I support the Alternative Vote – and have done since I was first elected as an MP in 2005 – but I am concerned about what Nick Clegg and David Cameron are proposing and how they’re going about this.
Now more than ever we need a system through which MPs are elected with more than half the votes but that also allows constituents to clearly hold their MP to account.
That’s why I back the position in Labour’s manifesto. As I say in my campaign leaflet today, I support AV but I will never support a PR system which breaks the constituency link and leads to the kind of back-room deals where small parties call the shots and election pledges are thrown out of the window in a bid for power.
I would campaign for a change to AV in a fair referendum, but constitutional reform must be done in a proper and fair way and I am concerned about the cynical way in which the Tories and Lib Dems are going about this.
Firstly, by holding it on a day when some parts of the country have elections but others do not will lead to unfair differential turnout.
Secondly, they seem to be tying into the referendum the gerrymandering of our constituencies which the Tories are cynically determined to push through before the next election.
Thirdly, both the Tories and Lib Dems are looking for a distraction from the VAT rise and spending cuts which will bite next year and the verdict of the voters on those broken promises.
That’s why, while I support AV, Labour must be very wary indeed of what David Cameron and Nick Clegg are up to.
Nick Clegg may be smiling today, but time will tell whether it was worth him sacrificing everything the Lib Dems said in the election campaign about VAT and public spending cuts this year for an AV referendum which David Cameron will campaign against.
The test for the Tory-Liberal coalition is whether they will do electoral reform in a straight and proper way. They’ll have to change the way they go about things if they are going to pass that test.