>AV Referendum Bill gets through House of Commons

>The Bill that will trigger the referendum on introducing the AV voting system for elections to the House of Commons cleared its first vote yesterday, marking a significant victory for the coalition government. The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bills has proved controversial, as it contains provisions to equalise the size of constituencies, and reduce the number of MPs. Labour claim that the Bill is gerrymandering and call it ‘political skulduggery’, while the coalition say they are making every vote equal.

The piece of legislation is interesting example of ‘new politics’ in action. The provision to introduce the Alternative Vote system, whereby voters list candidates in order of preference, is opposed by the Conservative party, and is really a compromise on what the Liberal Democrats wanted. However, Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg said that the coalition partners both fundamentally agree that “the final decision should be taken not by us but by the British people”. What a refreshingly mature approach.

Should the referendum pass it would be a hugely significant change to the British political system. The Alternative Vote would almost certainly ensure coalition governments. Conservative MP Gary Streeter highlighted a fear, shared by many of his colleagues, that this would mean there many never be a majority Conservative government again. This is a rather poor and ultimately self serving argument for not allowing the British people’s views to be more accurately reflected in elections.  

Equally poor has been the response of the Labour front bench, who oppose the bill despite having the promise of having a referendum on bringing in AV in their election manifesto. They claim their opposition is to the changing of constituencies, not changing the electoral system, but their approach seems to just be opposition for the sake of it. 

Many consider the referendum as a key test of the coalition, with the fear that the Lib Dems will walk should the vote be ‘No’. It would be staggering if it were electoral reform that brought down the coalition. The coalition agreement was signed knowing the opposing views of the parties, and surely preparation was made for whatever result occurs. It is unlikely that the Conservatives would walk away from the coalition if the vote were to be ‘Yes’, and a Lib Dem tantrum if they were to lose would not be forgiven by the electorate.


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