Political Promise

AV Special: What is it? How do I vote? What should I vote?

In Charlie Edwards on April 12, 2011 at 9:55 am

So many statistics, broadcasts, Tweets and arguments on the Alternative Vote eh? Political Promise will give you the low-down on what it is, how to vote, without any party-political nonsense. No more banging your head against the wall, this is your definitive guide to the Alternative Vote, by Charlie Edwards. NOW with both the Yes and No campaign broadcasts!

You have to register by Thursday 14th April to vote in the referendum. If you are a university student, you can only register once for AV, but can register at both home and term time addresses for local elections, if you have any happening in your local area on May 5th. For our Welsh and Scottish readers, 14th April is also the last time you can register in order to vote in your devolved assembly elections.

The question on May 5th will be:

At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?

Currently we use ‘first past the post’, which is where each voter has one vote, and the candidate with the largest number of votes becomes the MP in that constituency.

What is the Alternative Vote? The Electoral Reform Society explains:

“The voter thus puts a ‘1’ by their first-preference candidate, and can continue, if they wish, to put a ‘2’ by their second-preference, and so on, until they don’t care anymore or they run out of names. In some AV elections, such as most Australian elections, electors are required to rank all candidates. If a candidate receives a majority of first-preference votes (more people put them as number one than all the rest combined), then they are elected. If no candidate gains a majority on first preferences, then the second-preference votes of the candidate who finished last on the first count are redistributed. This process is repeated until someone gets over 50 per cent.”

What do the experts say?

DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER “It’s a system – AV – so undemocratic that you can vote for a mainstream party just once, whereas someone can vote for a fringe party like the BNP and it’s counted three times..”

NICK CLEGG, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER “It’s simple, and it’s fair. Some opponents of AV say it is against British tradition, that’s nonsense. The beauty of the Alternative Vote is that it is evolution.”

JOHN PRESCOTT, FORMER DEPUTY PM “This is a poisonous package and Labour must fight against every single part of it.”

PROF JOHN CURTICE, STRATHCLYDE UNI “Only in 2010 – when first-past-the-post also failed to deliver a majority – would a hung parliament have occurred under AV. It is, perhaps, little wonder Mr Clegg once described AV as a “miserable little compromise”. For its introduction is likely to bring his party only a modest benefit – and still leave open the prospect of the occasional Conservative or Labour landslide.”

BEN BRADSHAW MP (Lab, Exeter) “No voting system is perfect, but first past the post is the least perfect of all. A few thousand voters in a handful of “swing” seats decide the election. Parties concentrate their time and resources accordingly – ignoring the majority of constituencies that never change hands. Voters in these safe seats are in effect disenfranchised, unless they support the party that always wins.”


PROF VERNON BOGDANOR, CONSTITUTIONAL EXPERT “The last government to propose AV was Ramsay MacDonald’s ill-fated second Labour administration in 1931. During the parliamentary debates, a leading Tory reminded MPs of Oscar Wilde’s quip that the artist Whistler had no enemies, but was thoroughly disliked by all his friends. The same, the MP said, was true of AV. Little seems to have changed in the intervening years.”


  1. […] AV Special: What is it? How do I vote? What should I vote? (politicalpromise.co.uk) […]

  2. […] Don’t know how to vote in the AV referendum? Read Political Promise’s definitive guide. […]

  3. […] both sides and attended stellar debates. What I have discovered is that the Alternative Vote is a ‘Meh’ electoral […]

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