18 March 2009

Honouring Labour's PR Pledge Will Put Tories On The Defensive - And Show Them To Be Anti-Democracy.

Jon Cruddas represents the 'new left' of the Labour party that both has good relations with the unions and yet a modern narrative for the media and electorate - they may be few but could be crucial to Labour's next decade. So it is heart warming to hear Cruddas call for PR elections for Westminster in today's Guardian.

This is reaching areas of the 'old' Labour party that reformers need to reach - confused old Labour has responded with the same old lies about PR that the Tories always reel out - all lies when we actually look at the facts - (the far right actually do poorly in PR countries, Scandanavia, Germany and other PR countries have also had less post war instability - less elections/ leaders and changes of government). We need to win MPs like this over.

Labourlist looks at the advantages of having the PR referendum at the same time as a general election and makes some excellent points - go take a read. The biggest advantage of this is that no-one can then credibly claim this is Labour trying to change things just to save themselves from defeat, since the next election will still be under first-past-the-post. I also believe the Tories would be left defending the indefensible - a rotten system that for the first time would be under the microscope for the wider electorate.

The biggest criticism of doing this seems to be we don't know when the election will be so how would we plan the referendum debate. This is not really a problem, just an excuse. The election will be in May or June 2010 and so will the referendum - it will be announced 4 or 5 weeks before, so there will be plenty of time for both campaigns to get their points across. For once people would be able to judge the merits of electoral reform aside from 'voting to kick the government' - people could vote for reform and still elect a Tory government if they wish, what a predicament the Tories would be in - getting 40% of the vote in a general election and forming a majority in parliament and then trying to deny the wishes of over 50% of voters in a PR referendum. I couldn't think of a better way to emphasise what the Tories really think of democracy.


  1. It would be an entertaining hatchet job. However, Labour would be justly open to charge that they want to change the rules because they've lost the game.

    I'm honestly undecided about the merits of PR. The far left/right/whatever we want to call them today, may not do that well out of it now but the Weimar Republic did have PR.

    The other side of things is that PR is more likely to form a consensus where nothing ever really changes.

    As I said, not sure.

  2. Cruddas did not have the decency again to vote against the Welfare Reforms, if he is left of the party, I'm not sure what left means, he has been around again at Compass and a few other sites telling people the welfare reforms are wrong, then it comes time to vote same as the 42 days he's gone. if this bloke is Left then dear god I'm a Tory lover.

  3. falco- I think that by having the next election by the current first-past-post system Labour would free the electorate to vote just on the merits of pr in a referendum rather than the unpopularity of the government and also as labour would still 'lose' the election under fpp, i don't see how they could properly be accused of trying to 'fix' things in their favour, au contraire. Of course i am sure the tories will still make that accusation but it would hold no basis in fact and i am sure even our tory dominated press would struggle to maintain that argument. The electorate would see through it, just as they did when they rejected the tory press support for the poll tax and iraq war - eventually the press would change tack just as they did on these issues when they realised their propaganda hadn't worked.

  4. "i don't see how they could properly be accused of trying to 'fix' things in their favour"

    It depends on how poorly they poll in the run up to the election. If we reach the tipping point where they would not even get to form the opposition then it would be a fair charge. That said, it would be a brilliant tactical move by the Grim One. Anything to deflect from how badly he's run this country would be positive for him.

    Re PR in general: One of the big problems with FPTP is that you could stick a rosette on a dead badger and get it elected in some constituancies. PR would make this even worse because everything would be down to the party list.

    Do you place any value on the constituancy link? If not, why not? If you do, then how would it work under PR and what happens with By-Elections?

    Re the Tory Press: Well, we have to have something to balance out the Labour BBC.

  5. Will the parliamentary investigation into Jacqui Smith's expenses claims for porno films be called wan@ergate?

  6. Who would believe them? They promised the referendum in 1997. They betrayed it. They promised a referendum on Europe. They lied.

    Captain Gordon's taking your labour ship to the bottom of the sea, and it'll be a generation before people give you another chance.

  7. falco -sorry about late reply. About the constituency link- i think pr would strengthen the link between elector and representative. For a start, as you point out, about 80% of seats are currently dead certs so effectively worse than a closed party list because at least under closed list pr there would be competition and choice between numerous parties. But pr does not have to be closed list, eg. stv gives electors a choice not only between parties but of which wing of a party you prefer. Open list pr means candidates are chosen directly by electors bypassing parties. A good example is baden-wurttemberg in germany. Even in the landslide election of 1997, only about 20% of seats changed hands - fpp allows minorities to grab power and hold onto it even when there is overwhelming disenchantment - it took nearly 70% of voters to vote against the tories to finally remove them in 97, and labour won a large majority of seats despite getting just 35% of votes in 2005. With turnout and party membership at historic lows :partly i suspect due to frustration at the limited choice fpp provides: it is frightening how little support a party needs to get complete power over us. Pr at least provides government voted by over 50% of us!