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April 21, 2011
Cutting through the fog on the AV referendum
Politics students wanting to go beyond the deliberate distortions and lies of the UK’s voting system referendum campaign could do worse than check out this blog: http://gowers.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/is-av-better-than-fptp/
It’s written by a mathematician, but despite that gives a clear, readable and methodical guide to the facts and fallacies of both sides’ claims.
One issue it is weak on is lessons from the practice of the Alternative Vote. As an occasional Australian, I’d have pointed you in the direction of comprehensive analyses of the Australian practice, but alas, there are none recent and therefore available online through the Warwick library. Instead, check out this comment from Professor Leach in Economics:
See also a Political Studies Association briefing paper by Alan Renwick at Reading: http://www.psa.ac.uk/PSAPubs/TheAlternativeVoteBriefingPaper.pdf
Also have a look at Sanders, David et al. 2010, ‘Simulating the effects of the Alternative Vote in the 2010 UK General Election,’ Parliamentary Affairs 64(1):5, and then my colleague David Hugh-Jones’s response, available under ‘Working Papers’ at
Finally, I’m going to do something I never normally do: express a clear political preference to my students. I don’t normally do this because I’m trying to train you to think through evidence yourselves, not simply to use me as a proxy for what to think or not to think. However, in this case the publicly-available evidence being provided by the No camp is so strikingly manipulative and scare-mongering that I feel it my duty to say so. I will be voting “Yes”, not because I think AV is the best system there is – I’m a supporter of mixed member proportional systems, as in Scotland, Germany, New Zealand and elsewhere – but because I think that First Past the Post (or single-member plurality) voting is quite obviously the worst of the lot.
Lest anyone in the Yes camp get too excited about that last paragraph, you too should be ashamed – the Nick Griffin ads are beneath you.