Had the 1997 UK election taken place under AV, would the UK have joined the United States in their invasion of Iraq? This may seem an odd question, for the Labour majority in 1997 was so great that it is difficult to see anything other than a stunnning Labour victory, regardless of the voting system used at the election: and yet, AV might have made a critical difference with respect to the decision to go to war.
The Labour victory, though decisive under FPTP, was based on a vote in their favour of just 43.2% of the votes cast. Whilst both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats probably benefited from anti Tory tactical voting, it follows that the Labour Party, having started from the stronger position would have derived greatest benefit. The Liberal Democrats, who opposed the war polled only 16.8% of the vote. Under AV voting it is probable that the Liberal Democrats would have won significantly more seats and reduced, though not eliminated the Labour majority.
The Liberal Democrats were the only one of the major parties to oppose the war. Nevertheless, there was opposition to the war from within the Labour Party, led by the late Robin Cook. The prospect of an AV election to follow would have given pause for thought to those Labour MPs who might have feared the loss of first preference votes to the Liberal Democrats. The probability is that this would have strengthened the anti war faction within the Labour party and in all likelihood led to an an anti war alliance which would have stalled Tony Blair’s rush to join forces with George Bush.
I speak as someone who actually believed at the time that there was a genuine threat from weapons of mass destruction and that the invasion was therefore justified. I also believed that preparation for the war and more critically for stabilising the country following the invasion, would have been fully planned. How naïve can one be? The ironic thing is that had Tony Blair been dissuaded from the folly of his alliance with George W, though temporarily weakened, his reputation in the longer term would have been secured. Of course he might then have then been emboldened to dishonour his Granita contract with Gordon Brown and continuing as Pri-minister, have sailed into the midst of the waiting financial crisis….but then, had the 2005 election taken place under AV might the benign influence of Vince Cable not have been more pronounced and the banks reined in before the crash?What if, what if, what if…..