New Clause 88 — Referendum on voting systems

Part of Bill Presented — Climate Change (Sectoral Targets) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 9th February 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Martin Linton Martin Linton Labour, Battersea 7:45 pm, 9th February 2010

I am enjoying listening to Conservative Members preaching proportionality to the rest of the Committee. As I understand it, they do not believe in proportionality. What the hon. Gentleman says is perfectly true: AV is perfectly fair in constituencies, but does not guarantee that the same will be true across the nation. However, it is a more proportional system than first past the post. There have been elections in which it has been less proportional, but all the studies have shown that overall it is more proportional. Most of all, however, proportionality is the wrong yardstick, because AV does not claim to be proportional to people's first preference; it claims to be proportional to people's first, second and other preferences. As an expression of what people want, it is far more accurate than first past the post.

I was talking about the system in Northern Ireland where results depend so much on which candidates stand for election. I do not know whether there is any truth in the apocryphal story of candidates being kneecapped on their way to present their nomination papers, but it makes sense, because of the distortion that first past the post brings to the system. Of course, that happens in Britain too. We have often heard the Conservatives blaming the UK Independence party for splitting their vote, and of course I believe that Labour would have been in power for most of the previous century if it had not been for the Liberals splitting the progressive vote.[Hon. Members: "You split our vote!"] I was expecting that retort.

We can agree, however, that that has created a massive amount of tactical voting in the system-people know that their first choice has no chance, so they vote for their second choice. People are already using their own alternative vote, therefore, only they have to do it by guess work. The Leader of the official Opposition reacted to our proposals with what, to my mind, was sheer bluster. He called AV a crazy and ridiculous system, omitting to mention that it was the system that his party used to elect him, the system that every party uses to elect their leaders, candidates and committees, the system that elected Boris Johnson Mayor of London-with the minor difference that voters had only a first and second choice-and the system used to elect every other mayor. We have never heard any complaints about it before. It is also the system used in Australia and France, although there, of course, they do it over two rounds, and as the newly elected Glasgow MP, my hon. Friend Mr. Bain, pointed out, the system is used in precisely this form in Scottish council by-elections.

Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website