IN the present House of Commons not a single MP has the support of a majority of those who voted in his or her constituency. This means that Britain's long-standing “first past the post system” delivers MPs to Westminster who cannot really claim to represent fully their electorate. No voting system is perfect but it surely must be possible to devise something which more truly reflects the broad feelings of voters. Such a method is the Alternative Vote (AV) system which Gordon Brown wants to place on the general election agenda as an idea which should be put to British voters in a referendum after the election.

Under the AV system voters rank their candidate choice in order of preference on the ballot paper rather than just putting a cross against a single name. If no candidate gets a simple majority of more than 50 per cent of votes cast the second, third etc preferences are distributed until one candidate passes the 50 per cent mark. Although the Conservatives are highly critical of the prime minister's failure to bring forward proposals for the reform of the House of Commons they displayed rooted opposition to the AV propositional when it was debated on Tuesday. Why? Mr Brown's intention is no more than that the British people should be given the opportunity of expressing their opinion on such a change. What's wrong with that?