Electoral Reform

The government's electoral reform programme has overcome its first major hurdle.

MPs voted yesterday evening in favour of legislation paving the way for a referendum on a change to the alternative vote (AV) system for electing the House of Commons, equalising the size of constituencies and reducing the number of MPs.

The bill, having passed its second reading stage in the Commons, faces scrutiny by committee in the lower House and, eventually, further attacks from the Lords.

Some Labour MPs support AV, but the party has railed against equalising constituencies as it would lose a significant advantage in its urban heartlands, calling the proposals tantamount to "gerrymandering".

Large number of Tory MPs oppose any change to first-past-the-post and in particular object to the holding of the AV referendum on the same day as Scottish and Welsh elections and those for English councils, inflating the turnout and thus possibly aiding the 'yes' campaign.

The Liberal Democrats, who used the referendum as a condition for the formation of the coalition, view AV as a half-measure short of full proportional representation, for which they have incessantly campaigned.

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