Feeds

Voting reform finally on the agenda

How fair MPs want the system is debatable

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The opening salvoes of the 2015 general election were fired this week, with publication of the wording of a proposed referendum on alternative voting, to take place next year.

The question that will be put to voters was announced by Deputy PM Nick Clegg and published for the first time yesterday in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. If passed, this legislation will also reduce the size of the Commons from 650 to 600 MPs and establish boundary reviews to create more equal sized constituencies.

The referendum, which must take place on 5 May 2011, will ask voters: "Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the 'alternative vote' system instead of the current 'first past the post' system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?"

Predictably, a Bill that is allegedly about fairness in the voting system has already run into criticism from various parts of the House, although so far, much of the opposition has focussed on procedural issues.

Shadow Justice Minister Jack Straw has attacked the speed with which the Boundary Review will be conducted and its lack of transparency. Meanwhile, Graham Allen, Labour MP for Nottingham North and, as chair of the cross-party group on political and constitutional reform, someone who might be expected to support this bill, also expressed concern at the speed with which it was being "rushed through parliament".

The issue, of course, lies in the fact that the naïve principle that in a democracy, "the people decide" is very much determined by the detailed workings of the electoral system in use at the time. In the last election, the Conservative party scored 36 per cent of the vote (47 per cent of the seats) against Labour’s 29 per cent vote (39 per cent of seats) and Lib Dem 23 per cent of vote (9 per cent of seats).

The Lib Dems suffer greatly in the present system, which rewards parties whose support is concentrated regionally, and punishes those whose support is spread across the country. In addition, Labour benefit from holding some of the country’s smallest constituencies – something that a reduction in seat numbers and boundary review would almost certainly fix in a way that would not be to their advantage.

A purely proportional system (PR) – which some pundits claim to be the "fairest" option - would have given Conservatives 237 seats (as against 307 now), Labour 188 (as against 258) and Lib Dems 150 (57 now).

A system based on the Alternative Vote (AV), which allows votes to be transferred within constituencies until one candidate has an overall majority, is believed to favour the Lib Dems. In 2010, analysts believe that under AV, the Lib Dems would have overtaken Labour to become the second largest party in the Commons.

With all these factors in play, the chances of an open and non-partisan debate ensuing seem slight. Labour entered the last election in favour of AV – but may now vote against. The Lib Dems prefer PR, but will almost certainly take anything offered. The Conservatives like the status quo – but the Coalition would almost certainly not have survived their reneging on this pledge.

How the parties vote in the next 12 months, as well as how the country votes in the subsequent referendum may well decide the result of the next general election. ®

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.