Laura Sandys is now the new Conservative MP for South Thanet Sandwich and the Villages. She was one of many who were not called to speak on the AV debate on Monday this week. But we asked to see her draft speech and here it is.
I will support the calling of a referendum; I will not be supporting any change to the existing system of first past the post.
I am not averse to reform in terms of how our constitution works and would in many ways have more difficulty if the referendum was for or against a truly proportional system. But it is not and when comparing AV with first past the post it is important not to jump to a system for novelty sake.
For my part I believe that AV is the worst of all worlds.
It is a system that does not give us all a second vote – to be frank it puts much more power in the hands in minority parties.
· For over 200 seats who regularly provide the winner with over 50% it will have no impact whatsoever.
· For another large number of seats it will ONLY give voters from small marginal parties a second vote – giving very small marginal parties a highly disproportionate say in our elections
· In very few constituencies Liberal Democract votes will be counted again.
· While Labour or Conservative voters will only have their second vote counted in under 50 seats – if that.
AV provides the majority with an illusion of a second vote while in the main delivering very marginal parties an additional bite at the electoral cherry.
In addition: unlike a proportional system it is very unlikely to result in smaller parties gaining any representation in Parliament. So while marginal parties – some less than acceptable - might get a second shout on Election Day political opinion or diversity of our chamber will not in practice be broadened.
It is also one of the very few systems that delivers success to the least unpopular candidate – First Past the Post and PR do at least reflect popularity.
But it is not just that I do not favour AV as a system – I also believe, very strongly, that we need to regard both Houses of Parliament as inter-related and interconnected. With the forthcoming review of the House of Lords, should we not look at both Houses together to ensure that any reform in one is complemented by proposals for the other?
Every element of the constitution is interrelated and each time we change, adapt or amend the remit, the mandate or the voting mechanism of one element of this Parliament it has an impact on other parts of the constitutional settlement.
Our debate today is about the mechanism of how we receive our mandate in this House. But if the House of Lords is to be elected and elected under some form of proportional system, it is important that the electoral system for this House throws up a different result, with a different level of connectivity to specific and identifiable areas and peoples.
May I urge that in the future we avoid piecemeal constitutional reforms and look at the overall constitutional settlement, ensuring that both the Houses of Parliament are looked at as one political system and providing the public with a coherent and exacting Parliamentary system.