openDemocracyUK

Whatever the result, the AV referendum won't end the struggle for electoral reform

Today's referendum on AV is the culmination of a long campaign for change. Yet, AV is not a form of proportional representation and is not a system which reformers have previously called for. Whatever the referendum result, it will not end the campaign for electoral reform in the UK
Stuart Wilks-Heeg
5 May 2011

When British voters deliver their verdict on electoral reform today, the choice being put before them will represent the culmination of a long campaign for change. Yet, AV is not a system which reformers, including the Liberal Democrats, have previously called for. Indeed, since it is not a form of proportional representation, AV would represent a relatively minor change when compared with the other electoral systems which reformers have advocated. Meanwhile, public interest in the referendum appears to be modest, to say the least. Nonetheless, the UK’s second-ever national referendum asks the British electorate to make an historic choice – whether to keep or replace ‘first-past-the-post’. 

Democratic Audit has published a review to coincide with election day, setting out the evidence relating to how well FPTP serves as an electoral system in the context of contemporary British politics. This ‘audit’ of the current system draws on recent academic research and recognised international measures for evaluating the operation of electoral systems. It also considers the extent to which identifiable public support for reform has emerged over the past four decades.  Whatever the result, it shows that the referendum today will not resolve the debate about electoral reform in the UK.

Responses to opinion poll questions which ask directly about support for proportional representation 

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