Brexit history rewritten: Corbyn would be in power today if it wasn’t for 2011 decision

Exactly nine years ago, Britons were asked whether they wanted to replace the existing first-past-the-post system (FPTP) for electing MPs to Westminster with a method known as the alternative vote (AV) in a UK-wide referendum. Under FPTP, the candidate who gets the most votes in their constituency is elected as the MP. AV is an election system which allows voters to place candidates in order of preference. So instead of marking one candidate with an ‘X’, voters place candidates in numerical order of preference with ‘1’ being first choice, followed by ‘2’ for second and so on.

AV campaigners argued that too many votes were effectively wasted under FPTP, with elections decided by a small number of voters in a handful of seats where no single party has a large majority.

On the other hand, anti-AV campaigners, who included Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings, believed FPTP generally led to stable governments and historically reflected the will of the public.

Former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron supported retaining first-past-the-post while his then Liberal Democrat deputy Nick Clegg was campaigning for a switch to AV.

The final result put the Yes vote at 32.1 percent and the No vote at 67.9 percent: Britons overwhelmingly rejected changing the voting system.

In a series of tweets posted last night, political strategist Matthew Elliott, who acted as campaign director for the successful NOtoAV campaign in 2011, recalled just how significant that referendum was.

Mr Elliot, who became the chief executive of Vote Leave in 2016, argued that had Britons voted for AV, Jeremy Corbyn would be Prime Minister today.

He wrote: “It’s nine years since the AV referendum.

“As NOtoAV’s campaign director, I was delighted when Nick Clegg’s proposal to change the voting system for future general elections was rejected by 68 percent to 32 percent – especially since the public had been 2:1 in favour of AV at the start of the campaign.

“Now the political counterfactual: how might politics have turned out had YesInMay won in 2011?

“The evidence suggests we’d have Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. Boris Johnson as Opposition Leader and we’d still be in the EU.

“I’ll leave you to judge whether that would be good or bad.”

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Mr Elliott added: “After every general election, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) calculates how the result might have turned out under various electoral systems.

“Although the Electoral Reform analysis of the 2019 election didn’t include AV, their research after 2015 & 2017 did.

“In 2015, the first election that would have been held using the Alternative Vote, the ERS calculated that the Conservative majority would have doubled from 12 to 24.

“So David Cameron wins under AV.

“With David Cameron still winning a majority under AV in 2015, let’s also assume Jeremy Corbyn still becomes Labour leader.

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“The EU referendum is held, and Vote Leave wins, as in real life. Cameron resigns and Theresa May becomes Prime Minister.”

However, when Mrs May called the election in 2017, Mr Elliott wrote, the ERS calculations suggest that under AV, Mr Corbyn would have become Prime Minister.

With 326 seats needed for a majority, the DUP’s 10 MPs gave May 327 seats under FPTP, but only 314 under AV.

He noted: “Corbyn could have cobbled together a coalition of 327 MPs.

“Probably not a full coalition, but with all of those parties against Brexit, some form of pact would likely have emerged.”

The political strategist claimed that the NOtoAV’s win in 2011 turned out to have been a pivotal event, from quite a few perspectives.

He said: “AV would have been a slippery slope to Proportional Representation, and for anyone who lived through the horrific indecision of the 2017-2019 Parliament, that is a fate we did very well to avoid.”

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