If you ever had any trouble understanding what the Liberal Democrats stood for, one thing was always certain: the Lib Dems are for PR.

The Liberal Democrats, it may charitably be said, are a broad church. They are a party that like any other has legitimate disagreement on policy. But most observers and party members alike would say commitment to proportional representation is the sine qua non of Liberal Democrat politics.

That our representatives’ numbers bear scant relationship to the numbers of votes cast for them is, Lib Dems correctly say, a clear injustice that undermines the legitimacy of our whole democracy. Or, as now-Energy Secretary Chris Huhne put it during the election campaign:

“The Alternative Vote is a small step in the right direction, but it is not a proportional system and it does not give voters real power over both the party and the person elected as MP.

“Only the Single Transferable Vote in multi-member seats would abolish MPs’ meal tickets for life, and we will fight to amend this proposal to give people a real choice for a more significant change.”

Well, it turns out they didn’t have to fight. One Green, one Conservative and one Labour MP this evening tabled that very amendment to that very proposal.

Caroline Lucas, Douglas Carswell and Austin Mitchell proposed an amendment to give us, the voters, the choice of whether to have PR or not. They would have offered us the referendum questions:

1. Do you want to change the current “first past the post” system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?

2. If there were a change, list your order of preference, 1, 2, 3, for the United Kingdom to adopt:

a. The ‘alternative vote’ system,
b. The ‘additional member’ system, or
c. The ‘single transferable vote’ system with multi-member constituencies.

Finally, the Liberal Democrats have the chance, in the committee of the whole House, to fight for STV.

Reader, they voted against.

What do the Liberal Democrats stand for now?

Gary Dunion

About Gary Dunion

Gary Dunion is Parliamentary Officer for Friends of the Earth Scotland. He has prevously worked for Green and Independent MSPs, and campaign organisations including Global Justice Now and WWF Scotland. He was a founding editor of Bright Green.