News this week that there is to be a referendum on voting reform next May. (The move was announced through the media, which I thought was ironic.)
The referendum is going to be on whether we should retain the first-past-the-post system or move to an Alternative Vote one.
It’s therefore useful to note that AV is still a majoritarian system and not a proportional one. Indeed, by dropping the “+” element, which had originally been mooted and which was the proportional element of the potential vote (with around 15% of MPs being elected via regional lists), the move to an AV system is one that even I could support.
Grudgingly, I’m going to have give Cameron the credit for this. In the hullaballoo of the post-election result, he gave the Lib Dems enough assurances on some form of voting reform (amongst other elements) that they formed a full coalition government. (The Lib Dems were also desperate for power, at the cost of nearly all their self-respect.)
And so the country is in this fascinating position:
- The referendum on AV is won and AV is introduced. This will be enough progress to see off any voting reform for many years afterwards.
- The referendum on AV is lost and the only changes that happen are those pertaining to constituency boundaries. This will see off any votes on voting reform for many years afterwards.
Whichever happens, the outcome is the same. And that is why I have to offer my grudging credit to Cameron. The vote is already won.
(Incidentally, I think the referendum will be won, though on a low turnout below 60%.)