18 February 2011

William Hague: Reckless or Dishonest?

William Hague, today:
[AV] is the worst of all worlds. Even if one was going to embark on changing the electoral system this would certainly not be the system to move to.

You can argue for the current system, as I do, on the grounds that it is decisive. In the vast majority of elections it produces a clear decisive result with the party getting the most votes in the country becoming the government. Or you can argue legitimately for a proportional system, as in Germany for instance, where the seats won by the parties in Parliament is in pretty strict accordance with the votes received in the country.

The trouble with the Alternative Vote system is it's neither of those. It could produce - it is likely to produce if enacted - election results which are more indecisive, or more disproportionate, or even both at the same time, and be more complex and expensive to operate into the bargain.

So it is the worst of every world.

Then why are we having a referendum on this "worst of all worlds"AV system?

William Hague, May 10th 2010:
In the interests of trying to create a stable, secure government we will go the extra mile and we will offer to the Liberal Democrats, in a coalition government, the holding of a referendum on the Alternative Vote system, so that the people of this country can decide what the best electoral system is for the future.

That's right, it's the Conservatives' negotiating team who chose the referendum to be on AV. Hague was one of the "top four" negotiators for the Conservatives.

So why did he pick a referendum on AV when he could have picked a more "legitimate" proportional system? The Lib Dems would undoubtedly grabbed at the chance of a referendum on PR.

There are two possibilities:

1. Hague deliberately risked our country being subjected to what he considers to be the worst possible electoral system. This is a profoundly reckless attitude to our democracy.

2. Hague actually prefers AV to PR, which is why the referendum is on AV. This makes his comments today deeply dishonest.

I think number 2 is far more likely to be the explanation. The truth is that the Tories would be content with AV, but will say anything to keep hold of their precious FPTP system that many others despise.

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