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7 September 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:14am

This ugly AV mess shows politics at their worst

All three main parties are acting out of narrow interests.

By James Macintyre

David Davis was not among the ten Tory rebels in the vote on AV last night, which passed by 328 votes to 269. They were, with thanks to Andrew Sparrow:

Brian Binley (Northampton South), Peter Bone (Wellingborough), Bill Cash (Stone), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), Philip Davies (Shipley), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), David Nuttall (Bury North), Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills), Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) and Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight).

But Davis, who is a leading figure on the Tory right and opposed to AV, made a very interesting comment indeed about the redrawing of constituency boundaries which is to come with the bill. He said:

The Deputy Prime Minister [Nick Clegg] presented this bill as something designed to increase the respect of the people for the political system that we work under. I think the people might respect us more if we admitted some of the real reasons for what we are doing. Of course there is party advantage implicit in what we are talking about.

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Davis is surely right. And the Tories are not alone. It is true that Labour backed the Alternative Vote at the election, and now is opposed to it, albeit on the semi-honourable grounds that it will reduce the number of Labour seats. As the Independent‘s Andrew Grice has reported this morning, there is a plan to kill off the bill in the House of Lords. The Liberal Democrat leadership, meanwhile, seems willing to sacrifice its glittering prize of electoral reform for power. We were told the referendum is the glue that holds the coalition together but there is a good chance the bill may fall later in the autumn, or that the referendum itself, with the opposition of the main party in government, will be lost.

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And all the while, true proportional representation seems more distant than ever. For electoral reformers, it is a pretty sorry state of affairs.