A column in The Independent by John Curtice (Professor of Politics at Strathclyde) suggests that the UK Conservative Party has good reason to oppose the adoption of the Alternative Vote (AV). At every election in the past three decades, save one, the Conservatives would have won fewer seats under AV than they did under First Past the Post (FPTP). The conclusion is based on analysis of polls from these past elections that asked voters who their second choice would have been.
While the Liberal Democrats would have gained seats in most elections, they would not have gained enough in any election to result in neither big party holding a majority in parliament. Only 2010 would have been a no-majority situation, just as it was under FPTP in the election that produced the current Conservative-LibDem coalition.
While the government is going ahead with the referendum on AV for May of this year, as part of its coalition agreement, the two parties are opposing each other on the referendum question.
There is, of course, always the chance that changed voting patterns resulting from the very existence of the coalition itself could make Conservatives a beneficiary of AV in future elections–a possibility not addressed by Curtice’s study. There have been indications recently that at least some Conservatives were warming to AV. Yet based on past experience, Conservatives and AV do not mix.
Curtice’s columns provides some breakdowns of the voting patterns and likely effect at each of the elections analyzed.
There is also a companion article in The Independent on this theme.