Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Brown on AV - why should we believe you now?

Today Gordon Brown is asking Parliament to agree to hold a referendum (after the election) on a change to a different voting system.

As I blogged before on the subject when it was mere conjecture - why on earth should we believe you now?

In 1997, Tony Blair committed Labour to holding a referendum on a proportional voting system for the House of Commons. I'm fairly sure that Blair himself was never committed to PR and saw this pledge as a means of getting the Lib Dems on board should he need them in a hung parliament. Labour got a massive majority and so never needed the Laib Dems, or this pledge, and so the commitment died.

Now Labour is going into an election that the polls say will be very close - maybe even a hung Parliament. Brown knows that many Lib Dems hate the idea of doing a deal with the Conservatives and so he is trying to position himself so that a coalition with the Lib Dems remains a possibility. PR is a hot button issue for Lib Dems and so Brown has pushed that button. The trouble is that he has wimped out and is not proposing a PR system but one which is supported by many Labour MPs because they think it would be even more biased towards them than the current one.

Of course Lib Dems should be supporting a referendum, and should support AV as a (very) small step in the right direction. But I wouldn't be surprised if more than 50 Labour MPs vote against Brown in this vote. If the hung Parliament situation Brown is hedging against does come to pass then I can see a small number of anti-reform Labour backbenchers derailing the whole shebang in any case.

UPDATE - Dan Hannan has had his say on the Telegraph blog. I think he is wrong in some of his characterisations of AV, but his sign off sentence is absolutely spot on.

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