Feeds

Voting reform finally on the agenda

How fair MPs want the system is debatable

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.