The post outlining the reasons for my decision to vote no to AV attracted quite a few comments and kicked off a debate on my website which was interesting and generally better informed than a lot of the official campaigning.
I believe that AV is a subject on which honest people can honestly disagree. To those AV supporters who accused me of being dishonest, stupid and/or motivated purely by self or party interest in my reasoning I just want to say that that is exactly the kind of mud-slinging I thought AV was supposed to do away with.
I do want to address a few of the genuine comments made.
Firstly I know I missed out many points. I was not trying to write a comprehensive treatise on all the advantages and disadvantages associated with FPTP and AV because that’s not my job. My job is to represent the people of Newcastle Central. I have had five emails on the subject and it has come up once on the doorstep. So I don’t think they want me to be spending all my time on this.
Many people made good points which I had missed out. But the central driver behind my decision is the impact AV will have on voter engagement. Some thought that I should be more concerned with fairness. But both AV and FPTP have elements of unfairness and as I explained I do not believe AV is significantly fairer than FPTP.
Some made the argument that turnout in Newcastle Central was only 56% because it was considered a safe seat and, by making it less safe, AV would encourage more people to vote.
If this were the case than it would strongly influence me. But the evidence suggests otherwise. Newcastle Central was not a safe seat a year ago, a poll had the Lib Dems winning it: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/north-east-news/evening-chronicle-news/2010/04/27/poll-predicts-lib-dems-will-win-newcastle-72703-26325635/
In the election the Newcastle Central ward with the highest turnout was West Gosforth at 74.5%. The ward with the lowest turnout was Elswick with 47.8%. Elswick is a relatively safe Labour ward, West Gosforth a relatively safe Lib Dem ward. The differences between the two wards are about levels of deprivation, resident turnover, educational attainment etc. These and other factors seem more likely to influence turnout, in Newcastle at least.
I do hope one day to vote for election reform which engages more people in the democratic process and helps make MPs more truly accountable.
But AV is not it, and voting for AV now will make it less likely that we take the time to address the fundamental flaws in our democracy.