I received a voting form through the door recently for the upcoming referendum on reform of the voting system. I have no fervent party allegiance but have voted Liberal in the past and have recognised that the Liberals get a bad deal out of our current system. There was an election not so long ago where each of the three main parties got roughly a third of the popular vote but the Liberals attained only a handful of seats as their votes were spread evenly rather than concentrated in areas where votes could be translated into seats in the House of Commons. Proportional Representation would have given the Liberals a fairer number of seats. However I also recognise that the current “first past the post” voting system has the advantage of allowing people in an area to elect an individual who’s responsibility it is to speak for them in Parliament though the rise of lobby group politics and party whipping can dilute this advantage considerably.
The change that we are being offered in the upcoming referendum is to either keep the current system or change to a Single Transferable Vote system. In the new system we are asked to rank the parties according to our preferences. So we might place a 1 next to Liberal, a 2 next to Labour and a 3 next to Tory. All the 1s are added up and if there is no overall majority then the 2′s are added to the 1s. . OK, so I broadly understand the workings of it but there are many questions. What effect would this have? Would we still retain the individual representing a constituency? I’m sure there are many questions and I’m sure that each system has its own unique advantages and disadvantages.
What I’d like to know is: Where is the debate? Where are the TV documentaries full of university professors discussing each system? Where is the comparison with other countries? Where is the manic news reader with his swing-o-meter producing charts and statistics to show what would have happened in various previous elections if one or the other alternative system had been in place? Where is the Referendum web site explaining the options?
In short: Where is the informed debate?
As far as I can see there is none and I expect that, despite of the support of Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg, the Tories and Labour do not want a change. May the 5th will come and go and most people will be unaware or too uninformed to vote.
The chance to make a major change to British politics will have passed us by because the political establishment and, presumably, the media are happy with the status quo.