May 5th this year we will all get a chance to vote on a referendum for adopting the alternative vote (AV) or keeping the current first past the post (FPP) system when electing MP's. Here in London we are no strangers to AV as thats similar to how we elect the Mayor of London.
FPP, is simply you turn up and put a X next to the candidate you support. Then they are all counted and the one that gets the most votes is declared the winner. Under this system, the Tories win K&C with about 55% of the vote, and Labour win north Kensington on just 44% of the vote, and Hammersmith on less than that! So more than half the people who voted in these last two areas ended up with an MP they didnt want.
Under AV, you rank the candidates in the order that you like them, 1 for the first, 2 for the second and so on, up to the number of candidates standing. You dont have to use all the votes, you can just use one, two or how ever many you like. In the initial count, the first preference of each voter is counted and if one candidate receives more than 50%, that candidate wins. Otherwise the candidate who holds the fewest first preferences is eliminated. Ballots assigned to eliminated candidates are recounted and assigned to one of the remaining candidates based on their next preference on each ballot. The process repeats until one candidate achieves more than 50% of votes cast for continuing candidates.
So whats the deal?
Under AV, MPs will have to appeal to at least 50% of voters so in effect will have to work harder to get the support from more people. Currently the MP in K&C doesnt really have to do that much to get re-elected, and its considered a safe seat. AV wont necessarily mean the Lesser Spotted Malcolmous Rifindium should start writing his CV, but it will make him think twice...
They also claim that it will let in lunatics and extremists. AV critics say it will make it easier for UKIP or the BNP to get elected. In the last election neither of these two parties would have come anywhere near winning enough support to get an MP elected. The LibDems want Proportional Representation, and that will allow the BNP and other distasteful elements in.
Those who dont want AV also say we shouldnt support it because the LibDems do. But dont be fooled by that many more people want to see change.
Predictably the Conservatives in K&C will be against AV, well they would wouldnt they, simply because it means their inbuilt sizeable majority in the borough may not be overturned but may well come under some heat.
Thats no reason to oppose changing to AV, and in Hornets mind is exactly the reason we should switch.