Patrick Dunleavy, Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics was a witness for the Political and Constitutional Reform’s evidence session this morning, Tuesday 27 July, from 11am. Click here to watch the recording of the session.

The session focussed on the Coalition Government’s planned referendum on the Alternative Vote system for electing MPs to the House of Commons, which is expected to take place on 5 May next year.

Professor Dunleavy said, ‘Britain is now a multi-party system like others in western Europe, a trend that is highly unlikely to reverse. Sticking with first past the post elections will lead to fewer and fewer MPs enjoying local majority support, further damaging the legitimacy of Parliament.’

But he warns that the referendum question needs clarification as ‘Alternative vote’ describes a wide class of voting systems which has four main variants that are relevant for the UK- ranging from the ‘Australian AV’ where voters rank one ore more candidates numerically to the ‘London AV’ or supplementary vote used in London’s Mayoral elections. Any version of AV allows voters to use their first preference vote support the parties they most favour, but also to use their second preference vote to decide between the top two candidates in their constituency and to back the one they prefer

As changes in the Westminster election system will almost certainly lead to further changes in other UK voting systems, Dunleavy urges the Government to carefully plan ahead for consistency in ballot paper designs.

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee will also be taking evidence on the proposed date of the referendum and campaigning and funding rules.


1. The evidence session can be watched online on Parliament TV at:

2. The wording of the referendum, as laid out in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, will be: ‘”Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the ‘alternative vote’ system instead of the current ‘first past the post’ system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?”

3. Click below to download a copy of Professor Dunleavy’s full written evidence to the Select Committee on 27 July 2010:

The 2011 Alternative Vote referendum: Three Key Issues

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