Labour and Electoral Reform…
Today’s Observer says that Labour are once again considering a referendum on electoral reform. My attitude is very much I will believe it when I see it given the frequency of these stories and the suspicious lack of delivery. What we can glean from the fact that these stories is that there is actually a division within the Labour hierarchy over whether to pursue this course of action with Gordon Brown being firmly on the side of not wanting it but other Cabinet ministers pressuring him to accept it.
In other words these articles are those people in favour flying a kite. What probably mitigates against is actually happening is the fact that there is no serious grass roots pressure due to the ambivalenceof the Labour left which is weary of any move that would weaken social class and identity based voting. Several Liberal Democrat bloggers including Costigan Quist and Mark Thompson have put forward strategies to make sure their preferred option of Single Transferable Vote is the victor.
I think any referendum should be open and give people an informed choice between the different systems to be fair and ensure people get the system they want but personally remain a supporter of Alternative Vote principally to maintain the constituency link. Most adamant proponents of STV admit that this system would decimate the constituency link and do not see this as a bad thing because they think the role of MP’s should change from being ‘glorified social workers’ to primarily legislators.
However, I see no contradiction between the two; in fact, I think legislation disconnected from it’s real impact in terms of casework generated is bad legislation. How else can legislation be assessed if it is not in it’s practical impact on peoples everyday lives? How else do MP’s know where legislation needs to be changed and modified if it is not through this feedback? Would it not reduce legislation to a laboratory exercise where it is made in a bubble by isolated and disconnected MPs?
An open referendum would allow these debates and discussions to be had and that is why Labour should indeed stop ‘playing politics’ with electoral reform and give us a referendum.