Voting reform. What are the prospects?

The old parties these days operate a tacit second preference voting system. It works like this. They urge us not to vote for our first choice, but for our second choice, in order to prevent our 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th choice getting in. This seems to complicate matters unnecessarily. Especially as there’s a simple solution, which most European countries adopted decades ago. A proportional voting system would mean all votes counted rather than only the 200,000 or so swing votes in marginal constituencies.

So what are the parties saying about our antiquated Victorian voting system?

The Tories like it. Instead of reform, they want to make votes of equal value by implementing the boundary changes agreed but blocked by the last Parliament. Coincidentally, these boundary changes, involving an unwieldy shuffling of constituencies every five years, would benefit the Tories. And in an even more brazenly skewed proposal, they want more of the five million Brits who live abroad to vote in Britain, especially those ex-pats who’ve chosen to live in Spain or wherever for more than 15 years. On the other hand, they say nothing about the estimated seven million Brits who live in Britain, yet are not registered to vote.

Labour also sees nothing wrong with first past the post but supports lowering the voting age to 16 (as do all the other parties apart from the Tories). They also want to restore the block registering ended by the individual registration system brought in by the Tories and Lib Dems.

MK strangely omits to mention the voting system in its manifesto.

Ukip actually has quite a sensible position on this issue. It wants a proportional voting system without going into details and the removal of postal voting on demand.

The Greens call for the additional member system for parliamentary elections as part of a move to a written constitution. This is the same system as that used for elections to the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament. It’s proportional but entails fairly large voting areas.

The Liberal Democrats have the most radical policies on voting reform. They want the single transferable vote (as in Ireland, Stormont and Scottish local elections) for both parliamentary and local elections. STV for local elections would be an excellent start, introducing voters to the system. The Lib Dems’ problem however is credibility. The obvious question is why didn’t they demand STV in local elections as part of the price for joining the austerity coalition? Instead, they allowed themselves to be fobbed off with a pathetic alternative vote referendum. If they couldn’t do it when they had the chance last time, then in what circumstances would it happen this time?


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