WITH the national referendum on how we elect our MPs to Westminster coming on Friday, here's a reminder of the key arguments.

On May 5 the way we elect our MPs to Parliament could be changed, if citizens decide to choose the Alternative Vote.

The AV system is up against the current first past the post.

Under AV, MPs would have to get at least 50 per cent of their electorate's votes - once secondary preferences are factored in.

Instead of putting a cross by the name of the candidate you prefer as you currently do, under AV you would rank the contenders, putting a number by their name.

The referendum is happening because it was part of the agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to form the Coalition Government.

Now, the two partners are fighting fiercely on opposing sides.

Conservative Wycombe MP Steve Baker, and his opponent from last year's General Election, Councillor Steve Guy, Lib Dem, give their reasons why they are on the opposite sides of the argument.

Say yes to AV: Councillor Steve Guy, Leader of Liberal Democrats at Wycombe District Council.

In June 2009 when Wycombe’s then MP Paul Goodman announced his decision not to stand again, It prompted me to write a piece about how the next MP for Wycombe would be chosen by a small group of local Conservative Party members.

This is because Wycombe is a safe seat.

Whoever they had chosen as their candidate was almost guaranteed a job for life. Wycombe has been in the hands of the same party now for sixty years.

But Wycombe is not special in that regard. Over half of all the seats in the land are also safe seats.

In recent years, we have seem some deplorable behaviour by some MPs.

Claiming outrageous expenses has been well documented, and some of the worst excesses were committed by incumbents of safe seats.

The outdated First Past The Post system entrenches complacency, and makes voters powerless and voiceless in half of the seats in the land. No wonder turnout is low!

I have long campaigned for a fairer voting system for the UK.

The system we currently have is not fit for purpose.

It was designed for an age when there were only two parties, and everyone was happy with that limited choice. But the current system breaks down if there are three or more parties.

Voters are forced to vote tactically against the candidate they like least instead of positively.

Debate is reduced to negative attacks and scaremongering. It turns people off politics and we are accused of being ‘all the same’.

AV would allow for a much more positive debate. In order for a candidate to be elected, he or she would need majority support – votes from at least half of all voters. Instead of just shoring up their own support, MPs would have to reach out to the supporters of other parties to get wider backing.

And if your MP had to work a bit harder to keep you happy, would that be a bad thing?

Say no to AV: Wycombe MP Steve Baker.

On May 5th, you’ll be asked to answer a question which comes out of nowhere. In forming the Coalition, the Liberal Democrats demanded that Conservatives agree to hold a referendum on using the Alternative Vote for Parliamentary elections, even though they prefer proportional representation.

The UK has been here before. In June 1931, the Commons debated a Bill which included the Alternative Vote (AV). Churchill’s speech[1] is well worth reading and it’s often quoted.

We learn that then as now, the question arose because of “the Liberal grievance”. Churchill called AV “the stupidest, the least scientific and the most unreal” of the possible plans.

He said, “The decision of 100 or more constituencies, perhaps 200, is to be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates”: he was and remains correct.

We all want to improve politics, but AV would introduce further shenanigans into elections, making things worse. Do you really want candidates who change their tune to attract the second preferences of those who vote for the most hopeless?

Wouldn’t it be better to have candidates of firm principle?

Do you really want some people to have a cost-free protest vote as well as one to be counted? What’s fair about that, if yours is counted once?

There are profound questions to be answered about our political system but whether to use AV is not one of them. If you want more accountable MPs, support recall ballots or simply join a political party.

If you want more accountable government, demand reform of Parliamentary procedure.

If you want to live free of remote politicians’ and officials’ whims, join the Conservatives.

I believe AV would make British politics even worse without solving any of our serious problems. Please vote no to AV on 5 May.