STALYBRIDGE and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds is backing the campaign for a change in the voting system.
Next month a referendum will ask voters to decide whether to replace the current 'first past the post' system with the 'alternative vote'.
Mr Reynolds believes the change would improve the relationship between voters and MP, make government more representative and end the need for 'tactical' voting.
And he hopes it will get the clear backing of the electorate on May 5.
"A move to AV is a modest but important change that would improve accountability, strengthen democracy and ensure the majority of voters had their views heard," said Mr Reynolds.
"And AV would allow voters to be honest about their preferences, without the fear that by doing so they would let their least favoured party through the back door.
"AV would also change the relationship between MPs and their constituents.
"That's because the current first past the post system encourages MPs to focus on their own supporters.
"But to be elected under AV - with the support of at least 50 per cent of the voters - MPs would have to reach out more widely.
"And that would lead to better political discussion, greater mutual understanding and more representative government."
Under the current 'first past the post' system voters mark a cross against their preferred candidate. And the candidate with the most votes is elected.
But where more than two candidates stand that means the winner could be elected with just over a third of the votes.
Under the 'alternative vote' system, voters express preferences for candidates by ranking them numerically.
If a candidate receives more than half of the votes in the first round they would be elected - just as they are now.
But where no candidate receives 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. And the second preferences from those ballot papers are divided between the remaining contenders.
The process continues until a candidate receives at least 50 per cent of the votes or all the other candidates have been eliminated.
Whereas the 'first past the post' system worked when most seats were a choice between two candidates, Mr Reynolds believes AV would now be more effective.
"While we might talk about elections as a race to the finish, they are not," said Mr Reynolds.
"Elections are the process we use to select an MP who can best represent a constituency.
"‘First past the post' might have done the job when there were just two political parties to choose between, but now the process needs to be more sophisticated."
Responding to critics who believe the system should remain unchanged, he said: "Critics have claimed the AV system would be too complicated, too expensive and is more likely to lead to coalitions.
"But under the AV system people would still be able to express a single preference - as now. AV can still be counted by hand, so does not need to be any more expensive. And research shows coalitions are no more likely with AV.
"Some people dispute there's a need to change a voting system that has worked in the past.
"But I believe the impact of these changes extend far beyond the election process itself - and could lead to more positive politics."
Published April 20, 2011