Interwar Fabians on ‘instant runoff’

The following is from a 1924 pamphlet on electoral reform by the Fabian Society. The context involves the Labour Party replacing the Liberals as the UK’s main opposition to the Conservatives. The pamphlet itself is about proportional representation, but this excerpt is from a section called “The Alternative Vote.” It is interesting to compare the attendant circumstances with some that now obtain in American nominating primaries.

The method is suggested as a safeguard against minority seats. It is true that the successful candidate would be able to boast of a mathematical majority as proof of his representative quality. But this mathematical majority would not be a majority in the English political sense of the word, i.e., a majority of positive supporters [emphasis in original]. The candidate would be returned partly by the votes given to him to keep other candidates, considered as less desirable, out; and this is no morally decent basis for a Representative Assembly. Moreover, as it is likely that within 15 years the Liberal Party will be electorally defunct, we shall then be troubled with fewer of such multiple-candidate contests. It would be the height of political unwisdom to introduce a new and vicious element into the constitution to counteract a temporary ill.

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