Will posters like this win the day for first-past-the-post?

The great strength of FPTP may prove to be its simplicity.

The news that Matthew Elliot, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, is to lead the No campaign against the Alternative Vote has got everyone talking about electoral reform again.

The anti-AV Labour MP Tom Harris has just published a new poster (designed by the Labour activist Adam Gray) on his blog that offers a preview of the sort of material we can expect to dominate next year's campaign.

The most striking thing about the poster is its simplicity; could an equivalent be produced for the pro-AV campaign? The strengths of AV are that it eliminates the need for tactical voting and ensures that all MPs are elected with at least 50 per cent of the vote. But these virtues aren't easily presented in poster form.

The most effective and simple argument for electoral reform, that it ensures fair votes, unfortunately doesn't apply in this case, because AV can produce even less proportional outcomes than first-past-the-post. Thus, while the No campaign is already developing its attack lines, the Yes campaign has yet to settle on a coherent or consistent argument for AV.

With public support for FPTP (38 per cent) ahead of that for AV (37 per cent) for the first time in months, supporters of electoral reform need to think carefully about how to sell this change to the voters.


George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.