.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Monday, March 24, 2008

Grasping at straws

I read over the weekend that Labour Ministers were starting to regret not supporting electoral reform when they were flying high in the polls and had a three figure majority. The implication was that if they tried to grasp that particular nettle now that they trail behind the Tories and look like a government in disarray then it would look like a last desperate throw of the dice by a fading political power. Well, they have done it anyway.

Today's Guardian reports that a significant overhaul of electoral legislation to give voters a second vote, open polling stations at weekends and make it compulsory to participate is being proposed by the government to increase turnout and improve the legitimacy of the Commons.

Unfortunately, their preferred solution of the alternative vote is the bare minimum that they can introduce and it is not very proportional at all. In fact, as the paper reports, it is possible under this system for the Tories to gain an overall Commons majority with a smaller share of the vote than under first past the post.

Personally, I welcome any moves towards a fairer voting system but I am not prepared to believe it until I see it. There is so much stuff being spun out of Downing Street at the moment in the hope of capturing the public's imagination, that I believe that cynicism should be the order of the day.

Any change to the voting system needs to be based on principle, not party advantage otherwise it will not gain public acceptance. There is no indication in this piece that New Brown Labour even understands that pre-condition. They still have a long way to go to convince us of their sincerity on this reform.

As for compulsory voting, well, don't get me started. If we have to force people to the polls by threatening them with prosecution and fines then we have failed as a democracy. We should be in the business of persuading people, not coercing them.
you can have as much electoral reform as you like but until the west lothian question is answered it's not worth a cracker. Do that first and see how things stand then.
They are separate issues.
Perhaps the most important issue to confront when loooking at proportional representation Peter, is the issue of public 'legitimacy'. Try as we have done, there is still a perception that 'regional' members are less significant than 'constituency' members. Most people in my experience do not know who their 'regional' AMs or MEPs are. Perhaps its less so in South West Wales than in Mid and West Wales, but I see this as a formidable challenge
I agree Glyn but you should not make the mistake of thinking that the additional member system used by the Assembly is either a proportional system or the inevitable outcome of having PR. In my view it is an illegitimate system.

Both STV, which I favour, and the Alternative Vote being proposed by Labour, produce members with a constituency link. All members under that system are equal and there is no perception of some being different to others.

The STV system, as used in Scotland and Northern Ireland is also fairer and produces a result closer to the way people voted than other systems.
Post a Comment

<< Home

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