A group of prominent historians have added their names to the No To AV campaign, saying a change to the voting system in Britain would undermine democracy.
By boosting the Lib Dems, AV would make the hung parliaments the norm rather than an exception, leading to more backroom political deals and broken manifesto promises. It would give the Lib Dems unprecedented power: the ability to choose the next PM after nearly every election.
AV would also enable extremists to get more votes, more attention, and more legitimacy. And AV could lead to BNP MPs if, as the Yes Campaign wants, the AV becomes a ‘stepping stone’ to PR.
AV would make hung parliaments the norm, giving Lib Dems power
- AV would make hung parliaments more likely, leading to more coalitions and brokenpromises.As Oxford Professor Vernon Bogdanorhas said, ‘By increasing Lib Dem numbers, AV makes hung parliaments much more likely’.
- As a result, the Liberal Democrats would be permanent ‘kingmakers’ under AV. Elections would no longer determinewho forms the government; only Clegg’s vote would matter.
AV would count BNP supporters’ votes multiple times
- Voters for parties who tend to get knocked out early– like the BNP – would get up to 6 chances to have their vote redistributed. The average BNP voter would get more than 2 preferences, while the average mainstream party supporter would only get one vote.
- Supporters of mainstream partieswould typically only get first preferences counted.
AV would give the BNP legitimacy
- The BNP would get more votes because under AV people can just cast a BNP first preference to ‘send a message’and still get another vote for a mainstream party.
- Getting more votes would legitimize the BNP party, increasing their apparent support, giving them far greater media coverage and saving the party thousands in lost deposits.
AV could lead to PR and the election of BNP MPs
- Most Yes Campaign supporters don’t actually want AV; it’s only a ‘miserable little compromise’ that they hope is a stepping stone to proportional representation.
- If AV did lead to PR, electing BNP MPs would become a real possibility. As Nick Griffin put it, with PR the BNP ‘could easily fill a bus with BNP MPs’.
- The BNP has long-favoured Proportional Representation, and complained that for the BNP ‘to continue fighting first-past-the-post elections and securing an ever-dwindling vote is simply a recipe for demoralisation and failure’.
AV makes elections unpredictable and could lead to a surprise BNP win
- Protest votes can also lead to unpredictable results. In France’s 2002 presidential election, Le Pen’s National Front party made it into the second round due to protest votes.Fortunately, the French two-round system allowed voters to reconsider.
- Under AV, however, there is no second round and no chance for re-consideration, giving rise to the ‘disturbingly unpredictable’ results decried by the Jenkins’ Commission.
AV enabled far-right extremists to win seats in Australia
- ‘Optional preference AV’ enabled the far-right One Nation party to win 11 seats in the Queensland state’ legislature in 1998 despite only getting 22.7% of the vote.
- Under first past the post, the party would have only won 8 seats.
AV would encourage other parties to appeal to BNP voters
- Second preference support from extremists would decide elections under AV – BNP votes alone could swing 35 seats.
- As a result, AV encourages mainstream parties to campaign for these preferences through ‘dog whistle’ tactics.
In a letter to The Times newspaper, they warn the alternative vote would destroy the notion of “one man or woman, one vote”.
The group urged Britons to reject the AV referendum on May 5, when they will be asked whether they want to change the system used to elect MPs.
A total of 25 leading figures such as Professor Niall Ferguson, broadcaster Dr David Starkey, Professor Antony Beevor, Simon Sebag Montefiore and Alison Weir added their names to The Times letter.
“The principle that each person’s vote is equal, regardless of wealth, gender, race, or creed, is a principle to which generations of reformers have dedicated their lives,” it read.
“It is a principle upon which reform of our parliamentary democracy still stands.”
The letter went on: “For the first time in centuries, we face the unfair idea that one citizen’s vote might be worth six times that of another.
David Starkey, Simon Sebag Montefiore and Niall Ferguson
“It will be a tragic consequence if those votes belong to supporters of extremist and non-serious parties.”
The group also draws attention to past proposals to change the principle of “one citizen, one vote” that failed.
“The last time, in 1931, Winston Churchill stood against the introduction of an Alternative Vote system,” the historians wrote.
“As he argued, AV would mean that elections would be determined by ‘the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates’. He understood that it was simply too great a risk to take.”
David Cameron and Nick Clegg have agreed to disagree over the issue – with the PM adding his argument to the No side.
Last month, Mr Cameron said his three broad objections to AV were that it ensured an unclear voting system, meant an unaccountable political system and produced unfair outcomes.
On the other side, Mr Clegg claimed the present voting system made MPs complacent and lazy, insisting it was “not working”.