Voters will be asked a straightforward question when they go to the polls next May, in the first national referendum since 1975. They will be asked: "Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the 'alternative vote' system instead of the current 'first past the post' system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?"
The exact wording of the question emerged yesterday when the Bill which will authorise the referendum was presented to Parliament, along with a parallel piece of legislation that will redraw the constituency boundaries. The two reform Bills are the outcome of a compromise between the two coalition parties.
The Conservatives oppose any change in the way people vote for their MPs, while the Liberal Democrats want MPs elected by proportional representation – so as a compromise they settled on a referendum about a system that neither party wanted. Ironically, it was the policy of the Labour Party to bring in the alternative vote (AV) system.
Under AV, voters state their preferences by entering numbers against the names of candidates instead of simply putting a cross beside one name. As a price for agreeing to this partial reform, the Tories insisted that the number of MPs should be cut from 650 to 600, representing constituencies of roughly equal size, a change that is expected to work to the Tories' advantage.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the legislation showed that "fundamental reform of our politics is finally on the way".Reuse content