Wednesday, June 10, 2009


The loss of legitimacy caused by the Parliamentary expenses scandal has finally pushed the UK government into moving on electoral reform, with the Prime Minister due to announce plans to examine alternatives to the present unfair first past the post system. The move is already being wrapped in typical New Labour spin about "bold" and "radical" reform - but the reality is somewhat different:

One minister told the BBC: "There is a strong feeling in the cabinet that we should have a bold programme of reform. We don't want to end the next year with a whimper."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the prime minister's statement will not endorse a change of voting system nor any particular system but it will call for a debate on whether the electoral system should be changed and which new system could be adopted. It will not set out a timetable for any change.

And the icing on the cake: that "bold" reform (which Brown will not propose, endorse, or set a timetable for) is the "alternative vote", AKA preferential voting: the electoral reform you have when you don't really want electoral reform. Yes, its an improvement (and it should be the minimum in any electorate race), but its not much of one, and not in any way proportional. As seen in Australia, preferential voting produces FPP-style outcomes with large manufactured majorities and the systematic exclusion of smaller parties from power. That may suit the UK's sclerotic inbred unaccountable political establishment - but their people expect more from their democracy.