Dear Editor, May 5 is going to be a very important day for democracy in the UK. Different parts of the UK will have local elections or elections to devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, there is an added importance to polling day this year, because it is also the first nation-wide referendum in the United Kingdom since 1975, and this referendum will decide the crucial question of which electoral system we use in future general elections.

This matters immensely because general elections are the core of our democracy. They should decide the government of the day. They should give voters the power to either kick out an incumbent government or re-elect them. After all, this is the essence of our democratic voting system.

On May 5 voters will choose between changing to a new system – the Alternative Vote – or staying with our well tried and tested First-Past-the-Post voting system. We strongly oppose a change to the Alternative Vote.

A change to the Alternative Vote for general elections would make coalitions more likely and therefore break the clear democratic contract between voters and political parties in an election campaign.

As we have seen from last year’s general election, more coalitions would make it more likely that instead of party manifestos deciding what happens, this would be decided behind closed doors after the election, with voters having no say. In other words, the change would not bring politics closer to the people, as its advocates argue; instead it would do the opposite.

We believe that the winner of an election should be the candidate who comes first. If we want clear results from a general election, and if we want parties to be held to the manifestos on which they campaign, we should stick to the current electoral system.

It is therefore very important that people vote in this referendum. In the privacy of the ballot box say no to AV.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

Ian Austin MP Dudley North

Adrian Bailey MP West Bromwich West

Lord Bilston

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

Baroness Crawley

Jim Cunningham MP Coventry South

Paul Farrelly MP Newcastle-under-Lyme

Robert Flello MP Stoke-on-Trent South

Lord Gilbert

Baroness Golding

Lord Grocott

Tristram Hunt MP Stoke-on-Trent Central

Lord Jordan

Lord King of West Bromwich

Khalid Mahmood MP Birmingham, Perry Barr

Shabana Mahmood MP Birmingham, Ladywood

Steve McCabe MP Birmingham, Selly Oak

Pat McFadden MP Wolverhampton South East

Lord Morris of Handsworth

Emma Reynolds MP Wolverhampton North East

Geoffrey Robinson MP Coventry North West

Lord Rooker

Lord Snape

John Spellar MP Warley

Gisela Stuart MP Birmingham, Edgbaston

Lord Tomlinson of Walsall

Valerie Vaz MP Walsall South

Joan Walley MP Stoke-on-Trent North

David Winnick MP Walsall North

David Wright MP Telford