MPs are to vote this afternoon on Gordon Brown's plan for a referendum on changing Britain's first-past-the-post voting system. The prime minister has proposed replacing it with the alternative vote (AV) method, which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.
Amendments tabled to Jack Straw's constitutional reform bill would require a referendum to be held by the end of October 2011. The Tories oppose the move, with David Cameron yesterday accusing Brown of a "a cynical attempt to save his own skin". The Liberal Democrats hope to amend the bill to offer voters the choice of a more proportional system -- the single transferable vote - instead of AV.
Brown has presented the move as part of a "new politics" which could restore public trust in Parliament in the wake of the expenses scandal. But his belated support for electoral reform is also designed to win over the Liberal Democrats in the event of a hung parliament.