So apparently we will get a referendum on whether to adopt the Alternative Vote system, likely to be held on 5 May 2011. Already Cameron has come out to say that he will campaign against it, of course the Lib Dems will be all for it as it was getting the referendum that was part of the coalition deal.
The other reason that the Lib Dems like AV is that it could well help them – it tends to help larger parties and particularly centrist ones in a 3-party system.
But for now I don’t know how I’d vote. It’s really not an easy decision. First Past the Post elects the most popular candidate, even if they are only marginally more popular than the others. AV would elect the least unpopular candidate. Both systems retain the single-member-constituency feature that we’ve had in the UK for some decades (it used to be that we had two-member constituencies, in fact for most the history of the Commons that was the case).
In terms of achieving proportionality, AV can be counter-productive. It can also exacerbate swings. It doesn’t really help the smaller parties much, other than giving more voters a chance to try them out as first preferences before they put the main party they favour most as no2.
On the other hand, AV does present more choice to voters, and it does mean that people can more ‘safely’ register a protest vote.
Still, there’s nearly a year before we have to make up our minds. I don’t know what Labour will do – probably there will be some division, unlike in the other main parties. I don’t think it would be wise to try to ‘game’ the vote, to try and make political advantage out of it, but it has to be recognised that there are differences of opinion. Some people want PR-type systems, others want to retain the system as it is.