James Forsyth

AV, what is a Conservative to do?

AV, what is a Conservative to do?
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Matthew Parris and Charles Moore are the two of the most eloquent exponents of conservatism. But they represent different strands of conservative thought as their views on AV demonstrate.

Matthew argues in his column in The Times today that the Conservative party should let AV pass if that is what it takes to keep the Lib Dems happy. He thinks that the Lib Dems are not only needed to make the Coalition work but that their presence is, in itself, a good thing. As he writes, ‘Lib Dems bring to government a distinct and healthy slant on politics. There is a reactionary component in the Tory make-up; I often share it, but it must always be kept in check.’

Charles, by contrast, remains a principled opponent of AV. He warns that ‘the thing which AV is most against is change. It immobilises politics. It appeals to elites because it takes the final decision about the forming of a government out the hands of electors and transfers it to politicians.’ Charles’ dislike of AV is increased by the fact that an electoral system where second preference votes are crucial is one that favours lowest common denominator candidates.

Between now and May, British Conservatives are going to think seriously about electoral reform for the first time. The debate will be between Matthew and Charles’ positions.