The Instigator
Pro (for)
11 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Alternative Vote should be adopted in the UK (over First Past the Post).

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Post Voting Period
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after 3 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/23/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,703 times Debate No: 16102
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (9)
Votes (3)




I will be arguing that the Alternative Vote is a fairer and more democratic voting system than First Past the Post - which I view as archaic and unfair.

Round 1: Opening Argument/Statement
Round 2: Response to opening statement & questions
Round 3: Response and development
Round 4 : Concluding Remarks

My opening argument will be rather brief:

Problems with First Past the Post

1. First Past the Post allows minority rule. 66% of the UK population did not vote for its elected MP. Only one government in the past 100 years has had more than 50% support. Is that really democracy in 2011?

2. MPs need not appeal to a broad spectrum of people. As they can get in with as little as say 25% or 30% of the popular vote, they need only try to convince a minority of voters to come out in their support.

3. First Past the Post is characterised by elections being decided in only a handful of marginal constituencies. That means hundreds of thousands of peoples votes are practically worthless. Is that really 'one person, one vote?'

4. FPTP causes apathy. Why would you vote if there was no hope of your party winning?

Why Alternative Vote (AV) is preferable.
1. An example:

3 candidates are running for election and you are a voter.
Mr Blue - you love him, but there's not much chance him winning
Mr Green - you hate him, and really hope he doesn't win!
Mr Red - You'd prefer him over Mr Green, but he's not your 1st choice.

With First Past the Post, you'd have to choose between potentially wasting your vote on Mr Blue (As he stands so little a chance), or not voting for Mr Blue despite him being your favourite, and instead tactically voting for Mr Red.

With Alternative Vote, you can vote in preference orer:
1. Mr Blue
2. Mr Red.

when the results are counted in the first round, Mr Blue is disqualified as he has received the fewest votes. people who voted for him then have their 2nd choices redistributed.

And then, in the final round of counting, this produces a candidate who receives the broadest support from the electorate. Candidates have to get a majority to be elected, they have to aim for 50% of the vote.

If in the first count, a candidate acheives 50%,then they are automatically elected. If no-one acheives 50%, then process above begins.

It is FAIR, DEMOCRATIC & produces candidates who better REPRESENT their constituents. After all, the whole point of a regional MP is to be representative.

And so I close the first stage of my argument, and look forward to hearing your counter-arguments.


Thanks to my opponent for presenting an issue that is highly controversial in the UK at this time; leaflets are delivered through my letterbox practically every day from campaigners of the No and Yes campaigns (I won't be voting). I will be arguing that the Alternative Vote has too many problems and does not represent any great advantage over First Pass the Post; at best, AV is not superior to FPTP (and correspondingly is not worth the money converting) and at worse, it suffers from enough flaws to make it a worse system. For the record, I am playing devil's advocate to a degree; I have no strong views either way.

Problems with the Alternative Vote

1: AV is complicated.

Some people have been claiming this argument is patronizing - that somehow it underestimates the British populace and that AV isn't that hard to understand. However, the fact remains that AV is much more complicated than FPTP and people are less likely to vote using a system they don't properly understand. In Australia where AV is used, the problem with low voter turn-outs is so bad that they have had to implement compulsory voting. [1] The only other countries to use it are Fiji and Papua New Guinea - and Fiji plans to discontinue it. [2]

2: AV is not as proportionate as you think.

AV arguably produces a closer proportion of votes to seats; however, this does not translate into those seats having a proportionate amount of power in the House of Lords. Under AV coalition governments like the current one will be more likely and coalition governments are undemocratic. The Liberal democrats, who were voted for by only 1 in 5 voters, now shape UK politics as part of an alliance with the Conservatives.

The ability to select a prime minister would change from the British people to the Liberal Democrats because of their power to choose whichever party they chose to form a coalition with. Finally, party accountability would be decreased because parties could go back on their campaign promises to broker an agreement for a coalition government. The Liberal Democrat's current predicament with student fees is a case in point.

3: Changing to AV would be costly.

The UK is currently going through severe economic difficulties. The cost of AV could be up to £250 million [3] if implemented; £91 million on the referendum, £130 million on electronic voting machines and £26 million to explain the new system to voters. It is not sensible to spend so much on altering our voting system at a time when unemployment is high and the UK has a huge deficit to overcome.

4: AV is unfair.

My opponent's analogy which just lays out AV but doesn't really argue for it can be used to show how AV is unfair. To make the point clearer, add Miss Yellow and Miss Orange (let's not be sexist). Everyone vote, the votes are counted and the candidates arranged according to the number of votes received; Mr Blue is first, Mr Red is second, Miss Yellow is third, Mr Green is fourth and Miss Orange is last. Under FPTP, the election stops there - Mr Blue wins because he came first.

Under AV however, assuming no-one receives 50% of the votes, Miss Orange is eliminated and her voters secondary preferences counted - votes that people don't care as much about and may not have considered before casting. This time, Mr Red might win if he receives more, or even Miss Yellow. If no-one has still reached 50%, third preferences will be counted - at this point many of the votes that will count may not have been considered by the voters since they will care most about their first preference.

The unfairness is clear - a candidate who has received the most votes when they are first counted can lose to the second or third most popular candidate - and this will be determined by the secondary prefernces of the least popular candidate!

Debate Round No. 1


Hi and thanks for taking part in the debate. I shall now deal with each of the points you raised.

1: AV is complicated.

You first raised the argument that the Alternative Vote system is complicated, and that people would be less likely to vote with a complicated system.

If you have a child, and you ask that child 'which chocolate bar would you like', the child might answer something like 'mmm I'll have a snickers but if they don't have a snickers I'll have a galaxy'.

That child just understood the basic concept of Alternative Vote: preferences. It is not at all complicated.

You also raised the point that AV is only used in 3 countries worldwide. What is often overlooked is that STV (single transferable vote) is a system that is exactly the same as Alternative Vote, but used in multi member constituencies. This system is used in a large number of countries worldwide, including some member states of the European Union. NO other European Union member state uses First Past the Post.

2: AV is not as proportionate as you think.

Alternative Vote does not claim to be a proportional voting system. But neither is First Past the Post, so in trying to establish which of these two voting systems is better - there is no point entertaining any ideas of proportionality.

Secondly, you raise the fear of endless coalition governments and put forward the idea that the 3rd party - the Liberal Democrats would always have the power to choose governments. This is actually what has just happened under First Past the Post. In truth, this fear of coalitions is unfounded and irrational. Many of our European neighbours 'endure' coalitions through most governments, and it becomes the political way. There is nothing to be afraid of. Examples of countries where successful coalitions dominate include much of Scandinavia (take a look at Norway, Finland etc)

While you raise the issue of the results made by Alternative Vote as being 'undemocratic' you fail to defend First Past the Post itself as being 'democratic'. I would argue that if we had a democracy scale in front of us, Alternative Vote would far be considered 'more democratic' than First Past the Post. The fact of the matter is, that First Past the Post leads to minority rule. As I stated in my first posted argument, only on government in the last 100 years (in 1931) enjoyed an actual 'majority' ie. more than 50% of the vote. It is surely impossible to defend minority rule as being 'democratic' in nature.

If we are comparing First Past the Post and Alternative Vote on a democratic level, I refer you to this study carried out recently at the London School of Economics:

Here, 22 voting theory experts from around the world compared voting systems to see which one was most fitting for UK democracy. Every single one of them rejected First Past the Post. 10 of them chose the Alternative Vote. (the other 12 chose Approval Voting, but we are not debating that here).

3. Changing to AV would be costly.

This is a lie (though it is not your lie). Firstly, you have included in your argument the sum of £91 million for the cost of the referendum. This figure is completely irrelevant seeming as this money has now been spent whether or not we implement AV.

You go on to quote a figure of £130 million to be spent on electronic counting machines to be used with the new system. This is false. Electronic counting machines are unnecessary, and the Electoral Commission has already stated that they would be unnecessary. In Australia (where they use AV) they continue to count by hand, and do not use electronic counting at all.

That cuts the cost from £250 million to £26 million, to be spent on informing the public on how Alternative Voting works. This is an absolutely minuscule figure in the grand scheme of things, especially when you consider that it is to enhance the quality of our democracy. Who can put a price tag on democracy?

4. AV is unfair.

You use an example how someone who finishes first in the original count - ie, someone who wins under First Past the Post, can go on to lose to someone originally placed 3rd or 4th.

Again, in Australia, where they use the system, only in less than 5% of cases do those who are placed 1st after the first round of counting, do those candidates fail to go on to win.

First Past the Post is the system that is unfair.

Here is (fake) example:

  • Conservatives: 35%
  • Labour: 33%
  • Liberal Democrats: 24%
  • Green Party - 8%
Ideologically, 65% of the voters above voted for a party either considered Liberal or Progressive. The majority (though not all, I concede) of these voters would be more likely to want a Progressive, or Liberal candidate & government, than a Conservative, right-wing one.

Under AV, with the Greens eliminated a second round of voting might look like this:

  • Conservatives 36%
  • Labour 37%
  • Liberal Democrats 27%

Still no winner, as no candidate has achieved 50% of the voter. Liberal Democrats are now eliminated and their votes redistributed.

  • Conservatives 43%
  • Labour 57%

++++LABOUR WIN++++

Not only do we now have a winner, but we have a winner that over 50% of the electorate have specified a preference for. Over 50%of the population said they would prefer Labour to the Conservatives, and that's what we have. This is MAJORITY RULE.

This is fair, and democratic. The only way it could be improved is if it was a proportional system. But neither is First Past the Post, so FPTP cannot criticise AV in this respect.

First Past the Post would have simply produced a winner who only managed to achieve 35% of the popular vote, and 43% preferential overall. This candidate did not have broad appeal. Under First Past the Post he/she (not to be sexist) could potentially have contually been re-elected by a minority, despite a majority preferring someone else.

I ask my debate partner the following:

How can First Past the Post be defended as being democratic when it has been shown to produce minority rule 99% of the time.

What price would be acceptable to pay for improving the quality of democracy in the country?

What he fears from a coalition government, when they work so successfully in many other developed countries?



Thanks to Pro for posting such an impressive round - I've learned a lot already! I will address the points raised in the same manner.

1: AV is complicated.

Pro argues that the Alternative vote is not at all complicated and all people need to do is understand that they are ranking candidates in order of preference. He brings up the analogy of a child ranking chocolate bars in order of preference. However, ironically, this analogy represents is a highly simplified version of the concept of AV but not actual AV. A more accurate analogy would be:

1. A classroom of children are asked to rank chocolate bars in order of preference; 1 for their first preference, 2 for their next and so on. (they may not be familiar with all the chocolate bars so choose the bars randomly after the first or second one)

2. The votes are counted.

3. If one chocolate bar does not receive over 50% of the vote, the chocolate bar with the least number of votes is eliminated and its voter's second preferences (only theirs!) are counted and redistributed amongst the other chocolate bars.

4. If still no chocolate bar has reached over 50%, the chocolate bar with the next fewest votes is eliminated and it's voters highest preference chocolate bar still remaining is added to the pile, and so on in that fashion.

5. This process is repeated until a candidate has over 50%.

As opposed to First Pass the Post which is:

1. The children vote for their favourite chocolate bar.

2. Their votes are counted.

3. The chocolate bar with the highest number of votes wins.

I don't think it's possible to say with a straight face that people won't be turned off by the complicated system of AV. My opponent himself had to resort to a simplified analogy involving only three candidates to explain AV!

Pro has not responded to the point that in Australia where AV is used voter turnouts are so low they have had to introduce compulsory voting. Perhaps he thinks it is coincidence that the only major nation to use AV at the federal level also has to force its people to vote.

I concede that some multi-member constituencies use STV (almost the same as AV - it calculates the threshold needed to win in an election differently) - however, they are still a tiny minority and we are talking about a voting system used for national legislature in any case.

2: AV & proportionality

The point about proportionality was in response to Pro's argument that FPTP allows parties into power with minority support. This is true - however, AV which would give more seats to the Liberal Democrats would make coalition governments more common and coalition governments are undemocratic and unfair for a number of reasons:

1. A party with minority support much smaller than that of a government elected under FPTP can have a disproportionate amount of power under a coalition government - as pointed out, only 1 in 5 voters voted for the liberal democrats yet they are the lesser half of the government in charge of the country!

2. The ability to select a prime minister actually switches from the British people to the third most popular party (the Liberal Democrats) under a coalition government because they choose who gets into power by forming a coalition.

3. Party accountability is decreased because they can go back on their campaign promises to broker an agreement for a coalition government. Frankly, many people in this country don't trust their politicians; should we really give them an excuse to ignore their pledges like the Liberal Democrats have done with student fees?

Pro brings up the point that a coalition government just formed under FPTP - this is true, but coalition governments are the exception under FPTP and would become more common under AV because it would weaken the two main parties and strengthen the third.

For these reasons, AV actually gives more power to a minority party than FPTP and should be rejected on that basis, not accepted. At least FPTP gives power to the largest minority; AV gives disproportionate power to a minor minority party.

Pro's source is misleading. From the text: “Previous discussion had shown that different voting rules might be advisable under different circumstances, so that a more concrete problem than “What is the best voting rule” should be tackled. The precise question for the vote was: What is the best voting rule for your town to use to elect the mayor?”

So in other words, the experts had already explained that different electoral systems are suitable for different types of governance, then said that they think in mayoral elections AV is suitable (though more preferred Approval voting with 15 to AV's 10). Even if we were to accept this appeal to authority from a small number of experts, it does not support AV in national elections.

3: Changing to AV would be costly

I concede the point - I should check my sources more carefully! (though, I'm not sure why my Pro thinks it is lie from the No Campaign rather than a mistake - can he prove it?) Nonetheless, this point still serves as a tiebreaker. If neither system is to be preferred over the other, there is no point spending £26 million on the change.

4: AV is unfair

Even if the number of people who go on to win despite being second or third in the initial count is as small as 5% (though that wouldn't necessarily be the case), that would still be unfair because they are winning using the secondary preferences of the voters of only one candidate (the least popular one). Not everyone's second preferences are counted - as Winston Churchill once said "The decision is to be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates". [1]

The 50% figure for AV is also misleading - this does not mean over 50% of people voted for a particular candidate, but that over 50% of preferences which are unfairly skewed to some people - preferences not necessarily considered since they are less than the first preference - favour a particular party. In addition, as previously noted AV leads to more coalition governments which are unfair and undemocratic.

Question Answers:

1a. First Pass the Post is imperfect. However, it generally produces decisive single party governments - even if those governments are minority. AV on the other hand produces more coalition governments which are even worse for minority rule since they give kingmaker status to a party supported by even less people. If it is undemocratic, AV is worse.

2a. £26 million would probably be fine. However, this assumes AV will improve the quality of democracy - which is the whole point of the debate and cannot be assumed.

3a. I don't know how to answer this without knowing what Pro means by 'successful' - They might work in the sense that they provide adequate governance, but they are not successful in that no-one actually voted for a combination government - and for other reasons, coalition governments are unfair and reduce accountability.

Questions for opponent:

1. Based on the drop in voter turnouts in Austrailia after AV was introduced (to the point where they had to introduce compulsory voting) isn't it reasonable to believe that voter turnouts would drop significantly in Britain also?

2. Isn't it hypocritical to argue that FPTP results in minority rule when AV would lead to more coalition governments that give parties with even less support 'kingmaker' status as well as disproportionate political influence?

3. You argue that AV will lead to politicians being forced to appeal to a broader section of society. However, won't this lead to supporters of extremist parties like the BNP being given legitimacy because politicians will have to appeal to such people's second preferences?

Debate Round No. 2


Thanks very much for your well thought round. Firstly I will deal with the questions you rasied:

1. Based on the drop in voter turnouts in Austrailia after AV was introduced (to the point where they had to introduce compulsory voting) isn't it reasonable to believe that voter turnouts would drop significantly in Britain also?
To keep my answer simple, no it is not reasonable. You are assuming that the reason for low voter turnout in Australia is based on the complexity of the voting system (as you outlined above in your argument). On this point, you must concede that Single Tranferable Vote (STV) (which is exactly the same system but in multi-member consituencies) is just as 'complex'. This is used a large number of countries, some of which have some of the highest voter turn-outs in the world. One specific example I am aware of is Malta (as I am part Maltese). In Malta, all our elections are run under STV and we have one of the highest voter turn outs in Europe.

Voter turn-out under First Past the Post is already incredibly low. The public disenchanted with politics. I put to you that AV would reinvigorate politics, and make thousands more people feel that their votes may make a difference.

2. Isn't it hypocritical to argue that FPTP results in minority rule when AV would lead to more coalition governments that give parties with even less support 'kingmaker' status as well as disproportionate political influence?

No. I firmly believe it is no hypocritical. If you look at our system from a basic point of view there is a reason the Liberal Democrats would be the natural 'king makers'. They are the most centrist party and are the only party that lie somewhere between Labour and the Conservatives.

First Past the Post actually leads to massive continuous swings from left to right and back again in the political spectrum. Now we are pursuing one economic policy, with a swing to the left in 4 years everything could be reversed. That causes instability. Coalition governments - and particularly a coalition with a centrist party - dampen down these effects of huge swings. Politicians have to learn to work together rather than merely take the opposing viewpoint for the sake of it. Indeed, it doesn't always work - and you could very easily argue that the current coalition is failing in some respects. However I would remind you that this was not a planned coalition. Under AV, all parties would have to learn to be more prepared. They would have to learn to accomodate and represent a broader range of peoples.

Whether or not a 3rd party is 'kingmaker', the end result will be a government that has the support of over 50% of the population - something FPTP can hardly ever produce. This is more democratic. More people will be represented.

3. You argue that AV will lead to politicians being forced to appeal to a broader section of society. However, won't this lead to supporters of extremist parties like the BNP being given legitimacy because politicians will have to appeal to such people's second preferences?

No. While you see the phenomena which you have described above in countries like France where the Front National (far-right party) garner over 10% of the vote in national elections, the BNP are a) very small in the UK and b) would actually lose out massively under AV. This is why the BNP are campaigning for a 'no' vote.

While you make a semi-valid point that politicians will have to reach out to a broader range of people, you forget that for a politician to adopt some of the BNPs views in order to gain their second preferences would very often have a counter-effect. By taking on the BNPs views they could alienate either their own voters, or other more moderate voters from choosing them as a '2nd preference'.

In addition to this, the BNP have far more chance of success in their own right under First Past the Post. Under FPTP they only need to aim at as low as 25% in some consituencies in order to get into parliament. Under AV they would be looking at the insurmountable target of 50%. While they have never had an elected MP so far, with increasing support in recent years, there is a real possibility under FPTP that in the not too distant future they might succeed. This of course is speculation, but speculation with a very valid basis.

Is it complicated?

Just to finish of my round here, you raised the point that the child with the chocolate bar is a highly simplified analogy.

But its not really. With First Past the Post the public actually have to think more. They have to think about how they should tactically vote. If the person they really want to win has no chance of winning, then they have to vote for someone else to ensure the least favourite candidate doesn't get in. That is complicated.

But AV makes it simple. You just list your preferences, and then the count votes tactically for you automatically. All you need to know is to list your preferences 1-however many.

And its not forced either. If you want, you CAN just vote for 1 candidate, as you would under FPTP. Listing preferences is just a choice. Thats all there is to understand.

I look forward to your closing statement.



Well, I'm not entirely sure what the structure of this round will be, but I will respond to Pro's answers and the point about complexity as well as summarising my main argument so far. On a side note, the text formatting tool seems to have changed so I don't know how this round will turn out. :/

Responses to opponent's answers

1: It seems reasonable to point out that voter turnout in Australia only dropped once (a form of) AV was introduced. In 1917, the last year FPTP was used, voter turnout was 77.7% after it was changed, it dropped to 77.3% then more significantly to 58% in 1922. We can then see a huge rise as people are forced to vote by law [1]. That Malta has an impressively high voter turnout rate is a fair point, but still could be in spite of STV - Malta has a very volatile political system dominated by only two parties where a small number of votes can swing to result. Whereas no link can be reliably established between STV and Maltese turnouts, it can in Australia because turnout only dropped after AV was introduced.

2: This is really the main argument against AV and I don't think Pro has properly addressed it. He has not addressed the point that under coalition governments parties with even smaller voter support have a disproportionately large amount of political power in government - as the Liberal Democrats do now, or that coalition governments reduce accountability. He argues that the Liberal Democrats are the natural 'kingmakers'. But surely, the British people are the natural kingmakers? Surely it should be up to the populace to decide which leader to elect as prime minister, not the Liberal Democrats? Besides, it's my understanding that on the political spectrum the Liberal Democrats are centre to centre-left so it's not entirely obvious that they lie directly between Labour and the Conservatives - and I'm not sure why that would mean they should have the power to be kingmakers instead of the British public in any case.

Pro says changes in party causes economic instability under FPTP. Well, as far as I can tell this is speculation on his part - and in any case, there are downsides to preventing significant changes in economic policy with coalition governments. If one party continuously pursues an unwise economic policy (as I suspect Labour had been before their defeat) then it becomes difficult to reverse the mistakes of the previous government, for example a party that has unwisely increased debt to unsustainable levels or cut spending more than necessary. It becomes difficult to reverse such mistakes.

He also says that the problems of a coalition government would be reduced under AV because governments could plan for them - however, this does not address the problems inherent under a coalition government that cannot be overcome by planning, that have already be pointed out.

Again, I think it is somewhat misleading to say that a government in power will have over 50% support - support does not equate to 'votes' but instead partially to secondary preferences of people who voted for the least popular candidates - candidates that include extremist parties. The picture simply isn't as democratic or fair as it's made out to be. In addition, if a coalition government is formed, have people really voted for that? People might have expressed a preference for the individual parties making up a coalition, but not for the coalition itself. So in a sense, it is less democratic because no-one actually voted for a coalition government: yet that's what the country gets.

3: It's true that the BNP is small relative to the Front National - however, it is still significant (two of its candidates were elected to the European Parliament in 2009 with nearly a million votes). Pro brings up the valid point that over pandering to supporters of the BNP (for example, there are other extremist parties) could alienate moderate supporters. However, he still has to accept that such people, who are a very significant proportion of some constituencies, would represent a resource that some unscrupulous politicians might try to draw on. In addition, people might well be more likely to vote for an extremist party like the BNP since their vote will not be wasted under AV considering secondary preferences - which will count more for supporters of extremist parties because those candidates are the ones most likely to be eliminated.

He argues that the BNP is much less likely to be elected under AV because they need to gain 50% - however, the two figures 25% and 50% are not comparable in this case because the 50% includes secondary preferences which are not included in the 25% figure - it is not unreasonable to suppose that people will choose the BNP as their secondary preference: either because they believe some of its propaganda or out of 'protest' votes against the current establishment.

AV & complication: Pro brings up the point of 'tactical' voting to argue that FPTP can also be complicated. This rests on the assumption that AV will eliminate tactical voting - a notion that I think is false. As explained here [2] tactical voting is altered but not eliminated under AV; it actually just makes it more complicated (and thus totally defeats Pro's point). The goal of tactical voting under AV would be to ensure that the opposing party with the most secondary preferences for your party would come last so more of their votes would transfer to your party. Incidentally, Australian parties actually issue voting cards [3] telling their supporters how to list their preferences to maximise their chances in that particular constituency.

I look forward to Pro's last round. :)

Debate Round No. 3


Firstly, many thanks for an interesting debate and providing some excellent counter-arguments.

You cite a drop in turn-out in Australia once AV was introduced after the last FPTP election in 1917.
Well let me say this

1) The 1917 election under FPTP was a war-time election. Issues such as conscription, an war related economic chaos were on the cards. 1917 was always going to see a huge turn-out. The following AV elections were not during a time of war.

2) You will actually find that the drop in turn-out was across the board. This included constituencies where there were only two candidates running and therefore despite it officially being AV, as they had only two candidates to choose between, was basically a FPTP election in some areas. But the reduction in turnout was same.

I therefore fully contest your claims that AV would induce reduced turn-out. In fact, I think it would make people who are currently apathetic more inclined to vote - many people do not see how their vote can make a difference and rightly so given that UK elections are decided in only a handful of constituencies.

The Maltese system being unique
You highlight here something which is very true. The Maltese system is very different, but only as different as the 1917-1922 elections you have cited as prooving AV to reduce voter turn-out. We must therefore agree that both comparisons do nothing to proove effects on voter turn-out in the UK.

Under coalition governments parties with even smaller voter support have a disproportionately large amount of political power
The thing that undermines your argument here, is that you are attacking the AV system by labelling it as producing basically what you are describing as a minority government, or one that is formed from minority pressure.

The truth of the matter is, that under First Past the Post the minority can not only be the 'kingmaker', but the winners of the election outright themselves! You can easily have a party in sole power with only 30% support. With 7/10 of ten people against them, how can this possibly be defended as being the democratic solution?

You have a fear of coalitions, but you must realise that coalitions are the norm in so many countries - so many successful countries, and smaller parties always have bargaining power. That is the nature of a coalition. This bargaining power does not render coalitions undemocratic, but merely makes the main party take other considerations on board, so the resulting government represents a broader range of the public spectrum.

Your fears of coalitions are simply unfounded, given that they have been proven to work in so many other countries.

You also again refer to the 2nd preferences of people that voted for 'extremist parties'. Firstly for a candidate to win, just with added 2nd preferences from extremist voters, they would most likely have to be very very near the 50% mark already. Secondly, everyones vote is equal - people who vote for extremist parties should be counted just as much as the next person. If you think that somehow their vote counts more, then you have misunderstood the basis of AV.

People might be more likely to vote for an extremist party since their vte will not be wasted under AV
If people want to vote for extremist parties, that is there democratic right and choice. Who are we to tell them who to vote for? This is much the same argument used against PR - that it would allow the BNP into parliament. Well so what? If thats what people have voted for, then they should be represented. We should provide political arguments against them this way rather than simply resorting to excluding them through making our whole system undemocratic.

AV & Complication
Here, my opponent spouts nonsense about 'tactical voting' under AV. There is no way you can ensure an opposing party comes last on the first count, so this argument is a complete untruth. If you've voted for a party that has a chance to go on and win, then your second preference will never be counted. So its near impossible to vote tactically.

Just to re-iterate, if your first choice goes on to win - then your second choice will never be counted. And if your first choice is eliminated, then they've already lost out anyway!


Alternative Vote produces candidates who receive over 50% preferential support from the population. Thats to say more people would like this candidate over any other candidate. That is democracy. Democracy is not minority rule, as under First Past the Post - where a candidate can be kept in power by a minority of the electorate (say 30% for example).

While Alternative Vote is not a perfect voting system, and my opponent has raised some good arguments, it is fundamentally more fair than First Past the Post. It is not expensive, it is not complicated and there is little to no viable proof that it will reduce voter turn-out.

If you have an irrational fear of coalition then you may have a valid personal problem with Alternative Vote. But given that in many (if not post) European countries (whose political systems are most similar to ours) coalitions are common if not the norm, this is simply unfounded. Politicians understandably do not like it, as it makes things harder for them. But this is a good thing and increased scrutiny and negotiatiation can only strengthen our democracy.

Much of the anti-AV argument is based on these kind of irrational fears.

I would like to concude that whatever your fears of coalition, and issues with AV complexity, the defense of First Past the Post as a democratic system is near impossible. Minority rule cannot be defended in 2011. FPTP is an archaic and old system that would best be left in the past.

Many thanks for a great debate.



Thanks for a very interesting debate - I learned a lot!

Since the arguments and counter-arguments have become somewhat disorganised, I will summarise the arguments used by both sides and come to a conclusion. Pro argued:

1. First pass the post allows minority governments which are undemocratic.
2. MPs don't need to appeal to a broad spectrum of people under FPTP.
3. Too many votes are wasted under FPTP - and this causes apathy amongst voters.
4. AV produces candidates who better represent their constituents.

Con argued:

1. AV is significantly more complicated than FPTP which could translate to lower turnouts.
2. AV leads to more coalition governments - which are undemocratic, produce disproportionate political power and reduce accountability.
3. AV is costly.
4. AV allows secondary preferences of voters to determine results which is unfair.

Note that Con would not have to prove the FPTP is superior to AV - the resolution was that Britain should change to AV and there is obviously no point doing so if AV is just as bad.

(3.) Was pretty much dropped when Pro pointed out there were no plans for new voting machines - although there is no point spending 26 million if AV is not shown to be better.

I will respond, taking into account the previous rounds to each argument raised by Pro and argue my own.

Response to Pro's arguments

1. Even if FPTP produces minority governments, they are still the minority governments with the most support of the people. It is not the fault of the voting system that the UK has three substantial main parties which split the votes, forcing a minority government. The alternative is AV which would produce more coalition governments (that I will elaborate on later). Saying single party governments under AV would have over 50% support is misleading, since some of the 'support' comes in the form of secondary preferences which are only taken from the voters who support minority parties while the secondary preferences of majority parties are usually ignored.

2. This is true, and I will concede a point partially in favour of AV. However, it still has the problem of possibly legitimising voters of extremist parties. It is also a speculative point not really based on any hard evidence.

3. It's true that votes are wasted under FPTP; but is AV any better? AV counts 'preferences' instead, but it does not count preferences equally - only people who vote for parties that are eliminated have their secondary preferences counted, so it is unequal - in other words, people who vote for extremist parties often have their preferences counted multiple times.

4. This assumes that a large amount of people will vote, which has been challenged on the basis of AV's complexity. In addition, this comes at the price of more coalition governments, which are even worse for representation for a number of reasons which will be elaborated on once again.

Defense of my own arguments:

1. Pro argued with an analogy using ice-cream to try and show that AV wasn't complicated, but I pointed out that that analogy doesn't fully capture the complexity of AV, and responded with my own analogy showing how simple FPTP is in comparison. I pointed out that Australia has had to introduce compulsory voting because of low turn outs and it is one of the few countries that uses AV at a national level; in addition, I pointed out that the drop in turn outs and compulsory voting were introduced the same time as AV. Pro argued that this was to do with the historical context and that AV had nothing to do with it - I find it at the very least highly suspicious that voter turnouts dropped at the same time, but readers of the debate will have to decide for themselves.

2. This is the meat of my argument - AV would increase the number of coalition governments by increasing the power of the Liberal Democrats and correspondingly decreasing the power of the two main parties. I gave three reasons why coalition governments are bad;

a. Under a coalition government an even smaller minority government than that elected under FPTP - a minority government that not only isn't the largest minority, but is the third largest, is allowed to shape UK politics as part of the government. The Lib Dems have a hugely disproportionate amount of power compared to the number of votes they received. This at the very least counters the argument that under FPTP there is minority rule - the problem is even worse under AV.

b. The power to elect a prime minister falls in the hands of the third party, rather than the people. Even if they are the 'natural' kingmakers, which seems like a fairly odd argument, surely the kingmaker should be the British people.

c. Party accountability is decreased because parties can ignore their campaign promises in the interest of brokering a coalition deal.

Pro has responded in various ways, but I don't think any of his criticisms succeed - he argued that coalition governments can happen under FPTP, but even so they are the exception and would be increased under AV. He argued that some countries get along fine with coalition governments, which doesn't really address the points - those governments have the problems I outlined. Pro points out that minority governments are not just kingmakers, but the actual governments themselves - but the point was that the governments that wield disproportionate power have less support than those governments. The governments are the largest minority, unlike a coalition government. I pointed out that no-one actually votes for a coalition government so countries that receive a coalition government don't get what anyone wants - I don't think Pro responded to this point. Pro also never really responded to point 3, that party accountability is decreased.

I think these criticisms in themselves show AV to have serious problems - problems that render it as bad or worse than FPTP and therefore it is not worth the money converting.

Finally, complexity. I probably didn't do a good job explaining myself here - tactical voting is still possible under AV, it's just more complicated because the system is more complicated. Take a hypothetical constituency [1] of 60,000 people in which Labour is supported by 25,000, conservatives by 20,000 and Lib Dems by 15,000. Conservative's and Labour's secondary preferences will probably favour Lib Dems, while Lib Dems will be split more evenly. If a Conservative candidate wants Labour to lose, it is in his favour to vote for the Lib Dems. Why? Because If the Conservatives come third, their secondary preferences will mostly default to the Lib Dems, pushing them ahead of Labour to win.

Tactical voting is still possible under AV; it's just more complicated, which adds to the argument that AV's complexity could put people off, and ends the argument that under AV tactical voting would be eliminated because people would not have to vote tactically.

I don't deny that FPTP has problems - significant problems, even. But I think AV makes many of those problems even worse and the benefits are negligible. AV is overly complicated, makes coalition governments more likely which are unfair, reduce accountability and are undemocratic.

Thanks for the great debate!

[1] (page 10)

Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Vote AV in to annoy David Cameron. :)
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
Great debate, I can't decide a winner, but I can't vote on this site anyway.

However, I can vote in the AV referendum, but I'm actually still not sure which way to cast my vote.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Incidentally, if I could vote, I would vote for Pro. Congratulations, this was a really interesting debate. :)
Posted by andyh 5 years ago
nice round :)
i wrote 'i look forward to your closing statement' accidentally. forget that :)
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Wow, that's a really impressive round. I feel like I'm punching way above my weight; I wish this site had more people like you!
Posted by andyh 5 years ago
Personally I'd be in favour of AV+, which would include a degree of proportionality. However, AV is the best compromise we can expect to acheive in the near future.

I have reduced the amount of rounds to 4 - let me know if thats better for you Kinesis.

Posted by unitedandy 5 years ago
Even though I will be voting for AV, it's still pretty crap. Many people (such as myself) would not be affected at all by the change to the voting system, and the fact that Caroline Lucas had a bill in parliament which would have included PR in the referendum, but got virtually no support tells me that those who favour AV in the House of Commons do so as part of an exercise in expediency, not principle.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
I want to take this because I don't want you to get a poor opponent, but I don't know if I have the time to go for five rounds. :/
Posted by Lionheart 5 years ago
I think the alternative voting method is very intelligent and efficient. Bravo. As it stands, you will get my vote at the end of this debate.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by BlackVoid 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I learned a lot here too. I've never even heard of AV, but pro literally convinced me that its the best system. He clearly knew what he was talking about and had general control of the round. He even got Con, who still did well, to concede a point. I also buy the chocolate bar analogy; con never really responded to how FTPP encourages tactical voting rather than fair voting.
Vote Placed by Brenavia 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I liked Pro's argumets, analogies, and examples. They help explain the concept, and sure hlped me.
Vote Placed by Lionheart 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Both sides put up good points, but I agree with Pro in this debate.