AV voting referendum: Tim Farron's viewpoint

Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron Tim Farron says the current system creates "jobs for life"

A referendum will be held on 5 May on whether to keep the first-past-the-post system for electing MPs or to switch to the alternative vote. The BBC is asking a variety of people to give their personal view.

Did you know that most of us have an MP that we voted against?

That our elections are decided by a small number of voters in marginal seats? That the worst expenses scandals occurred in safe seats, many of which hadn't changed party since the Second World War?

Our current voting system, first-past-the- post, isn't fit for purpose anymore and is failing us.

It means that most people's votes don't count; it's created a system of safe seats and jobs for life, and was at the heart of the expenses scandal.

AV is a small change that would make a big difference.

'Seize the chance'

Put simply, it allows you to rank candidates in order of preference and requires every MP to have secured the support of at least half of their constituents.

It gives voters more power and politicians less, because it allows you to vote for the candidate you really want and not the one you dislike least to keep someone else out. It means all MPs will have to work harder for your vote by reaching out to more of their constituents.

What could be possibly be bad about that?

THE REFERENDUM CHOICE

At the moment MPs are elected by the first-past-the-post system, where the candidate getting the most votes in a constituency is elected.

On 5 May all registered UK voters will be able to vote Yes or No on whether to change the way MPs are elected to the Alternative Vote system.

Under the Alternative Vote system, voters rank candidates in their constituency in order of preference.

Anyone getting more than 50% of first-preference votes is elected.

If no-one gets 50% of votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their backers' second choices allocated to those remaining.

This process continues until one candidate has at least 50% of all votes in that round.

Opponents will say it will lead to more coalition government, when research clearly shows that's not true.

They say it is complicated, but what could be simpler than ranking your choices 1-2-3?

They say it will help extremist parties, yet the BNP are campaigning for a 'No' vote because they know it will make it harder, not easier, for them to get elected.

You don't have to take my word for it.

This issue is so important it has united my party, Labour, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and UKIP.

And the no campaign? The Tories, the BNP and the Communists.

This is the first time we've ever been asked for our say on how we elect MPs.

We need to seize the chance to change the way we do politics once and for all, because the alternative is business as usual, jobs for life, politicians who are accountable to a minority of their constituents and the opportunity for reform will be lost for a generation.

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