Brown's "argument" for AV

About the author

Guy Aitchison is co-editor of openDemocracy's UK blog, OurKingdom, and a PhD student in politics at UCL.

I blogged Tuesday on how weak Gordon Brown's speech to the Labour conference was and how pathetic his proposals are for constitutional reform. His plan to stick a referendum on the Alternative Vote system into the next manifesto seems almost designed to piss off campaigners.

AV, despite what a lot of journalists seem to think, isn't proportional  - it does nothing to ensure the number of seats a party has reflects the number of votes it receives and I know of no reformers who want that system.

The Vote for a Change campaign, run by the Electoral Reform Society, is now desperately urging people to write to Brown asking him to bring forward a referendum to election day. But relying on the PM for change really does seem like a lost cause.

Advocates of PR seized on the expenses scandal to make their case because they know that PR, which creates a more open and pluralist party system, would address the disconnect between politicians and the public which expenses brought to the fore. They also argued - and there is evidence for this on MarkReckons - that by ending "safe" seats PR would help check the arrogance and complacency of politicians who are happy to abuse the system safe in the knowledge they have a job for life.

So, the argument from expenses to PR is pretty robust. The argument from expenses to AV isn't - which is probably why I haven't heard anyone make it. Until now.

This is what Gordon Brown told Channel 4 news:

"The one thing this political crisis has shown is that if an MP has more than 50 per cent of the voters, the majority of voters supporting him or her, then I think that is a better position to be in,

"And the alternative vote system allows a member to be elected with the votes of second preferences allowing that person to have more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Really? That's the "one thing" this political crisis has shown? That people want to list the parties under a voting system that would do nothing to end the stale two-party duopoly we have at the moment? Does he take us for "chumps"?

It's a shame the media has no time for the subtleties of different electoral systems so they could pick him up on this. As it is he gets to pose as a reformer, whilst proposing nothing that would actually give away power.