As the House of Lords filibuster on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill continues, Sky News’s Glen O’Glaza asks:
Here, briefly, is my take on that question.
The Lib Dems want a referendum on AV, because that’s the nearest they think they can get to PR in the near future. The Tories want a reduction in seats in the Commons, because (a) they think it will weaken Labour, and (b) it will weaken the House of Commons and strengthen the executive’s grip on Parliament. Frankly, I suspect (b) is the more important reason.
(As for the professed desire to “make the system cheaper”: this is hard to reconcile, to put it politely, with packing the Lords at the same time. Not to mention being a deeply unworthy reason for such a significant constitutional change – as if the composition of the House of Commons were merely a matter of budgeting and administration. The “cost-cutting” argument is just an expedient to secure public support at a time when the Commons’ reputation is at its lowest ebb for centuries.)
So why are AV and seat reductions lumped together? Because the Tories know the referendum on AV is going to fail, but that will not affect the reduction in seats (which is not subject to a referendum). At the same time, linking the two reduces attention on the reduction in MPs’ numbers and allows the government to paint Labour as hypocritical blockers of electoral reform when they oppose the Bill.
Does that sound cynical? Maybe it is, but not as cynical as this exercise in lumping (together), packing (the Lords) and rigging (Parliament) in the first place.