Monday, July 09, 2007


Electoral Reform an Option Gordon Can Keep Available

In The Times a couple of days ago Peter Riddell commented on Gordon's plans to revive government. He approved of the new possibilities of petitions triggering debates in the legislature and other devices to increase participation. His main criticism of proposals to 'consult'- a promise made by both party leaders- is that the assumption behind such exercises is that leaders tell us what they want and then expect us to agree with them.

If we have the temerity to say 'no'- as over a million did in the case of the war on Iraq- the government can ignore with the impunity shown by Tony Blair. It would be nice if popular opposition to measures could be acknowledged and dealt with in some way more respectful of those who have taken the trouble to participate.

More to the point perhaps, Gordon seems to have kept mostly silent about what is for so many people the key reform: changing the voting system. The Guardian leader today considers this issue with some insight. Brown has promised to 'review the various voting systems of the UK'; the leader points out that any such review is bound to expose the anomalies of proportional systems in Scotland, Wales, N.Ireland and for London Authority elections, yet the retention of first past the post for seats in Westminster.

Labour needs to think what might happen when the pendulum of opinion swings to a point which the present bias of the voting system cannot rectify. We hear that while PR is not smiled upon- problems of coalition in Scotland and Wales have made Labour wary-the Alternative Vote is regarded as a possibility. This enables voters to indicate preferences between candidates, precluding the possibility of elections on a minority of the vote. But as the Guardian points out, this is no PR system: in 2005 Labour's 35% of the vote would have translated into an higher figure than 55% of the seats.

I suspect Gordon will keep voting reform an option, standing in the wings, in case his poll ratings have plummeted as the next election approaches. Changing the system might make coalition near inevitable but that would be preferable- as Labour are currently finding in Wales- to any return to opposition or to the near electoral extinction of the eighties.

Comments: Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?