NO to AV

This week the campaigns were launched ahead of the referendum on 5 May on whether to change our electoral system to the Alternative Vote (AV).

In an election under First Past The Post, the winner is the person who gets the majority of the votes cast.  Under AV, candidates are ranked by voters and must obtain over half of the vote to win.

At last year's General Election, a third of MPs (including me) were returned with over half of the share of the vote outright.  We wouldn't have been affected.

But under AV, the rest would have seen candidates with the least votes eliminated and their second preference votes redistributed, with the process repeated until someone got over 50 per cent.

Those in favour of AV say it would make our elections fairer, but I think it would be unfair.  The winner should surely be the candidate that comes first, but under AV a candidate who comes second or third can steal the seat after later preferences are counted.

And instead of every vote being worth the same, votes for fringe parties could be counted several times.

That's why AV is used by just three countries in the world: Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Australia - who want to give it up.

No-one's really in favour of AV.  Nick Clegg will be campaigning for a 'yes' vote because he sees it as a step towards proportional representation.  But even he described AV as a "miserable little compromise."

And AV can exaggerate swings further, producing less proportionate outcomes than the current system.  In 1997 the Conservatives would have got just 15 per cent of the seats with 31 per cent of the vote.  Likewise Labour would have had even fewer seats in the 1980s.

The cost of changing to AV would be up to £250 million.  But above all, it would make politics less transparent and less accountable - with backroom deals becoming the norm and a few politicians always fixing a government, whatever the will of the people.

This is why I'm strongly supporting the 'no' campaign ( and will vote NO in the referendum.

Christopher N Howarth