I noticed that David Cameron, on Today this morning, was talking about boundary reform. He was saying that it was important that the boundaries are to be redrawn to make constituency sizes more equal. He was saying that the importance of a vote should not depend upon where a person lives. This had me shouting at my radio that he was missing the point by a country mile. (Or words to that effect... I was in the privacy of my own car).
Unfortunately, under first past the post redrawing boundaries does not a fair electoral system make. If you live in a safe seat, your vote has less impact that the guy down the road in the marginal seat (this is my situation). If you are a labour voter in Surrey or a tory voter in Scotland, you are unlikely to get any representation (a significant number of Scots voted Tory in 2005, but got no representation at Westminster).
What are the alternatives?
Single Transferable Vote is my preferred option, it maintains the idea of a constituency link (one votes for the person, not the party). How this works is that the voters rank their choices 1, 2, 3 etc... if there is no clear winner (50%+) then the person with the least votes is eliminated and the second choice votes are redistributed. This process is repeated until we have a clear winner. This may be a little slower, but surely that's a fair price for better?
With STV we have a final electee who most are happy with, and people can express true preferences. It would virtually eliminate the tactical element of 'I want A, but B might get in, so I'll vote C to keep them out'.
It would avoid splitting the vote, suppose we have an unpopular candidate, let's call him Michael Port. Under First Past the Post (our current system), the vast majority might want 'anyone but him', and with lots of opponents the opposition is split meaning Michael survives. The 'fix' with FPTP is for all but one candidate to withdraw. How much better would it be for all of the opponents to stand and for people to express preferences between them?
STV is not proportional representation, not that PR is neccessarily a bad thing, but it does make for a system where my vote counts much more than it does now.
There are other voting systems, each with it's own strengths and weakness (list based PR is not good, in my opinion).
In 1997, Labour promised a reform of the electoral system in westminster. Where is it? Again, this was promised in 2005: "Labour remains committed to reviewing the experience of the new electoral systems â€“ introduced for the devolved administrations, the European Parliament and the London Assembly. A referendum remains the right way to agree any change for Westminster."
I really don't understand why David Cameron, recognising the electoral bias that exists toward Labour* thinks it's simply a matter of equalising constituencies. It isn't, it's deeper than that.
* (in England, labour lost the popular vote, but got more seats).