UK PM Gordon Brown is proposing a bill before parliament that would provide for a referendum on replacing FPTP with Alternative Vote. The referendum would be held by October, 2011.
Of course, there is one big catch: Labour is unlikely to be in government by then, as most indications are that it will lose the general election that must be held by spring, 2010.
From the Guardian:
Ministers, who agreed the move at a meeting of the cabinet’s democratic renewal committee (DRC) yesterday, believe that the prospect of a referendum will have three key benefits. It will:
• Allow Labour to depict itself at the general election as the party of reform in response to the parliamentary expenses scandal.
• Make David Cameron look like a defender of the status quo. The Tories, who are opposed to abolishing the first-past-the-post system, would have to introduce fresh legislation to block the referendum if they win the election.
• Increase the chances that the Liberal Democrats will support Labour – or at least not support the Tories – if no party wins an overall majority at the election, resulting in a hung parliament. The Lib Dems have traditionally regarded the introduction of PR as their key demand in any coalition negotiations. While AV does not technically count as PR, many Lib Dems regard AV as a step in the right direction.
The proposal is itself a compromise:
Some ministers, such as the home secretary Alan Johnson and the culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, were keen for Labour to burnish its reformist credentials by staging a referendum on the same day as the general election.
The prime minister resisted this option because it might have prompted Tory charges that a failing government was trying to save its skin by changing the electoral system for the election after next. The Electoral Commission has also made clear that it does not believe referendums should be held on the same day as general elections.
Speaking only as a political scientist, it would be nice to have another AV system! It also would be very interesting to see how a Conservative majority government, if one were to result from the 2010 election, would respond to the law on the books requiring it to hold a referendum that it does not want.