British vote reform referendum unites old enemies

18th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday teamed up with an arch enemy from the opposition Labour party in a bid to persuade the public to reject an historic change to the voting system.

The Conservative premier shared a stage with former Labour interior minister John Reid, notorious during his time in Cabinet as an anti-Tory 'attack dog', to campaign against changing the first-past-the-post electoral system.

At the central London event, Cameron said one of the few things he and Reid agreed on was that changing to a Alternative Vote (AV) system would be "wrong for Britain."

"It is obscure, unfair and expensive," he said.

"It will mean that people who come third in elections can end up winning. It will make our politics less accountable and it would be a backward step for our country."

The May 5 referendum on changing the system has cut through traditional party lines and divided the ruling coalition government.

The Conservatives agreed to a referendum after last May's general election as part of a deal to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who have long campaigned to reform the voting system.

But the Conservatives are campaigning strongly against a change.

Within the opposition, Reid -- now a lawmaker in the upper house of parliament -- is campaigning against the change, while Labour leader Ed Miliband is leading the campaign in favour.

Under the first-past-the-post system, the candidate for the lower house, the Houses of Parliament, with the most votes in their constituency is elected as lawmaker.

Critics argue that this has allowed for a scenario in which about two-thirds of MPs in the lower house are elected with less than 50 percent of support from voters.

Under the AV system, voters rank candidates in order of preference in single constituencies.

On the first count, only first preference votes are counted and a candidate with more than 50 percent is elected.

But if no candidate passes the threshold, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and voters' second choices are shared out between the remaining candidates in a second round.

This process continues until someone has 50 percent of the vote.

© 2011 AFP

0 Comments To This Article