Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Electoral deform

I'm very disappointed to see the dinosaurs are winning the debate about electoral reform within the British Labour party (1).

While the boundary changes might hand the Tories an inbuilt advantage, that isn't an adequate reason for opposing them. Labour didn't exercise itself over boundary reform while they were in office, when the urban-rural imbalance favoured them. Now, they are complaining about it in the same terms as the Tories did before - the other side is seeking to give itself an advantage. The coalition plans, on the surface, are based on fairness - MPs should represent the same number of people, rather than the current situation where urban constituencies are smaller.

There might be an arguable case for the status quo - urban constituencies are where wealth is generated, they have more complex issues and more diverse populations, and so on. But I don't hear Labour making that case. They're just rehashing the same arguments - with minor changes - that the Tories were making a few weeks ago when it became obvious that they weren't going to get an overall majority because of the alleged 'pro-Labour' bias.

I'm still opposed to the idea of reducing the number of MPs, which will mean each MP is less beholden to his electorate, and will entrench the main parties, as it will be more difficult for minor parties and 'rogue' candidates to make a breakthrough. To be honest, I'd be inclined to see the Alternative Vote reform fail under these circumstances. It would create a three party system, instead of a two party system, and I don't regard that as progress.

It would, however, be very interesting if Labour and some Tory rebels do manage to cripple the referendum. That would be n effective deal breaker, wouldn't it? Cameron promised that he'd whip his hordes through the 'Yes' lobby, and if he fails to deliver, where does that leave the coalition? Though if the Lib Dem ratings are as low then as they are now, would Nick Clegg savour an election? Or would he do it to avoid being knived by his own back benchers for leading them to disaster?

It would be nice to see Labour advancing its own ideas and promising a programme of 'fair' reforms to replace this 'gerrymandered' fix. But they don't seem interested in that.
1 - "Shadow cabinet to oppose voting reform bill," by Patrick Wintour. Published in The Guardian, 27th of July, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jul/27/shadow-cabinet-to-oppose-voting-reform-bill)

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