Would AV have helped Tories?

delegates at Lib Dem conference Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Conference has been virtually a constitutional reform-free zone

One thing missing from the Lib Dems' conference is any debate about electoral reform.

It seems almost unconstitutional for the party not to have a row about proportional representation or House of Lords reform. Yet it has hardly featured in the conference hall or the fringe here in Glasgow.

Now you might imagine the reason is obvious. These are not issues the party wishes to revisit.

If this conference is supposed to be about the Lib Dems celebrating their successes in government, it is perhaps best not to rehearse their greatest defeats, namely the failed referendum over the alternative vote and the abortive attempt to introduce democracy to the world's second largest legislature.

But a thoughtful Lib Dem minister raises it privately with me and notes an ironic thought.

If, he said, the Tories had given the Lib Dems AV and a reformed Lords, David Cameron would be in a very different place.

If the prime minister had fought for Lords reform and won, he would have secured boundary changes that might have gifted the Conservatives around twenty extra seats or so.

And if Mr Cameron had supported AV, so the argument goes, he would not be facing such a threat from UKIP.

Under AV, loads of UKIP votes would in theory be redistributed as second preferences to Conservative candidates instead of allowing Labour or the Lib Dems to profit from a divided right of centre vote and win the seat.

Food for thought in a week when Lord Ashcroft's poll of marginal seats suggested that the defection of Tory voters to UKIP could grant Ed Miliband a healthy majority.