AV – good, bad or neutral for women’s representation in the Commons?

// 10 April 2011

Tags: , , , , , ,

votes-1.jpgNext month the electorate will be asked to vote on whether to shift from first past the post to the alternative vote.

Does AV promise greater numbers of women in Parliament? Personally I’m feeling a little vague on the subject. Luckily Progressive Women are holding a debate (in London) on this issue.

The line up should make this an interesting one:

Yes To Fairer Votes

Oona King is the former Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow and former Chair of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform. Last year, she ran to be Labour’s first female mayoral candidate for the GLA and was made a peer in the House of Lords. She is now Head of Diversity at Channel 4.

Katie Ghose is the Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society and Chair of the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign.


Charlotte Vere was the Conservative candidate for Brighton Pavilion in 2010. She is now the Finance Director of the No2AV campaign.

Jane Kennedy was the Labour MP for Liverpool, Wavertree, until 2010. She is now the National Organiser for Labour in the No2AV campaign.

Photo of vote-tallying by AdamKR, shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

polly // Posted 10 April 2011 at 10:42 pm

Yes to fairer votes lost me the minute they sent me a patronising and misleading leaflet that said I should vote for AV because a bunch of actors thought it was a good idea. This leaflet (which I am currently in the process of making a formal complaint about) also said that “extremists like the BNP” couldn’t be elected under AV and implied it was an official communication from my local authority by including a form for a postal vote. I’d very much like to speak to someone from the group to ask them what they’re playing at!

That aside – AV wouldn’t make a difference to the numbers of women in parliament unless the parties that would benefit from it field more women candidates. Channel 4 news did a poll recently which suggests it would have very little effect, but any effect it did have would be switching a small number of voters from conservative to lib dem.


cim // Posted 11 April 2011 at 8:04 am

polly: “implied it was an official communication from my local authority by including a form for a postal vote.”

Is this really so rare at election time? My local parties have included a form to apply for postal votes in their election publicity for years. I assumed everyone’s did it, but it seems that it’s completely new to a lot of people.

I haven’t got my leaflet from Yes yet. Maybe it’s just really badly designed.

That said: both official campaigns are a bunch of incompetents and/or liars; I’m only voting Yes because after it became clear neither would say anything useful I’ve basically been ignoring both of them and doing my own research – if it was a referendum on who ran the best campaign it would be spoilt ballot time.

Fully agreed that AV will be neutral for women’s representation.

eleanargh // Posted 11 April 2011 at 10:54 am

I just read The Constitution Society’s AV briefing paper. It refers to all candidates as ‘he’. *sigh*

Kit // Posted 11 April 2011 at 9:05 pm

I just want a proper “None of the above” option on my ballot paper in future :(

lorna // Posted 13 April 2011 at 6:18 pm

I imagine it’ll be fairly gender neutral. In fact I think it will make little difference to anything. I agree with most of the posters here that both campaigns have been fairly awful.

I’ll be voting yes but only because it suits my way of thinking, ie I have a strong sense of order of preference for political parties but I’m pretty pissed off with many of them. In general I don’t think you should vote to benefit yourself but to benefit everyone or those who most need it but in this case I can’t see a compelling case on either side. If anyone can come up with a strong case for voting no, I’d be very happy to change my mind.

Kristin // Posted 14 April 2011 at 1:35 pm

Given the pathetic, shameful mess that was made of the last election in many parts of the UK, even the most basic stuff not done properly or at all, would officials be any more competent to manage a new system when they can’t even work the old?!

I think this is a bit swings and roundabouts. The big thing would be to try and get more people to vote, because the turnout is usually so low. And keep fighting discrimination against sexism/ageism/ableism, so that a much more diverse group of people will have the chance to be elected as MP’s. When there is still, in 2011, a goverment in which public school/Oxford/Cambridge people dominate, that says it all.

polly // Posted 14 April 2011 at 2:16 pm

Not to derail too much, but in response to Cim – it is actually illegal to imply that something is an official communication if it isn’t. And I’ve never seen an application for postal votes in with a leaflet before. Anyway when I phoned my local authority they said their legal team was already looking at it.

I agree on both campaigns being misleading at best though.

cim // Posted 14 April 2011 at 4:46 pm

Polly: certainly if it implied that it was from the local authority, as opposed to simply needing to be sent there, that would be a problem. They never sent me one at all, so I really don’t know how bad it is.

Here are some scans (of varying quality) of election leaflets giving the option to apply for a postal vote




(And those are sent straight back to the party, not to the electoral registration officer, which is arguably even more dubious)

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds