More Tory than Reform

Labour Party

While not on the same scale as the MPs’ expenses disk, the Sunday Telegraph didn’t do badly in getting hold of the Queen’s Speech prior to the event.  (As an aside, I’m not at all sure I approve of leaking matters of such importance in advance – it diminishes the Queen’s Speech itself almost to the point of mockery.  We either have this major event or we don’t).

The economy and Con-Dem cuts are obviously the big issues, made bigger, I suspect, by the disgraceful sidelining of Vince Cable, one of the most able, not to say likeable, members of the Coalition Cabinet.  I am, I have to say, puzzled as to why Vince signed up for what is essentially a hard right Government.

However, my own interest lies, as many of you will know, with the proposed constitutional reform.  And what a package!  The Tories have given away little and got what they wanted.    Although Nick Clegg and the Liberal-Democrats may feels they have of some of what they were looking for, the Tories have, sadly, gained much more.

Reducing the number of constituencies and making them all the same size is Tory gerrymandering of the worst sort.  It will disproportionately benefit the Conservatives. 

It is simply not fair to view hard pressed urban seats with multiple deprivation and the resulting high MP caseloads with leafy suburbs and quiet rural idylls.  Having lived most of my political life in inner London, I do know what I’m talking about.   The Tories are pretending to be fair for their own ends.  My hope now is that the Boundary Commission will stop the worst of the Conservative con.

The Lib-Dems treasured referendum on AV may not be all it’s cracked up to be.  As a supporter of proportional representation, I view AV as very much second best.          

I assume that under the new AV system the constituency boundaries would be those gerrymandered by this Government.  Voters would elect one person to represent them in parliament, ranking their candidates in an order of preference, putting ‘1’ next to their favourite, a ‘2’ by their second choice and so on.  If no single candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, the second choices for the candidate at the bottom are redistributed. The process is repeated until one candidate gets an absolute majority

 The alternative vote is not therefore a proportional system, but a majoritarian one. The only advantage is that each MP would be elected with more than half of the votes in their constituency.

 The only real conclusion to be drawn from these two proposals in Queen’s Speech is that is that the Lib-Dems have sold out on PR, their most treasured and long held policy.  The constitutional reform is purely and simply Tory reform.

Having said all of that, the other three of the five proposals are excellent: 

  • Five year fixed term parliaments
  • Reform of the House of Lords to make it wholly or largely elected
  • Giving voters the right to recall their MPs

Taking away the power of the Prime Minister to call elections will bring Britain into the modern world and end an outdated privilege.

Building on the Labour Government’s abolition of hereditary peers, I am pleased to see reform of the House of Lords to introduce a wholly or largely elected upper house.     

Recalling MPs seems absolutely right and a welcome innovation following all the problems with expenses.