If the anti-Tory parties were serious about getting rid of the Tories then surely they would prioritise getting rid of a first past the post system that guarantees the Conservatives healthy majorities on well under half the votes cast. This method, devised for a straightforward two-party system, has long outgrown its usefulness and now merely serves to prevent the incursion into the political mainstream of much-needed alternatives.
Moreover, nobody knows how it’s supposed to work. Apparently, it’s actually all about ‘tactical’ voting. So you have to decide which candidate you dislike the least in order to get rid of the one you hate the most, if your actual preference is unlikely to win. Then you have to decide whether your dislike of the candidate you don’t want to win is sufficient to overcome any qualms about voting for your second choice. Although you must then calculate whether that second choice is really in with a chance of winning. If not, maybe you’d be better to vote for a third choice, but only if you detest a fourth candidate enough to do that. Finally, you have to ponder the implications of helping your originally preferred choice obtain a miserable vote, thus allowing others to belittle and ignore the ideals you hold dear for another four or five years.
It’s all so damn complicated. Far simpler to follow the vast majority of the democratic world and institute a fair voting system where every vote counts and none is ‘wasted’. However, there’s little sign of enthusiasm for that in the manifestos of two of the old centralist parties. The Tories bizarrely want to extend FPTP, doing away with the alternative vote used for mayoral elections. The other conservative party – Labour – makes no mention of PR at all.
The Lib Dems do include a pledge to introduce ‘fair voting’ and specifically the single transferable vote. But, stuck on page 89 of 95, it hardly seems to be a top priority. And of course, Lib Dems had the chance not that many years ago when they were part of the coalition government and spectacularly blew it. They could then have demanded STV for local elections, as in Scotland, as part of a deal with the Tories, allowing the latter to gerrymander Westminster constituencies. Given that no-one in Parliament cares a fig about local government this might well have had more traction than a pathetic referendum on the alternative vote, plainly chosen to maximise Lib Dem party gains.
The other parties – Greens and UKIP – are both in favour of PR, possibly again for selfish party reasons. Ukip’s suggestion of replacing the House of Lords with an English Parliament elected via the additional member system as in Scotland and Wales, with a UK-wide slimmed down House of Commons elected by PR is actually remarkably innovative and co-exists uneasily with the bulk of its back to the future programme.