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Alternative vote – yes or no?

If there are three factors of production, land, labour and capital, one might logically expect three political parties reflecting these three interests.

Over simplifying wildly, one could say that in the nineteenth century, before labour got the vote to any significant extent, there were two main parties reflecting the interests of land and capital.

Once labour got the vote, the UK saw the rise of a working class party, stiffened by a few middle class intellectuals. But the voting system still leaves only room for two major parties. That is the arithmetic of first past the post, born out by historical experience. Under a constituency, first-past-the-post system a third party will normally be all but wiped-out until it gets around 30% of the national vote. The rise of the Labour Party pushed the owners of capital and owners of land together into the one Conservative party – a situation which does not reflect economic reality, the two interest groups being in a natural state of conflict.

The process was aggravated because workers’ parties everywhere were strongly influenced by Marx who put capitalists and landowners in the same group, and also in reality the landowners become important owners of capital even though functionally different. So the business interest was scared off and joined up with the landowning interest even though it made little sense. Thus we see the Conservatives are opposed to the abolition of upwards-only rent revision clauses even though retailers are amongst the main victims.

A win for the Alternative Vote (Yes) could open the door to other political groupings that could present other ways of looking at the world than the received ones. So in the long run it could help change things for the better. With the two party system, political discourse is locked down since both collude in sustaining the false and illusory left/right dichotomy.