A. Arguments from the No Camp
AV will help extremist parties like the BNP
Even if it were the case that the BNP would profit under AV, this still remains the worst argument in the history of arguments about electoral systems. To show this is the case, just replace ‘BNP’ with any other party name. Arguments like ‘X is bad because it benefits Labour’ or ‘Y would help the Conservatives get in’ are unacceptable because it is fundamentally undemocratic to rig the system to produce a desired outcome. If people vote for the BNP, the BNP should do better. If you don’t agree, you clearly don’t like democracy and have no place debating democratic systems.
Though the link between AV and hung parliaments is more plausible than the link to the BNP, both arguments are invalid for the same reason. It is fundamentally undemocratic to rig the system to produce a desired outcome, whether that outcome is success for a particular party or ensuring a majority.
The argument seems to be that since some people’s lower preferences are counted but not others, those people have more effect on the ultimate result than others, violating the sacred dictum of ‘one person, one vote’. This is clearly nonsense. For a start, if the preferred candidate of those voters whose second preferences weren’t counted had been eliminated they would have supposedly have more influence, so there is no systematic bias.
But the truth is that nobody’s preferences count for any more than anyone else’s. If your first preference wins, that preference is taken into account at every round of voting. In effect, it is as if there is a fresh round of voting every time a candidate is eliminated, and it is presumed (surely uncontroversially) that people would vote for the same candidate if they can. If we consider these distinct rounds as different elections, we see that every person has one vote and one vote only in each round.
AV means all MPs will have the support of over 50% of the electorate
The first thing to point out is that getting a vote from 50% of the electorate is not the same as having their support or confidence. This is obvious when you consider that some of these votes could be people’s fourth or fifth preference. Getting 50% of the final vote under AV means nothing more than that 50% thought that at least one person would make a worse MP than you.
Worse still, there is no guarantee that winners under AV will in fact get over 50% of the voters. If a substantial number vote only for candidates knocked out in early rounds of the count and fail to express lower preferences, then the threshold of victory will be reduced. As an illustration, twelve of 31 Scottish local authority elections carried out under AV have produced minority winners.
AV would have made the expenses scandal less likely
1. There will be fewer safe seats under AV
2. MPs in safe seats are more likely to be corrupt
As far as premise 1 goes, it is certainly the case that MPs who rely on a strong core support of less than 50% of the electorate will have to woo new voters to keep their positions. However, certain MPs may be more secure if they can attract many second preferences. So, for example, many Lib Dem MPs with relatively small majorities may have their position strengthened if they know both Conservative and Labour voters will put them second. Moreover, over 200 MPs already get over 50% of the vote, so AV is unlikely to have any effect on them. On balance, it seems plausible that AV will cut the number of safe seats, but hardly dramatically.