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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tories disappoint on PR

It is not my intention to spend all my time on this blog talking about fair voting for local government, but it is worth noting that the promised damoscene conversion of the Welsh Conservatives on this issue appears not to have happened.

I only have reports in the Western Mail to go on of course, so it is possible that a closer reading of the actual Tory manifesto might produce a different answer, but I think that is unlikely. The newspaper tells us that the Tories are open to changes in electoral arrangements but only if a local referendum votes in favour. There is no indication of what is needed to trigger such a referendum or what options will be on offer to the electorate. In truth such a referendum is likely to produce a level of apathy not seen since, well, the devolution vote in1997. The outcome could be twenty two different voting systems.

The Tories may argue that this is the very essence of localism, I would say that it is fence-sitting of the worst kind. There are real benefits to be gained for local democracy from subjecting it to a fair voting system. If the Assembly were to fail to take a lead in legislating for this but instead treats it as some sort of social experiment then those benefits will be lost.

My fear now is that there will not be a clear manifesto majority in favour of such a change in the new Assembly and the opportunity will be lost for another four years.
Oh great, £20 worth of energy saving light bulbs off the Tories. I've got them thanks, what am I going to do with another £20 worth of the things?

Is this the Assembly's closing down sale? Everything must go, lightbulbs, laptops.....
You might be interested in the following:
" A strong argument in favour of PR is that it appears to do a better job of promoting political equality. According to one recent review of cross national evidence, PR does a much better job of encouraging participation among those with a lower level of political knowledge and engagement (who,as we have seen are drawn disproportinately from the less well off). Where PR is used ,55% of those with a very low level of knowledge turn out to vote compared to only 38% in first past the post systems. The main reason is that under PR parties spend less time chasing after the median voter, clearer differences in party positions are able to emerge as voters feel that they are presented with a genuine choice. Parties also have a stronger incentive to spread their resources across all constituencies, which matters when mobilisation plays such a major role in getting voters to the polls."
This is taken from a Compass publlication written by Paul Skidmore. He is quoting from the 2007 British Social attitudes survey. Not all Labour party members are stick in a 20th century time warp on PR as you will see if you place a bill for change after the May election.
We would "review the arrangements for local government elections with a view to possible referendums on the form of election".

Peter, this is a major change in Conservative Party policy, which I would have hoped you would have seen as a reasonable basis for discussion. As a principle, we would be unhappy to force a system of PR on an area if there were to be a majority against it. What sort of localism do you believe in.

Clearly, much discussion would take place within a review and many decisions about implementation would have to be decided on.
I believe in the sort of localism in which people are able to influence and make decisions on issues that affect their lives and in which their elected representatives reflect the views of the wider community. That is why STV is central to it.

I understand that it is a major shift in policy but I believe that it does not go far enough to convince Viceroy Hain that there is a 'manifesto majority' for change. I believe you have opened the door for him to block any vote by the Assembly for PR in local Government.
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