Alternative Vote Fails In the UK
I think passing the Alternative Vote referendum (this is what Americans normally call “instant runoff voting”) would have been a good idea for the United Kingdom. At the same time, it’s easy to see why AV failed. Its key proponents are the Liberal Democrats, and they’re hideously unpopular for the very good reason that their decision to join David Cameron’s coalition has given the Tories the votes they need in parliament to enact a highly ideological and macroeconomically destructive agenda.
Nick Clegg, who certainly looked to be like a fairly charismatic and compelling leader during the campaign, has proven to be a total disaster. As Brad DeLong says he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage and then didn’t get any pottage. It was bizarre to agree to a coalition deal that had the Tory budget as a key plank but carried with it no guarantee of voting reform. Now at the next election the minority of UK voters who approve of the Coalition approach will vote for them, the majority who disapprove will vote Labour, and the Liberal Democrats will be wiped out. That it was the descendants of J.M. Keynes’ own Liberal Party who engaged in this blunder instead of recalling their party’s distinctive and noteworthy contribution to thinking about macroeconomic stabilization is just another sad irony.
In the long run, though, I tend to agree with Matt Wootton that AV’s passage would have been a win for progressives.