Back in December, 2007, I asked if the UK Green Party could win a seat in the next House of Commons election; the question produced an interesting multi-national discussion of Green politics that is well worth reading again.
Now that an actual election campaign is underway in the UK, with the likely polling date 6 May, it looks like the answer to the question just might be YES!
A few days ago The Guardian discussed the prospects of the Green candidate in Brighton Pavilion constituency, Caroline Lucas (currently a Green Member of the European Parliament from the regional PR district that includes Brighton in EP elections).
Given that this UK election campaign is also taking place within the context of a debate over a potential future referendum on electoral reform, it is worth asking whether the Greens’ chances of winning even one seat are better with the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system than with the proposed alternative vote (AV). A recent poll by ICM Research and touted on Lucas’s website, puts the Brighton Pavilion candidates of the various parties with the following vote percentages:
While the “instant runoff” procedure of AV normally can be expected to make the final count come down to the top-two candidates, a field such as this is precisely the sort of contest in which AV might favor the third-placed candidate. If LibDem voters are more likely to give their second-preference votes to a third-running Labour candidate than to either of the top two, the sequential-elimination and transfer procedure of AV could result in a final round of counting between Green and Labour. Then Conservative preferences come in to play, and we are down to the question of whether they tend more strongly to lean towards “anybody but Labour” or towards “safe establishment over new politics.”
In any case, it has never been clear to me that parties like the Greens should prefer AV (or IRV as it is often called in the USA) over FPTP. Obviously, any form of proportional representation is superior to either single-seat system.