Hain backs alternative vote for Commons

By Daniel Forman
Published February 29th 2004 in epolitix.com

The leader of the House of Commons has given his personal backing to reform of the Westminster electoral system.

Peter Hain said on Sunday that he would be pushing for an alternative vote system to elect MPs.

Under AV voters rank candidates according to preference, introducing a more proportional result, while retaining the link between MPs and their constituencies.

Rather than the candidate with the most first preference votes automatically winning, often with minority support, the least popular are eliminated with their second and third preferences redistributed until a winner with more than 50 per cent backing emerges.


Hain said the government is committed to a review of Westminster voting and that this would be the option he would be backing through Labour's "big conversation" consultation.

“I’m not a supporter of proportional representation but we are committed to a review of the electoral system to see if we can make it fairer and better," he told GMTV.

"There is no appetite [in the Labour Party] for proportional representation in the sense that you would get rid of the system by which you elect your member of parliament.

“But I favour the alternative vote in which you continue to have your own MP in your own constituency but instead of just marking an X and the person who comes top wins, you vote 1, 2, 3 so that the bottom candidates are eliminated and the second and third preferences transfer up and then you get at least an MP who has to command over half the votes of their electorate to win.

"But that is my own personal view; I will argue that and have done within the ‘big conversation’ exercise."

Scotland and Wales

Hain said electoral reform was not an issue that was coming up often at "big conversation" events.

But the Welsh secretary added that the government would honour its commitment to a review, taking into account the operation of proportional systems in the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly.

"Others will put their point of view in, but I think most people think, as we have repeatedly said in our manifesto in 1997 and 2001, that we ought to look and review how the electoral systems are working in Scotland and Wales ," he said.

"They are different from the House of Commons, they aren’t first past the post in every respect and whether there are any lessons there.

"I think that there are lots of anomalies in Wales in particular with how the electoral system is working – we wouldn’t want to repeat that.

"But this is a debate that needs to continue."