COMEDIAN Eddie Izzard rode into Oxford yesterday in an attempt to ignite interest in voting reform.

Tomorrow voters will have their say on whether the UK should replace the first past the post election system with the alternative vote (AV).

“Vote no” campaigners are adamant people should back the status quo.

And many advocates of change fear the nation has switched off from the issue altogether.

But Mr Izzard took to the streets to enthusiastically urge people to vote yes to AV.

As previously reported in the Oxford Mail, analysis of the last year’s General Election, carried out by academics at Essex University, showed the Liberal Democrats would have won both Oxford seats if AV had been used.

Mr Izzard, who was paraded through the city on the back of a cycle rickshaw, said AV was a fairer system and, contrary to some opinion, was not complicated.

But the comedian admitted voting reform had “gone off radar slightly” in recent weeks.

“It’s not fantastically exciting, but it’s important,” he said.

Asked whether the Labour Party's failure to commit to AV had dented the Yes campaign, Mr Izzard, a Labour activist, said the issue was not about one party.

“I’m not sure if it would help Labour in every election but it’s fairer for all citizens,” he said “Since the birth of democracy we have never had this chance. It’s better for us. Go out and vote yes.”

But supporters of the first past the post system claim the present system is the fairest and simplest way to elect MPs.

Conservative county councillor Arash Fatemian said: “The Yes campaign make a big thing about AV making MPs work harder.

“At the moment MPs have to work very hard to get that one vote. But if they can rely on second and third preferences will they work as hard? No.”

Nationally, the Essex study showed the Liberal Democrats would have been the big winners under an AV system.

They would have won 89 House of Commons seats last year, instead of 57. Labour would have lost 10 seats and the Conservatives 24.

In total, 43 constituencies out of 630 would have returned a different result under the AV system, including the two Oxford seats.

  • How the voting systems work

Under the present first past the post system, people vote for a single candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins – even if fewer than half of voters wanted that candidate.

Using the alternative vote system (AV), voters rank candidates in order of preference, placing a one, two, three, etc, against candidates’ names on the ballot paper.

If one candidate secures more than 50 per cent of the votes, then he or she is declared the winner.

If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and his/her votes are redistributed according to the second preference of each voter.

There is a recount and this process is repeated until one candidate secures more than 50 per cent of the votes.

  • For more information about the referendum, click on the link to the About My Vote website below.