Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Will someone please tell Norman Lamont that AV does not stand for Proportional Representation?

Don't worry, I haven't lost my marbles and paid the Murdoch Levy, but courtesy of ConHome I've been reading a little snippet of the former Tory Chancellor's bizarre rant in the Times about AV. Or at least, he seems to earnestly believe it's about AV...

"Under AV we would have permanent coalitions and institutionalised breaking of election promises. Politicians, not voters, would decide which parties were to form the government. In Britain, we don’t have to demonstrate in public squares. People vote and the government is out. AV would make it more difficult for voters to summon up the removal van and kick the government out. AV would change the nature of elections, which would become high on rhetoric, low on policies. Party manifestos would become meaningless, full of “aspirations”"

Memo to Lord Lamont and the Tory party : if you really want to spend the next two-and-a-half months going off on one about what a God-awful idea proportional representation is, it might have been an idea to actually hold a referendum on proportional representation. Not a single one of those gripes has the slightest relevance to AV, which is a majoritarian voting system every bit as much as the current one is. To be sure, it's a somewhat better majoritarian system, in that it empowers the voter more and doesn't produce such perverse results in individual constituencies, but it's a majoritarian system nonetheless. It doesn't particularly make coalitions more likely, and the idea that it would produce perpetual coalition is in the realms of fantasy. More's the pity, in a lot of ways, but there it is.

Which leaves only one question to be answered. Are we witnessing delusion, or pretence?


  1. I suspect that it’s a case of the Tories not really understanding anything other than FPTP. It’s “the way we have always done it dear boy”. Anything else is disaster.

    “No don’t bother to explain it to me dear chap; it is a travesty, whatever it is. There will be blood on the streets, the monarchy will fall, and Cambridge will perpetually win the boat race.”

    I’m interested to hear that he thinks that we don’t have to “demonstrate in public squares”. I mean where was he when the miners’ strike was going on; where was he when Mrs T was being toppled by the Poll Tax riots of 1992; where was he when the students burned the Tory headquarters in 2010; where will he be when the middle classes rise against the horrors foreseen by Ken Clarke?

  2. Perhaps there are projections that AV would produce a more proportional (i.e. closer) result than FPTP? That's the only possible premise under which Lamont's argument makes any sense at all. It'd be handy if we could see the full piece without having to pay the Digger Duty.

  3. "I’m interested to hear that he thinks that we don’t have to “demonstrate in public squares”"

    Yes, Tris, I certainly recall a fair few demonstrations against the last Tory government that was "elected" in spite of 58% of people voting against it!

    Colin, the chances are that the Lib Dems would have a few more seats under AV than they would under FPTP, so in that sense it makes coalitions slightly more likely. But it really is a very marginal difference, and one that would only occur because of the specific circumstances of the UK party system as it currently stands. AV isn't in principle any more proportional than the current system.