Saturday, January 26, 2008


Government Snuffs Out Hope of Voting Reform

It was Tony Blair who first gave those of us who support PR, some hope that it might be introduced, by suggesting a referendum might decide if Lord Jenkins' 1998 report might be implemented and PR introduced to the UK. That proved a pretty temporary false dawn as the report was firmly placed on a shelf where it has since acquired many layers of dust. When Gordon Brown came into office reformers allowed their hearts to beat a little faster once again as Gordon Brown promised a new review of PR. The drama of Peter Hain's resignation has obscured it but on Thursday 24th November, the government published the results and any expectations raised were then dashed.

The review concludes that in the devolved assemblies, where PR is used, 'voters were confused'. It went on to assert that:

i)If PR was introduced in Westminster elections, constituencies could be represented by more than one MP.

ii)But there is no guarantee PR would increase turnout in a general election or make Parliament more diverse.

iii)It also warns that it could cause complications between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Michael Wills, junior Justice minister added the words which consign any chance of voting reform back onto that dusty shelf with:

We hope this review will inform that ongoing debate but we do so in the firm belief that the current voting system for UK general elections works well, and that any future change would require the consent of the British people in a referendum.

So, the fact that PR has been thought necessary for all the devolved chambers has been totally ignored and the allegation that it 'confuses' voters used to deny voters the same democratic fairness enjoyed by most of the countries in Europe. Anyone looking for a more detailed and even more disgusted analysis of this pathetic piece of cynicism should check out Paul Linford, here.

I totally agree. It is hardly surprising though given both main parties entrenched interests in the current system.

What is far less explicable is the fact that the report was released on Thursday and was not covered by Newsnight, Question Time or This Week on the BBC. If we can't even get the political programmes debating this issue then what hope do we have of engaging popular support for reform?

Incidentally, I think I remember you from many years ago when I was studying A-Level politics at Widnes Sixth Form college. We used to attend politics lectures at Manchester University that you organised and presented. Good to see another informed source with a blog. I found you via a link from Iain Dale.
Seems we both agree on this. Maybe the Sundays will do something on it or The Economist but the absence of comment is depressing. Good to know you were someone who attended the day schools. We're still running them though the Politics Association has gone belly up I fear.
Just to say, be careful what you're quoting from the BBC. The report doesn't say that PR wouldn't make parliament diverse, it says quite clearly it would...and also there is no reference in the report at all the complications between the house of commons and the house of lords.

It's a poor piece of journalism from the BBC that has come from a statement from an MP that has zero interest in political transparancy. I've written more about it here if you'd like to read.
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