Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Alternative Vote and Gerrymandering Round Up

Labour's behaviour over the Government's plans for electoral reform has infuriated me. It's as if they think that shouting loud and using nasty words like gerrymandering will make mud stick particularly to the Liberal Democrats. Well, it's no substitute for the intelligent, reasoned debate that people are entitled to expect.

I was going to write about this in greater detail but on this occasion I'm bowing out because so many other people have already done it better. Instead, here's a round up of some of the best of the articles on electoral reform:

First of all, have a look at this video which explains AV:

Now everybody knows that the Liberal Democrat policy is for proportional representation and that AV is not proportional. I've long felt lukewarm towards it and have expressed the view that a referendum on AV isn't really that great. I still feel like that, although the lovely elephant's words do make me feel a little warmer to it, particularly the bit about politicians having to engage outside their natural voters. That in itself makes politics healthier. 

Fred Carver gave the opposite point of view on Liberal Democrat Voice and I found that I actually disagreed with him - politics is the art of the possible, after all, and at least this is a move away from first past the post which is really discredited as an electoral system.

On the other aspects of the Government's reforms, namely the equalisation of constituency boundaries, Mark Thompson gives Labour blog Left Foot Forward a right old fisking.

Martin Kettle writes in today's Guardian about the damage Labour is doing to its own credibility by the position it's taking on this Bill:

"Be clear, therefore, that Labour is not trying to protect fairness from those who would destroy it but to perpetuate an unfairness from which Labour itself benefits. Inequality of constituencies is not the only source of bias in the electoral system – but it is certainly one of them. For the past five parliaments it has been biased towards Labour. No amount of red herrings about the danger of reducing the number of MPs, or the inappropriateness of including more than one major change in the same bill, should be permitted to distract from the essential propriety of correcting that bias. To claim this bill should be opposed because it is partisan is not just opportunism, it is an Orwellian inversion of the truth."

Our own James Graham argues that Labour may actually have a point on some of the issues it raises about the equalisation of constituencies particularly in respect of the amount of casework there is in urban areas where registration is low, but that their current attitude precludes proper scrutiny and attempts to find a solution.

"So there are genuine social justice problems that need to be ironed out of this legislation. Unfortunately, by focusing on the false gerrymandering charge, Jack Straw puts party self-interest above the public good and only ensures that the debate in parliament becomes more heated. In doing so, the possibility of MPs working across parties to give the bill proper scrutiny recedes. It is at best self-defeating and at worse a deeply cynical attempt to derail the coalition which has nothing to do with the real issues that are at stake"

There is to me a certain irony in Labour shouting, nay, screeching, to anyone who will listen that we've abandoned our principles by going into coalition with the Tories while at the same time abandoning their own principles to try to destabilise the coalition and perpetuate a situation that benefits them.  I just hope that common sense prevails and that that the ensuing debate on these measures is serious and actually deals with the issues at hand. I won't be holding my breath, though.

Update: Do you know, some people! While I was actually writing this post Stephen produced a brilliant riposte in which he discussed how Labour are abandoning all their key principles and then backed it up with a personal example from West Lothian as to how Labour really care about keeping communities together.

2nd update: and still they keep on coming - although this from Cicero might well have been here earlier and I missed it. But it's good.

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