This week Westminster has been preoccupied by possible changes in the voting system.
The bill to give the people a referendum vote on whether to move to the Alternative Vote system or not was granted a second reading on Monday.
The history of this measure is complex. It failed to get a Parliamentary majority in the 1920s when a previous Coalition looked at it. In the 2010 General Election the Conservatives opposed AV strenuously, Labour proposed it, and the Lib Dems said they would prefer a more proportional voting system.
After the election the Lib Dems said they wanted it as part of their price to join a Coalition, Labour said they now opposed it because it is linked to other changes to constituencies in the Bill, and Conservative Ministers said they now support a referendum on it, but will urge people to vote “No”.
It is in a way surprising that Lib Dems are now enthusiastic about this measure. They should study two different and interesting General Election results. In Brighton a Green emerged as the outright winner, leaving the Lib Dem struggling in fourth place. In a future election under AV more Lib Dem members and voters might decide the Greens were a purer version of what they believe in, and give them their first preference votes. Telling themselves they will vote Lib dem second preference, they could just get a Brighton effect. We know Greens can draw enough votes from across the party spectrum to win in an individual seat with a leading Green candidate.
Buckingham shows us something different. Labour and Lib Dem withdrew from this contest, giving UKIP the best possible conditions for their best known candidate to win. He struggled in well behind not just the former Conservative Speaker, but also behind a pro EU integration independent. This implies AV is less of threat to Conservatives, than it is to Lib Dems.
Under an AV system we should expect to see more splinter group or single issue type parties, as people can vote for them on first preference and still express a view on between the better supported candidates, where their preferred candidate is a minority cause candidate. This may not work well for the Lib Dems.