I know, it has been the talking point for months (well at least if you haven't read an earlier blog posting of mine). How is committed Lib Dem and and broadly progressive local politician Neil Bradbury voting in the Alternative Vote (AV) referendum?
Well ...... I'm voting yes! AV isn't a massive change from the existing system of electing First Past the Post. Personally I would like to see where people can elect politicians in proportion to the votes they cast. A Tory councillor said to me that the argument would have been easier if it had been full PR that had been on the ballot. But he then said "of course you wouldn't get that as an option from us or Labour because people might vote for."
But AV keeps all the perceived benefits of the current system (one member constituencies, an easy to understand system) but ensures that the MP elected has to be the most popular candidate in the constituency. First Past the Post should really be known as Candidate Elected Well Before the Winning Post. But CEWBTW is even worse to use as an acronym. AV will at least mean that the most popular front runner is elected. It won't make a massive change, maybe 2 or 3 seats would have been in different hands in the North East at the General Election. But is is better than the current system so we should make the change.
A few myths from the No campaign to dismiss. It won't cost any more than FPTP to count. Australia has used AV for years and counts by hand. In the US they use our system and count using expensive machines. It won't create more coalitions. Most analyses show that all the winners of general elections in the UK would still win. In Australia there has been only one coalition in years. We get coalitions when people don't just vote for 2 parties. In the UK the days of there being just two parties is long dead. And rightly so, we know there is no right or wrong answer on many issues.
Many labour MPs from the north are backing the No campaign (although I commend those such as Catherine McKinnell for campaigning for a Yes vote) while a lot of southern Labour MPs are backing YES. If Labour is ever to become a truly nationwide party again, it needs representation in the South. AV could also help the Tories win a few more seats up north. Then you might see less of the phenomenon of Northern and Scottish Tories moving south to become MPs and Southerners like Ed and Dave Millliband moving up north to get into parliament.
So make sure you vote tomorrow and vote yes. Also if you live in an area where there is a local election, consider supporting the Lib Dem. I have been helping a little in Gateshead and Newcastle and in both areas you have hard working Lib Dem councillors who genuinely care about their communities. In Gateshead you have a Labour group accusing us of being Nazis and in Newcastle the Labour group promise if elected to have an emergency budget. Why, I wonder? The current administration has protected front line services in the face of big cuts, so I would imagine they will be following the example of other Labour councils and cutting services like Libraries and toilets to protect the terms and conditions of managers.