Fishy Tales

04 May 2005

Electoral Reform

Does anyone remember the Jenkins Commission on Electoral Reform, back in 1998? It was set up by New Labour as part of its manifesto pledge, and what's more, we were promised a referendum on any changes recommended.

Jenkins (RIP 2003) proposed that a percentage of seats in Westminster (100-200) should be determined by Proportional Representation (or more accurately Alternative Vote Plus/AV+). This would make Westminster more representative of the electorate, and almost certainly cater much better for sections of the electorate that have strong opinions on certain issues, but are too geographically dispersed to make their voices heard under the current system - thousands of disaffected young/first-time voters spring immediately to mind.

We shouldn't be surprised that New Labour has signally failed to keep its promise of giving us a referendum on Jenkins' proposals in 2 full terms, let alone in its first term as originally promised. After all, the party now has a lot of "form", and Blair is a real pro when it comes to wriggling out of past committments, rewriting history and redefining words. I wouldn't expect any change of tack in the third term, either. They've got what they wanted.

I suppose it isn't surprising that the Tories haven't made a song and dance about the failure to provide an opportunity for electoral reform. Though perhaps in light of current performance - as opposed to in terms of their historic advantage under the current system - they should reconsider.

But what about the Lib Dems? Why haven't they drawn attention to the failure to meet this very serious commitment, which was, after all, made to some extent with them and their supporters in mind? And especially, why haven't they drawn attention to it right now when it is of such supreme relevance?

I must ask my MP, Norman Baker. I should say my current MP...

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