Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A referendum on electoral reform in the UK?

Having proposed it, then dropped it, New Labour's plan to legislate to force a referendum on electoral reform is on again, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown promising a vote by late 2011. Unfortunately, the "reform" on offer - the "alternative vote", known to us as preferential voting - is the electoral reform you have when you don't really want electoral reform. Oh, its an improvement, but it fails to meet the basic requirement of proportionality which should be at the core of any modern conception of democracy. But New Labour aren't interested in proportionality. In fact, they're not really interested in electoral reform at all. Instead, they're just promoting this as a cynical electoral tactic to put the Tories offside:

Labour strategists hope the reform may encourage anti-Tory tactical voting in the general election, and also help form a platform for a Lib-Lab coalition in the event of a hung parliament.
I'll take improvement wherever I can find it - but this cynical approach deserves our full public scorn. The electoral system is too important to be treated as just another area to generate positive spin, while the idea of manipulating it to shift electoral outcomes belongs in third-world pseudo-democracies, not in a supposedly modern democracy like the UK.