Jenkins Commission (UK)
The Independent Commission on the Voting System, popularly known as the Jenkins Commission after its chairman Roy Jenkins, was a commission into possible reform of the United Kingdom electoral system.
The commission was set up in December 1997 by the Labour government with the support of the Liberal Democrats, to investigate alternatives to the single member plurality (or "first past the post") electoral system used for British general elections. A referendum was planned on whether to change the voting system.
The commission was asked to take into account four requirements:
- broad proportionality,
- the need for stable government,
- an extension of voter choice, and
- the maintenance of a link between MPs and geographical constituencies.
The commission reported in September 1998 and suggested the alternative vote top-up or AV+ system, which would directly elect some MPs by the alternative vote, with a number of additional members elected from top up lists similarly to mixed member proportional representation. A Single Transferable Vote system was considered by the commission, but rejected on the grounds that it would require massive constituencies of around 350,000 electors resulting in an oppressive degree of choice, (i.e. too many candidates to choose from.) Also, they described the counting of votes in STV as "incontestably opaque" and argued that different counting systems could produce different results. Finally, Jenkins rejected STV because it was a different system from those used in European and devolved parliaments, as well as the London Assembly.
Actions taken from the commission
No action was taken to change the electoral system.
Labour's manifesto in 1997 had stated its original position as:
We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons. An independent commission on voting systems will be appointed early to recommend a proportional alternative to the first-past-the-post system.
By 2001, following the Jenkins' Commission however, the Labour manifesto now stated:
We will review the experience of the new systems (in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the Jenkins report to assess whether changes might be made to the electoral system for the House of Commons. A referendum remains the right way to agree any change for Westminster.
And in the 2005 manifesto, reference to the Jenkins Report itself (Jenkins had died in 2003) was dropped:
Labour is committed to reviewing the experience of the new electoral systems — introduced for the devolved administrations, the European Parliament and the London Assembly. A referendum remains the right way to agree any change for Westminster.
In the 2010 manifesto, Labour promised a referendum on a pure AV system, which had been rejected by the Jenkins commission due to it not offering broad proportionality. (The Jenkins commission had also taken the view that such a minor change would not merit a referendum.)
To ensure that every MP is supported by the majority of their constituents voting at each election, we will hold a referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote for elections to the House of Commons.
After the 2010 election, with a hung parliament, and the Liberal Democrats potentially holding the balance of power, AV+ was again the subject of discussion, as a potential part of a coalition deal. However, the eventual coalition's deal - between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives - specified that there would be a referendum on "the introduction of the Alternative Vote". This was confirmed in February 2011, when the referendum on AV (not AV+) was approved by Parliament.
The referendum took place on Thursday 5 May 2011, resulting in an 67.9% "No" vote, in favour of keeping the existing "first-past-the-post"; versus 32.1% "Yes" in favour of Moving to AV. Of 440 voting areas (based on Parliamentary constituencies) only 10 of the 440 areas returned "yes" votes in favour of AV, of which six were in London, the others being Oxford and Cambridge, Edinburgh Central and Glasgow Kelvin.
- "Report of the Independent Commission on the Voting System". Retrieved 2009-05-25.
- "1997 Labour Party Manifesto -". Retrieved 2009-05-25.
- "2001 Labour Party Manifesto -". Retrieved 2009-05-25.
- "The Coalition: Our Programme for Government" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-02-18.
- "Referendum on voting system goes ahead after Lords vote". BBC News. 2011-02-17. Retrieved 2011-02-18.
- "Alternative Vote as Voting System". Direct Democracy. Retrieved 9 June 2012.