Vote for a Better Voting System
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has now acknowledged the need for electoral reform with a short statement in Parliament.
The statement does not go far enough as far as Liberal Democrats are concerned.
Labour has long promised reform but it has never given it priority even though it promised the results of the Roy Jenkins review of electoral systems of 1997 would be put to a referendum.
This Government however is running out of time to achieve much in its remaining term of office. There will be no time to fully explain and allow full discussion on the intricacies of different and complex voting systems. Jenkins recommended the Alternative Vote + system. Liberal Democrats prefer the STV or Single Transferable Vote system and indeed use it for internal elections and selection of MEPs.
The electorate certainly want to see change. That, if nothing else, was obvious on the doorstep recently. They also want transparency and honesty.
It is clear that people need to be able to vote not just for the party they want but also for the person they want. The current system of selection of the candidates by the political parties is clearly not what is wanted by the electorate and the Proportional Representation system used for the European elections does not offer this.
On the basis of expediency the AV+ system is generally acceptable to Liberal Democrats although STV is preferable. The latter better fits people's wish to vote for both the person and the party.
Any referendum must not be put to the country by the government but by Parliament as a whole. Further it must not be put on the day of the General Election, where the unpopularity of the government could damage the referendum.
If passed, a new electoral system should be introduced for the election after next. This would give the Boundary Commission time for drawing up new larger constituencies and the topping up of areas necessary under AV+.
The agreed voting system will also need to apply to electing the Lords. Again something has been promised, but is yet to happen. I would also like to see an end to the introduction of non elected members to the Cabinet. There seems to be an ever increasing number of non-elected Lords and others taking part in Government decisions at the highest levels. This does nothing to increase the public's confidence in Government.
I am also pleased to hear that Members of Parliament are to be subject to a formal code of conduct similar to that to which local Councillors have been subject for some time. All of this and more is necessary to give voters back a strong belief in our system of democracy.