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Lords defeat for AV

Last night House of Lords vote requiring a 40% turn out in the AV referendum creates a serious problem for the government. In order for there to be a referendum in May, then the enabling legislation needs to be passed by the end of next week, so while the Lords’s amendement could be reversed in the Commons and sent back, this may involve a delay they cannot afford.

It is of course a paradox for supporters of AV who base their main argument on the majoritarian thesis that MPs must be elected with more than 50% of the vote; so they can hardly object to the idea that at least 40% of the electorate should support a change.

As Douglas W. Rae points out in the standard reference work The Political Consequences of Electoral Laws, majoritarian electoral systems are extremely rare for multi-seat legislatures, only being well established in Australia, and for second round voting in some French elections.

Alternative Vote (known as preferential vote in Australia) was deliberately introduced in order to thwart progressive voters: first tried in the Corangamite by-election of 1918, as it allowed competition between the two conservative parties without putting seats at risk to the Labour Party.

One Comment

  1. Andrew Fenyo says:

    Having grown up in Australia, I find it a very useful example of the dangers of AV. For quite some time (perhaps 15-20 years), the right-wing government was kept in power by the second preferences of a bunch calling themselves the “Democratic Labour Party” (sounds familiar!).Throughout this period they didn’t have a single MP of their own (about 5% of the national vote as I recall), but gave their preferences to the right over foreign policy issues (they thought the ALP was too soft).
    Nobody I explain this to thinks it is more democratic than FPTP.

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