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.


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4 responses to “Labour and Electoral Reform…”

  1. Costigan Quist says :

    In general I believe STV would maintain the constituency link. In some ways it could strengthen it (you’re far more likely to have an MP you like under STB).

    However, I do appreciate the problem: especially in rural areas, multi-member constituencies could become very large indeed.

    A while back I proposed a compromise system I hopes more people could live with: STV with three-member constituencies in urban areas, 2-member seats in rural areas and 1-member seats in the most rural areas (e.g. Scottish Highlands).

    Needless to say, I do *not* want to somehow force STV to be selected as the voting system. I want to make sure it’s on the ballot paper and then hope to persuade the people to vote for it.


  2. darrellgoodliffe says :


    But even in cities like Leeds the problem is you are going to have several MP’s. Dont like the answer you got from one? Go to the next. I am glad there are supporters of STV who do recognise this problem because overall it is the one thing that would mean STV would struggle in a referendum where it was set alongside AV.

    I think your graduation could be the glimmar of a compromise though to be fair.

    Yep, totally agreed that it should be and that it should have to be forced on. However, I think at the moment what Labour will most likely go for is a ‘AV or FPTP’ style referendum question.


  3. Peter Black says :

    The question is, will the Electoral Commission allow a referendum to be held on the same day as the General Election? They will be responsible for administering such a plebiscite and their resistance would be hard for any government to overcome if they state that it were inappropriate to be held on a particular day. They have already said that they will not allow a referendum on the Government of Wales Act to be held on the same day as the Assembly elections.


  4. darrellgoodliffe says :


    I am not sure how the land lies to be honest but it would have to be held before given that the Conservatives will not do anything if they are not in some way held to a result. One option I would guess would be to hold it just before the election period which would work well for the government if it could win a popular vote just beforehand but I guess that runs the risk of giving voters polling/campaign faitgue. What you say here makes me doubt the story even more tbh…


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