David Amess does not support AV

I have written a few times to my MP recently. Since I am largely critical of David Amess’s party and government I cannot imagine he looks forward to my missives. Nonetheless, whether we agree on little or not, he is my representative.

One of my communications concerned the impending referendum on AV. I quote from Mr Amess’s reply:

I have always been a supporter of the First Past the Post system. Whilst it may not be perfect, I believe that the unique link between one’s voting intention and the constituency Member of Parliament is something to be cherished and embraced. The current electoral system has stood the test of time and importantly is the system most likely to allow voters the power to eject failed Governments from office. I’m sure you will be aware as a Labour activist that many Labour Members of Parliament do not support the AV system. Indeed, Labour members of the House of Lords are at present blocking the measure.

I should also add that over the years that I have been an MP, very few people have raised this issue with me. I don’t recall it being mentioned ‘on the doorstep’ during last year’s general election campaign.

It is unsurprising that Mr Amess is opposed to AV; this is the default position for members of the Conservative Party. However, he does raise some interesting points and I will address them here.

Firstly, AV does nothing to dent the link between voting intention and MP. I would go further and add that since AV makes tactical voting irrelevant the link is enhanced.

The current system certainly has stood the test of time. It harks back to the days of rotten boroughs, bought elections, small electorates, and little choice. It was perfect for the battles between Whigs and Tories, but fails in the pluralism of today’s politics.

His point about the system most likely to eject failed Governments bemuses me – he will be aware of what a safe seat is, his is one. Mr Amess does not attract 50% of those who vote, yet has withstood Labour landslides. AV, by assuring that every MP has to attract more than 50% of the popular vote makes MPs more accountable. Even in landslide elections two-thirds of seats are safe; this is not a ringing endorsement for the current system.

I am aware that many of my Labour colleagues are opposed to AV. Some of this will be principled objection; some are hacked off with Nick Clegg and his party. However, Labour peers are blocking the bill not because of the referendum, but rather because the bill contains other measures regarding the reduction in the numbers of MPs and the equalisation of constituency sizes that they find objectionable.

On his final point, about the doorstep and it not being mentioned; this argument has been put to me by my Labour colleagues too. I have two answers. Firstly, since doorstep conversations are in some part governed by the canvasser’s agenda then this will depend on who is doing the knocking. Mr Amess may not instigate these types of conversations; I am an electoral reformer and do. Secondly, many measures are passed into Law that do not originate from doorstep conversations.

3 Responses to David Amess does not support AV

  1. David says:

    the unique link between one’s voting intention and the constituency Member of Parliament is something to be cherished and embraced

    Strange then that your MP wants to improve this “constituency link” by changing all the constituencies and reforming them to meet an arithmetic criterion rather than representing natural communities of constituents – and then regularly change them to maintain the “average plus or minus 5%” figure. So much for “maintaining the link”.

    I suspect that when he talks about “the constituency link”, he means the link with his local party – specifically his local party’s selection committee – after all they are the only people able to throw him out. Perhaps it would be better if he (and all his mates) were concerned with links with constituents. He could start by being concerned to get at least 50% of those constituents supporting him.

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  3. Rob Brown says:

    I have had AV (and electoral reform generally) mentioned two or three times when on the doorstep. That is more times than abortion (or caravaning) for example, so that would be my response to Mr Amess. Also with the nature of our electoral system I expect that when he does grace a doorstep with his prescence he will be targetting Tory voters to get them out to vote hardly a representative sample.

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