A number of constituents have contacted me, following the outcome of the election to ask my views on, or suggest a change to, our voting system.  

This is a complex issue with many arguments either side. I think my argument for First Past the Post is not based on proportionality of votes- it can’t be. But it is about what the system delivers, and how that has suited the UK. It does not mean it is unchangeable, but it does require serious thought before change.

Do I think we have a fair system of democracy? In essence, yes I do, despite the obvious shortcoming of lack of proportionality. This is only one aspect of a complex argument.

What is our system designed to do? Firstly produce, more often than not, a result which gives one party the responsibility of Government, and therefore the undoubted accountability for everything it does. Any coalition blurs this, as we saw during the recent election campaign, where it becomes part of the argument who was responsible for what.

Secondly the barrier to entry prevents extremists, such as the BNP or others, from gaining a foothold.

Thirdly, and this is where fairness comes in, it is also able to deliver a change of Government regularly. And it has done for a long time, and people have accepted the inconsistencies involved because being able to change Governments is fair in itself. This is really important. I do not believe the Conservative Party should be in Government for ever in this country. Nor Labour, nor anyone else. They have to lose elections to be refreshed, work out what people want, and be influenced for change etc. and for the people to have the ability to throw out a Government going wrong. Our system does this because there are enough marginal seats to make the difference, and ensure change.

And as the rise of the Labour Party in the late 1800s, and the SNP now, the barriers to entry are not insuperable. Nor is any seat ‘safe’, under our system, as Douglas Alexander will tell you. When I was first an MP, Westmoreland, home of Tim Farron now, was an impregnable Tory seat. And it’s not safe seats which make the difference in an election- it’s the ones which are not.

So I think a FPTP does this because it exaggerates, or minimises certain trends, thus giving rise to the obvious charges of lack of proportion etc. I concede that.

But if this is changed, what follows? Permanent coalitions? Would they have the ability to make landmark changes sometimes needed against determined opposition? Would the people know in advance what coalition they were voting for? Could they ever be removed from office? What would we lose? Do we want single member constituencies, or lists of potential MPs?

We don’t know the answers to these questions which is why we need a cool debate, because a knee jerk ‘it’s not fair so we must change the practice of centuries’ is not good enough. It may well need change, but there is a real argument to be had.