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5 July 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:18am

A proportional system should be on offer in next year’s referendum

Edward McMillan-Scott is right: the STV option would make for a meaningful choice.

By James Macintyre

As Nick Clegg comes to the Commons to announce next year’s referendum on the Alternative Vote, the prospects of a change to the warped first-past-the-post system are not looking good.

If — if! — it is true that David Cameron will lead the “No” campaign, that will cause a major rift with the Liberal Democrats and will mean there could be opposition from both the Tory and Labour leaders, if Ed Balls, who has said he “very wary” of AV, wins.

All of which points to the need for a cleaner choice. The former Tory MEP Edward McMillan-Scott is surely right to call on the Guardian‘s Comment Is Free site for a proportional system — which AV is not — to be included as an option in the referendum.

The Single Transferable Vote, backed by the admirable Electoral Reform Society, is far the best option.

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UPDATE: This just in from IPPR:

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As plans for a proposed referendum on the Alternative Vote versus the current first-past-the-post system for the UK parliament at Westminster are announced, independent think tank the IPPR calls for the government to be bolder and offer the electorate the chance to opt for a fair, proportional voting system.

Electoral reform is a significant missed opportunity of the New Labour era and IPPR welcomes the referendum announcement as recognition of the need for change to the electoral system. However IPPR does not believe AV is the right option for the UK.

IPPR calls instead for the referendum to offer a choice between the existing first-past-the-post system and the Additional Member System (AMS). Without this choice the referendum is a missed opportunity to change politics in the UK for the better.

IPPR recently published a report on electoral reform in which it argues that Alternative Vote is not the answer because:
– it is not a proportional system;
– it can actually distort things to a greater extent than the existing system;
– it does not address the many problems of the current system.

The report instead argues that AMS is the best option for elections to the UK parliament because it combines a treasured part of the current system — the constituency link — with genuine proportionality. To date AMS has not been discussed as part of the current debate, even though it is used successfully for elections to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the London Assembly.

The co-director of IPPR Lisa Harker said:

“The outcome of the election showed that the current voting system is past its sell-by date. First-past-the-post is unfair and distorts the electoral outcome — and this time it didn’t even deliver its proudest boast: a clear majority for one party. We warmly welcome the decision of the new coalition government to hold a referendum on electoral reform, but if the people are only offered the chance to reject one unfair system and replace it with another it will be tragic missed opportunity. In the era of new politics, the electorate must be offered the chance to opt for real change.”