileged caste, practising a murky and mysterious craft.
Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Prime minister should leave the goalposts where they are.
Now online! In today's Belfast Telegraph I argue against Gordon Brown's proposed electoral reform.