During the election I argued the case for electoral reform, and the coalition government has promised us a referendum on the alternative vote system. It’s not a perfect voting system, if there is such a thing, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The referendum is a big concession to the Liberal Democrats, offered to help form the coalition. The Conservative majority will fight the proposals, as the ‘first past the post’ system works very well for them at the moment. Unfortunately, Labour is likely to campaign for a no vote as well, despite putting the alternative vote proposal in their manifesto. This is because the Conservatives want to bundle new constituency boundaries in with the other changes, and these will work against Labour’s interests. In other words, party politics is muddying the waters considerably.
The risk now is that after decades of campaigning for electoral reform, it will be sunk by party self-interest. There will be campaigns for and against the referendum in the coming months, and both sides will want to spin their story. I don’t know which way the media will lean on the issue, but I expect there will be all kinds of horror stories about the dangers of the alternative vote, and accusations of Tory plotting, and it will all become very tiresome.
But, that doesn’t change the fact that the country will be asked a simple question in the referendum: do we want fairer elections? If we say no, for whatever reason, it will be a huge missed opportunity.
This week, the first appointments were made for the ‘Yes to fairer votes‘ campaign, led by Unlock Democracy.
“You can be an MP today with less than one in three voters on your side” says steering group chair Pam Giddy. “It’s not how any normal job interview would work, but we hire and fire our MPs using a voting system that gives candidates the edge over us, their employers. The system has produced safe seats where many MPs are set for life, and that’s bred complacency and allowed voters to be taken for granted.”
”Choosing the Alternative Vote means when a winner crosses that finish line on Election Day they’ll have to bring the majority of voters with them. All our MPs will have to work harder and go further to earn and keep our support.”
I’ll be keeping an eye on the campaign as it develops, but you can drop in on the holding website and register your support today.