MPs are as confused as psephologists about the likely impact of the double dose of electoral reform which could hit voters in 2015. Not only are they trying to get their head round the possible effects of the alternative vote system, but they also have to factor in the ramifications of a fall in the number of seats from 650 to 600.
A study by the Electoral Reform Society soon after the election suggested AV could cost the Tories 25 seats, of which 22 would go to the Lib Dems.
But any Lib Dem rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of the number of their parliamentary colleagues rising by nearly half should read this post on PoliticalBetting. Mike Smithson suggests the system could end up wiping out the Lib Dems, as it means the end of tactical voting, which has benefitted the party both in the north, where voters want to keep out the Tories, and the South West, where they don’t want Labour.
Perhaps this is why Nick Clegg before the election called a switch to AV a “miserable little compromise”.
Tories who remain concerned about the effect of AV on their seats have been reassured today by the party whips that it is the Lib Dems who are more vulnerable. Besides which, the party calculates that the effect of the boundary review, which will give a greater say to suburban voters who traditionally vote Tory, will negate the impact of AV, and possibly put them in net positive territory.
Nick Clegg will be selling his announcement to the Commons today as the great triumph of the Lib Dems in the coalition. But with potential Tory rebels looking markedly more relaxed in recent days* perhaps it is the Lib Dems who should be the more nervous coalition partner right now.
* UPDATE – It should be said that that excludes Andrew Turner, the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, whose 103,000-voter constituency will be broken up under these proposals. Amid all the barracking on the floor of the Commons today as Nick Clegg read out his statement, the loudest came from Mr Turner, whose repeated shouts of “What about the Isle of Wight?” had to be silenced by the speaker John Bercow.