Friday, June 12, 2009

Make votes count press release

"The Prime Minister's statement on democratic reform was not as bold as billed; in fact on electoral reform he has been far more timid than the circumstances demanded. There is a real urgency to implementing reforms, to restore public trust in MPs and in politics as a whole.

"Voters have shown they are impatient with the main parties, and want real change in the way we do politics. So why does the Prime Minister continue to dither on opening up the debate and on timescales for implementing electoral reform?

"Gordon Brown talks the language of quick change and ending the Gentleman's Club when it comes to expenses. But he fails to bring that approach to the other area MPs still self-regulate and is now under scrutiny - the way in which MPs are elected.

"Elections affect all of us. Decisions on how they are conducted certainly shouldn't be in the hands of the politicians, whether those on the National Council for Democracy or on the Opposition benches, whose jobs-for-life are at stake. Is it no surprise that David Cameron is leading the resistance to change: he and his party stand to benefit the most from the status quo. It is more of a surprise that Brown wasn't even willing in his statement to repeat the 1997 Labour manifesto promise of a referendum on the introduction of a proportional voting system.

"The Prime Minister talks about starting up the debate on electoral reform. But we've been having that debate for over ten years. In January 2008 the Government published as "a contribution to the ongoing debate" its long-awaited review of those proportional voting systems already introduced. The Alternative Vote Plus (AV+) was a system recommended by the Jenkins Commission back in 1998 after long and careful deliberations involving plenty of opportunities for public engagement and debate.

"There is still just enough time left for completing an open public debate and then holding a referendum before or at the time of the next election. The referendum would give voters the chance to register their feelings twice: once to get rid of a tainted MP in the General Election; and once in a referendum to choose whether to get rid of a rotten system and change things for good.

"Even after his statement [on Wednesday], Gordon Brown still has the opportunity to be bold and start exploring this referendum option; to show he is able to go beyond the self-interest of the political elite and give power back to the man and woman on the street."

MVC's Welsh campaigns officer, Owain Llyr ap Gareth, has an article in the Western Mail.

We still believe that STV is a better electoral system, in that it allows voters to choose between candidates of the same (or no) party. Nor do AV systems threaten "safe" seats. However, we can hardly object if the proposal of the Jenkins Commission is put before the electorate in a referendum. The commission was set up as the result of an agreement between Labour and the Liberal Democrats before the 1997 general election, and was chaired by a distinguished member in turn of both parties.

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