Does the proposed Alternative Vote matter to Jews? The two camps put their case

March 24, 2011
There’s a simple equation which applies to extreme-right groups

There’s a simple equation which applies to extreme-right groups

Yes: Fabian Hamilton, MP

We know that British Jews have always been at the forefront of the battle against extremist parties such as the BNP. This is precisely why we should be voting Yes in May's referendum on the Alternative Vote.

The BNP want you to vote No. The current system works for them and they don't want it changed. That is because the current system encourages parties to ignore anyone who isn't a swing voter in a swing seat. That's the gap the BNP always exploit.

We need to change the way our politics works. We need a voting system that properly reflects what individual voters really think.

Instead of just putting an X on the ballot paper we should be able to rank the candidates in order of preference and make sure the whole community gets a say in who is their MP.

Under AV, all parties would have to have a broader appeal to aim for 50 per cent support. When you go for an interview you need to persuade the majority on the panel to give you the job; so it's only right that this same logic applies to MPs.

Under AV the BNP would lose out because they wouldn't get any transfers. They would be exposed as the extremist party they are. Under the current system, they win seats on local councils and use those seats as their base. "AV is the best system to keep the BNP at bay" says YouGov pollster, Peter Kellner.

It's about your rights and your voice. And it's about making our voting system fit for purpose in the 21st century.

And who else is campaigning for 'No'? The Tories, of course. Throughout their history they have always blocked any move to give the people of this country more of a say in how it is run.

Under AV, MPs elected to Westminster will have to aim to get at least half of the voters in their constituencies to back them. The Tories don't want that because they know that they won't be able to win elections with a fraction of the vote, the way they did in the 1980s.

More important is the need to renew our democracy: to give the British public a bigger voice in how our country is run.

The BNP are calling on their supporters to vote No. Britain's Jewish community shouldn't join them.

Vote for change. Vote for a stronger democracy. Vote Yes with me in the referendum

No: Ex-MP Jane Kennedy

On May 5 you will be asked whether you want to keep the current voting system, or switch to the Alternative Vote (AV). A very serious question for the Jewish community arises: will any new system help or hinder the influence of extremist parties such as the BNP and Respect?

Our current voting system is clear, decisive and effective: the candidate who gets the most votes wins in each constituency. It is a combination of our election system and the great good sense of British voters that has prevented the BNP from winning seats in our parliament.

AV is an unpredictable and unfair system. People are asked to rank candidates in order of preference. When the votes are counted, if the person coming first doesn't have 50 per cent, the votes of the lowest-ranked candidates are recycled until someone gets over the winning margin.

It allows people who vote, for example, for Respect or the BNP to have their votes counted several times, while those voting for mainstream parties have their vote counted just once.

It also means that the candidate finishing first doesn't necessarily win, and is instead overtaken by the second or third candidate as the preferences of BNP voters, for example, push them into first place.

Consequently, the influence of these extremist, unpopular parties on British politics would grow, as some of the main parties would trade policies with them to secure second place in the ranking of their voters.

So why are we being asked to vote for AV? The answer is that it will benefit the Liberal Democrats. AV will lead to more hung parliaments and secret political deals that voters have no say over. After every election the LibDems would be able to pick and choose who will form the government.

As well as being fundamentally unfair - a politician's fix - with the potential for extremists to gain greater legitimacy, AV is also a more expensive voting system.

Its complexity will require councils to purchase vote counting machines, the cost of which will inevitably fall on you, the taxpayer. The referendum alone will cost over £90 million; we estimate that voting machines will cost over £120 million, and more will be spent on voter education, additional polling stations and other associated costs, totalling around £250 million.

It may not seem like it now, but the referendum this May could have a big impact on the Jewish community, reversing years of good work to minimise the influence of extremists in British politics.

Last updated: 12:57pm, March 24 2011