Peter Hain “strongly in favour of electoral reform”


[First Published on Wednesday 6th April 2011]

This archive item is a window onto issues as they appeared at the time. It contains facts and opinions which may have been superseded by subsequent events.

“Strongly in favour of electoral reform but against the loss of the single-member constituency under PR, Peter Hain is certain of the merits of AV; “It retains the single member but makes sure that member has majority local support.”

“First Past the Post is deeply flawed and that’s why I’ve always wanted a better, fairer system”.

The reason we need electoral reform, he argues, is that the current system of First Past the Post produces “very unfair results”. Fewer than 1 in 3 MPs are now elected by a majority of their local voters” and even landslide majority governments have been elected on “little over 40% of the national vote”.

With trust in politicians having reached “rock bottom”, Peter believes AV would produce a much “healthier system”.  He sees reform of the electoral system as part of the difficult process of rebuilding trust between politicians and the electorate.

The system, he argues, would make it easier for people to “get rid” of badly behaving MPs, as a result of the “principal advantage of AV” that each candidate must win a majority of the vote.

“AV won’t on its own address the question of political disillusionment but I think it will help”. 

The shadow Welsh minister also rebuffs a number of claims made against AV which he describes as “ludicrous”.

AV does not give some people more than one vote, he argues;  “You have one vote but if you choose to, and only if you choose to, you can express that vote in terms of a preference.”

Nor does it favour extremist parties. One of the proposed system’s advantages, though, is that it allows smaller parties to have their true levels of support registered at a national level, which in his view is important for the “quality of democracy”.

The shadow minister’s final message was clear; “This is your chance”, he said, “if you want a fairer, better system,” then vote ‘yes’.

This publication presents the personal views of the author and not those of The Constitution Society, which publishes it as a contribution to debate on this important subject.