With today's announcement that the government is going to prepare the ground for a referendum on changing the electoral system to the Alternative Vote system in a Commons vote next week I, like many Lib Dems I suspect, have very mixed feelings about it.
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
As I have blogged about previously, AV is not proportional. In fact it can be even less proportional than the current First Past the Post system. In 1997, Labour could have had an even bigger majority under AV.
However it is reform and it does greatly reduce the need for tactical voting which is one of the pernicious features of our current system. It would be churlish to deny this. Also, the Lib Dems would probably benefit electorally from the change. However it would be a bad idea for the party to back a change to a still very unfair system just because it might be a bit better for us.
My view is that it would be better to hold out for a proper change to a proportional system, Single Transferable Vote with multi-member constituencies. Chris Huhne appears to agree although he is leaving the door open to potentially supporting the move to AV as a first step. The big problem with this approach is that even if we were to get this change, any further electoral reform would be off the table for at least a political generation. People would feel that we have already had reform and therefore why would we need more?
So Gordon Brown is now putting the Lib Dems in a tricky position. Does the party support the move to AV as a first step towards what we think is really the best system or does it oppose the move out of principle as nowhere near good enough? Brown of course knows this and is dangling what he thinks is enough of a carrot for the party to bite.
It will be interesting to see whether it does.