80 Labour MPs say “Do as I say, not as I do” on AV

Mark Thompson reports on the 102 Labour MPs who signed up to be high profile supporters of the No2AV campaign - yet used AV in the Labour leadership elections.

One hudred and two Labour MPs have signed up to be high profile supporters of the No2AV campaign. They have made it clear that they do not want us to have the right to list candidates in order of preference for Westminster elections. The No2AV campaign has just launched its latest phase entitled “Keep One Person One Vote“. They are arguing that AV allows some voters to cast more than one vote.

This argument seems utterly unconvincing to those of us who argue AV just gives one vote to each person but that vote is transferable.

It means all electors have the chance to have their say about who is ultimately elected by being able to express a preference about who is chosen from candidates in later rounds even if their initial first (or second etc.) choice is eliminated.

But what seems odd about the 102 Labour MPs who are supporting No2AV is that AV is used for Labour leadership elections. And if the argument that AV gives some voters “more than one vote” (and hence is in some way undemocratic) is to hold any water then surely that would equally apply in leadership elections as it would to Westminster elections?

So you might expect that those Labour MPs when it came to the leadership election last year would stick to their principles and only cast one vote. Otherwise by their own terms they would be getting unfair “extra votes”.

But examination of the figures (taken from the Labour No2AV site cross referenced with how MPs voted last year from the Labour Party site) shows (xls):

• Only 22 of them marked one preference;

• 20 of them marked two preferences;

• 7 marked 3;

• 12 marked 4;

• And 41 of those No2AV Labour MPs marked all 5 preferences.

In total 80 out of the 102 marked more than one preference taking advantage of the fact that AV allowed their votes to be transferred.

Some will doubtless argue that voting for the leader of a party is different to voting for an MP. But the way the No2AV campaign has been pushing this “Keep One Person One Vote” argument has been from the standpoint of it being a fundamental democratic principle and that AV breaks it. That would apply no matter who or what is being elected.

The 80 Labour MPs who have signed up to this campaign whilst only very recently taking advantage of the extra breadth of democratic choice AV offers would do well to reflect on why they are happy to deny the rest of us that same choice for Westminster elections.

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