A two-sided self-interested stitch-up

20 May 2005

So, a few days after a flock of protestors gagged themselves outside Downing Street, how goes the old electoral reform campaign in the United Kingdom?

Not so great, it seems. Hot on the heels of the assertion from Prime Minister Blair's official spokesman that "There are no plans to change the current system," Lord Falconer (or Charlie, as everyone appropriately calls him), who poses as both the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, appeared this morning on BBC Radio 4's flagship Today programme to announce that there's "not a real groundswell for change", so the first-past-the-post system stays. (Listen here)

"If the Government is not proposing change," Falconer said, "there is no point in having a referendum."

Presenter John Humphries referred to the poll in the Independent which suggested 62% of Brits are gagging (sorry) for a proportional electoral system. Charlie reminded him that the same poll indicated 57% of Brits thought the election result "fair".

Perhaps a compromise can be reached between the two opinions - a coalition of the content and disillusioned, with a fair representation of both sides?

Anyway... I recently heard Falconer at an LSE event proclaim that "We've done the things that other government's drop the moment they get into office." What rot! Holding a referendum on electoral reform, a manifesto commitment in 1997, was ditched after the Labour Party realised the current system is stupendously stacked in its favour. Falconer pretends there was "a detailed debate" after Lord Jenkins produced his doorstop report. If there was, I must have been sick that term of office.

Still, Falconer isn't a complete Charlie. He admits that "the consequences of change would be significant for the way we are governed." He likes the way we are governed. We are governed by him.

Nevertheless, the anti-Falconers are also not to be trusted. Lord Lipsey, the big cheese of the reform outfit Make Votes Count, is also focusing on "Labour's self-interest". His plan is simple: "We'll try and convince Labour MPs that they won't be in power unless they change the system."

I maintain that this movement for UK electoral reform is a decidedly undemocratic plot by the "progressive left" and you can read my wider thoughts (and polemical accusations) about this here

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