Acting Prime Minister… are we allowed to call him that? No, okay then: Holding the Fort Prime Minister Nick Clegg has an article in today’s London Evening Standard setting out how he thinks the way in which people vote can be improved by the next general election, in 2015.
He looks at three issues. First, Nick notes the current unfairness that unequal constituency sizes mean that the votes of 87,000 voters in the East Ham constituency are worth less than the 66,000 voters living 10 miles away in Islington North: “So, if you live in Islington, your voice counts for more.” He gives short shrift to Labour’s hysterical attacks of gerrymandering:
The new map will be drawn up by the independent Boundary Commissions, and local residents will have ample opportunity to make themselves heard. Not through traditional inquiries, which were costly, time-consuming, and regularly hijacked by local political parties. Instead we’ll triple the time people have to send in their views.
Government will play no part in deciding the new boundaries. This is not some elaborate attempt at gerrymandering — a point entirely lost on suspicious Labour critics. Disorientated by the new world of opposition, and balkanised by their own leadership race, Labour’s paranoia now prompts them to cry “stitch up!” when faced with even the most commonsense political reforms.
Secondly, on the important issue of voters missing from the electoral register – which, Nick asides, “little has been done about in the past decade” – he adopts an wholly pragmatic approach:
While there’s no magic-wand solution, there are things we can do. Like exploring allowing registration officers to compare their records with other existing databases so they can actively seek out people not on the list. We’re also committed to accelerating the shift to individual — rather than household — registration started by Labour, which will help tackle electoral fraud.
Finally, Nick turns to electoral reform, and the proposal to replace first-past-the-post with the alternative vote. Interestingly, he doesn’t make great claims for AV (having once labelled it a “miserable little reform”), but he does make clear his own support and his relaxed view of the Coalition including two parties on opposite sides of the argument:
I will be backing the change to AV. In my view the problem with First Past the Post has always been that it gives many MPs jobs for life with just a minority of support, breeding the culture of arrogance brought sharply into view during the expenses scandal. AV offers much greater choice. Instead of just putting one “x” on the ballot, you can rank candidates in order of preference. And as a general rule, MPs will need the support of more than half of people locally to get to Westminster.
Not everyone in the coalition shares my view. But, despite our differences, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats agree that it should be up to the people to decide. Labour first promised a
referendum on the voting system as far back as 1997 and backed a referendum on AV at this year’s election.
His optimistic conclusion:
Together these changes will breathe new legitimacy into the way we conduct elections.
You can read Nick’s Evening Standard article in full here.