The AV referendum on 5 May will not tackle the accountability of MPs, their inflated incomes or the other many flaws of Britain’s bourgeois democracy.
The choice is between the current first past the post (FPTP) system or an AV system that arbitrarily manufactures an apparent majority for every MP, as a paltry means of shoring up their legitimacy.
AV is not proportional representation, because it retains the constituency link. AV might be more proportional in some elections, but it could be perversely disproportional in others. In 2005, New Labour had a 66-seat majority with 35% of the vote; under AV it would have had a 108-seat majority.
AV conflates the distinction between support and acquiescence. Democracy is scarcely improved by an MP getting 50.1% after third preferences than one elected on 49% under FPTP. Supporters of AV reduce democracy to a mangled form of aggregation.
AV does not help much with standing independent working class candidates. It assumes candidates are proximate substitutes, whereas from a class perspective, we vote for either socialist/labour movement candidates or not at all.
AV is likely to boost the number of seats won by the Lib-Dems, allowing them to arbitrate on who forms the government. Given their current role it is entirely right that many workers will see the referendum as an opportunity to chastise Clegg. We should advocate a vote “No” in the AV referendum and fight for authentically democratic mechanisms to hold the rascals to account.
I favour a critical vote in favour of AV, but not so much for the minor democratic gain I believe it would be.
The problem is the massive reduction in parliamentary seats being pushed through at the same time. With FPTP and the reduction in the number of seats, the Tories would have an in-built majority. This would be tempered by AV.
I don’t want to side with the rotten bloc of No Vote reactionaries who oppose in principle all democratic changes.
There’s a tactical argument to be had about whether we should call for a “critical yes” vote in order to be part of the debate, rather than be drowned out by the Tories and reactionary left by being in the no camp.
The minimum line should be that we’d call for abstention as we would have done in a referendum on the Euro.