I have just completed my postal ballot for the referendum. I voted no. No hesitation, no um-ing or ah-ing. It isn't that I haven't thought about it. On the contrary I have been reflecting on increasing equity in democratic systems for years now. I just don't think AV delivers better democracy for a number of reasons:
1. It rewards mediocrity - it is perfectly possible for a candidate who was no one's first choice to win on second preferences. That can't be right.
2. It will encourage vanilla candidates standing on vanilla tickets - rather than seeking to differentiate themselves from their opponents, candidates will want to highlight (at least to voters who aren't going to give them their first preference vote) the things they have in common with them. There will be no incentive for serious candidates to have strong views or platforms.
3. It ends the notion of one person, one vote and even worse some people's votes will count more than others. People whose first preferences are for the least popular candidates get a "do over". Their vote for their favoured candidate is wasted but their second vote counts.
4. It will not see an end to tactical voting, just make it even more complicated.
5. I am afraid AV will not by stop political corruption or misdeeds. For a start it is worth remembering that most politicians are decent and do we really think the dodgy ones are going to modify their behaviour because of the means by which they are elected. Corruption is dealt with by eliminating the incentive (e.g. getting to grips with MP remuneration) and punishing transgressors effectively (while the banging up of David Chaytor and Eric Illsley sends out a message one does wonder why the others appear to have escape punishment).
5. AV will lead to more coalitions. I don't really need to say more but for those of you with any doubts just remember that coalitions are the ultimate get out of jail free cards - "we would love to stick to our election promise but for the good of the country (stability and confidence I think they called it) we are now in a coalition which won't allow us to." So all that careful calculation of who you want to win and how you use your preferences flies out the window because the parties in the governing coalition abandon their principles for the sweet taste of power. Tuition fees anyone?
6. Even "yes" campaigners don't like AV. They know it is a fudge but see it as a staging post to proportional representation.
7. It is too complicated. We have trouble enough getting people to vote in our current first past the post system I am just not convinced that AV will encourage more people to engage with the democratic process.
I could go on. The fact of the matter is that while I accept that there are weaknesses in the first past the post and if we were starting from scratch we probably won't start here but it works for us. We know where we stand - winner takes all - and we like that. I realise that what with my views on the reform of the House of Lords I am now appearing to be at least constitutionally conservative. Actually I am not ideologically opposed to constitutional reform indeed I would welcome changes which increase fairness in the democratic settlement. But in my view AV will increase the democratic deficit rather than decrease it. Vote No.