Thursday, 17 February 2011

Why I'm Angry About The AV Threshold Issue

Last night the House of Lords gave in and allowed the Commons to reject the amendment placing a 40% threshold on the AV referendum. This would have meant that if the turnout had been less than this figure, the referendum would have been non-binding and referred back to Parliament for debate. The Commons had to reject the amendment several times before the Lords admitted defeat.

Now, although the idea of sending something back to Parliament so they can decide on it isn't a great solution to a problem the whole country is asked to solve, it seemed to be a sensible one. With the threshold in place, the onus was on the Yes to AV group to prove their reforms are wanted. That is the way it should be. This is a major overhaul of our voting system: the people wanting it should have to ensure that they have a majority of the nation happy with the decision. It goes beyond whether you will vote for AV or against it; it's a simple courtesy.

We as a nation are generally lacklustre in voting, particularly in local elections. There is little evidence to suggest that the public have been captivated by the AV referendum. What is likely to happen is that the people who go out and vote on May 5th will be the people who generally vote in local elections (widely, this figure is under 40%), along with the people who feel strongly on the issue of AV. A massive alteration in our voting system should not come down to who has the most activists willing to vote for it. It should be for the good of the nation, and voted for by the nation.

What would have the threshold have done? Well, ensured that a new voting system isn't automatically implemented on the say-so of a minority for a start. Just imagine, we could have an average 30% turnout on May 5th. That would mean that the Yes group would only have to secure 15.1% of the population's votes. Again, I stress that this is the greatest overhaul of our political system in recent memory. Why should a small percentage of activists speak for the majority?

There is a simple reason why the threshold was repeatedly denied by the Commons. You see, David Cameron promised Nick Clegg a referendum without a threshold. Whether this was because Clegg believed AV could only prosper without a threshold is down to speculation. However, this kind of back-room dealing is precisely the reason I despise AV in the first place. More significantly, Lord Ashdown conceded that the AV issue was the deal-breaker for the Coalition. If the vote had gone the wrong way we could easily be looking at a government falling apart. And why is this? Because they are selfishly trying to push through a piece of legislation which will assist them at the detriment of the country.

But more of that in the coming weeks...