1 SEPTEMBER 1917, Page 12


(To sun EDITOR or run " SPEC7ATOR."1

Ss, 7n your issue of August 18th you refer to the adoption of the Alternative Vote in terms of commendation, and speak as though it would tend to secure a more equitable representation. Will you permit me to submit some evidence dealing with this pointy

Speaking shortly, the Alternative Vote is designed to deal with three-cornered contests in single-membered constituencies. When the votes of the three candidates are counted the candidate obtain- ing the fewest votes is considered to bo defeated, and his votes are distributed to the other two candidates in accordance with the preferences marked thereon. After this process of distribution is completed the candidate then remaining with the higher number of votes is declared elected. Let us see how this would work out as applied to present conditions. At the last three General Elections there have been seventy-nine three-cornered contests produced by the intervention of Labour candidates. An analysis of position shows that in these results Labour occupied first place in five contests, second place in eleven contests, third place in sixty-three contests.

Under present conditions the intervention of a Labour candidate frequently has the effect of diverting a seat from the Liberals to the Conservatives. This may happen even though the Labour candidate stands at the bottom of the poll. Liberals are therefore driven to come to terms with Labour, and they conclude agree- ments that they (the Liberals) will withdraw their candidatee from certain constituencies on condition that Labour withdraws its candidates from other constituencies. At the last General Election thirty Labour Members were returned by single-membered constituencies. In twenty-five constituencies out of the thirty no Liberal candidate appeared; and the success of the Labour candidates in many, if not all, of these twenty-five constituencies was undoubtedly due to the absence of Liberal opposition. With the Alternative Vote in operation Liberals would have no need or inducement to conclude agreements with Labour, as the intervention of Labour candidates would no longer be likely to deprive them of scuts. In the seventy-nine contests spoken of above Labour occupied the bottom position in sixty-three contests. Under the application, of the Alternative Vote these Labour votes would have been distributed to the other two candidates, going chiefly to the Liberals and helping them to retain the scats. Tide would dispose of the bulk of Labour opposition. With regard to the balance, that might, and probably would, be arranged by agreement between Liberals and Conservatives as against Labour.

Let me now state the results of the seventy-nine three-cornered contests:— Votes rest. Members returned.

Conservative 348,281 19 Labour 224,104 5 572,388 24 Liberal 418,727 55 991,095 79

These figures show a miserably inadequate representation for Labour; an inadequate representation for Conservatives; and a grossly exaggerated representation for Liberals, who, with less than half the total votes, get two-thirds of the representation. The effects of applying the Alternative Vote to these circumstances would be to increase the already exaggerated representation of the dominant party (in this case the Liberals); to diminish the representation of the most largest. party; and to diminish, and probably extinguish, the representation of the minority party. -At present the minority party is-Labour; but we are about doubling our electorate, and cannot say with certainty who will be the minority party as the result of that process.

The question, however, is not, or should not be, one of advantage to this or that party, but one of justice to the electorate. Upon considemtion it is evident that the adoption of the Alternative Vote will only aggravate existing evils and add to already existing irjustiee. The best and most essential preparation for the difficulties that lie ahead of us is the establishment of electoral justice by the adoption of Proportional Representation.—I am,

Sir, tea, WM. COATES. 12 Alexandra Park Road, Mussed Hill, N.W.

[Yes, but we think a ration which bas experimented in other respects will be the more reedy to experiment in Proportional Representntion.—En. Spectator.]