Is Cameron set to offer Clegg the Alternative Vote?

System would preserve the constituency link and could benefit the Tories.

The negotiations between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are so secretive that we can only guess what the sticking points might be. But Benedict Brogan's report in today's Telegraph is the best account I've read of the state of play.

Brogan suggests that David Cameron may eventually offer Nick Clegg electoral reform in the form of the Alternative Vote:

Senior sources speculate that he could eventually offer the Lib Dems a form of electoral reform based on the additional vote system (AV) or even the AV-plus devised by the Lib Dem peer Lord Jenkins -- and rejected by Mr Blair -- more than a decade ago. Both maintain the constituency link that Tories say is essential, and both require voters to express a second preference.

The Alternative Vote, as I've noted before, is not a proportional system and it can produce even more distorted outcomes than first-past-the-post. But because it allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference -- eliminating the need for tactical voting -- it remains a distinct improvement on the status quo.

For the Tories, there may be a self-interest in adopting the system: the party would benefit by receiving second-preference votes from Ukip supporters. As Brogan writes:

For the Tories this would kill off the UK Independence Party vote which cost them an estimated 21 seats last week -- enough to give them a majority. Even far-right Tories have spotted this opportunity.

It isn't quite true to say that Ukip cost the Tories 21 seats on polling day. There are 21 constituencies in which the Ukip vote exceeded the Labour majority, but there's no guarantee that every Ukip supporter would defect to the Tories. Some would abstain or might vote for another minority grouping such as the British National Party or the English Democrats.

But I think it's safe to assume that the withdrawal of Ukip, as demanded by some conservative commentators, would have gifted the Tories at least an extra ten seats.

There's little chance of the Tories achieving a coalition, as opposed to an informal pact, without making some offer beyond that of an "all-party inquiry". This may be it.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.