I became involved in politics 25 years ago and one of the main reasons I became involved was because I saw the way that our electoral system doesn’t fairly represent the wishes of British voters.
Becoming involved in the practice of campaigning for electoral reform has actually been a relatively recent thing for me though; when I was employed to be a member of the Yes to Fairer Votes team last year.
Of course 2011 was a bad year for electoral reformers with the failure of the AV referendum. And we are right to re-evaluate if the constitutional reform sector is fit for purpose to deliver its mission.
But 2012 will see, perhaps rather oddly, the first opportunity for all English voters to use a form of preferential voting to elect the new police commissioners across the country. The new voting system, Supplementary Vote, allows voters to rank their top two choices, rather than all of them in AV, and as such does mean there will be a slight, if notable, change in the way the English vote.
It is by no means perfect but if it gets voters used to casting their ballots preferentially that has to be good for the cause of electoral reform, as does the extension of the numbers of cities electing Mayors via the same system. Whatever the pros and cons of either of these new institutions the voting system will be more democratic than first-past-the-post and that has to be progress.
This, to many electoral reformers, will seem a modest change not worthy of attention, but the main prize for 2012 will be reform of the House of Lords. If we can add our voices to this major reform it will be a major, even historic, change. And, if Nick Clegg achieves his objective it will be elected by Single Transferable Vote. This would be a major prize for all of us in the constitutional reform sector and one that we should all put our efforts into over the next 12 months.
Happy New Year and let’s achieve parliamentary reform this year even though we failed in 2011 – it’s up to us.