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A call for debate

Nick Robinson | 21:04 UK time, Tuesday, 9 June 2009

I appear to have set the cats among the pigeons. I reported earlier that the prime minister is set to announce tomorrow that changing the voting system for general elections will be examined as part of a package of proposals to reform Britain's political system.

Just to be clear: the prime minister's statement will not - and was never going to - endorse a change of voting system nor any particular system. It will instead call for a debate on whether the electoral system should be changed and which new system could be adopted.

In a statement to MPs tomorrow, Mr Brown will say that there would have to be a referendum before any change could be made. Earlier today, he chaired a meeting of the new Democratic Renewal Council - a group of ministers - which agreed to consider moving towards a new system.

Voter at ballot boxKey ministers are known to favour a system in which voters could list their preferences - the so-called Alternative Vote or AV system - rather than simply voting for one candidate as they do now. Peter Mandelson backed it in a book which he co-wrote with Roger Liddle. Jack Straw - who opposes proportional representation - is happy to consider a move to AV.

The new Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, recently called for a referendum on electoral reform to be held at the same time as the next general election. However, sources have told the BBC that it is very unlikely that the necessary consultation and legislation could be carried out in the necessary time. Some ministers also argue that it would not be electorally helpful to have the referendum on the same date as the election.

I also understand that the government plans to push ahead with legislation to make the House of Lords largely or fully elected in the autumn. Although it will not be possible to complete reform before an election, ministers argue that "it is time to see the colour of the Tories' money" on this issue and that public pressure for reform will grow, once the allowances of the House Of Lords are examined in the way in which MPs' have been.

One cabinet minister told the BBC tonight :

"There is a strong feeling in the cabinet that we should have a bold programme of reform. We don't want to end the next year with a whimper."

PS: For the political trainspotters among you, AV is not proportional representation. Indeed, it can be less proportional than First Past the Post. It is the same as the system that was used in the London Mayoral elections. Voters would elect one person to represent them in parliament, just as we do now. However, rather than marking an "X" against their preferred candidate, each voter would rank their candidates in an order of preference, putting "1" next to their favourite, a "2" by their second choice, and so on. If a candidate received a majority of first-place votes, he or she would be elected just as under the present system. However, if no single candidate got more than 50% of the vote, the second choices for the candidate at the bottom would be redistributed. This process is repeated until one candidate gets an absolute majority.

UPDATE, 09:13, 10 June: Just to be entirely clear, the vote for London mayor is actually conducted under a variant of AV called the supplementary vote system, where you can only express a first and second choice. If no candidate receives a majority, the top two candidates are retained, and the rest eliminated. The second-preference votes of the eliminated candidates are then added, if appropriate, to the tally of the top two candidates to decide the winner.


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  • Comment number 1.

    For any elected party to lose so badly in an election, and then turn around and say they are going to reform the voting process just sounds terrible, almost Stalinist.

  • Comment number 2.

    How about proportional representation for the House of Lords? Otherwise, there will just be two chambers elected (for the time being) on the same system, when you might as well just get rid of one of them in that case. It defeats the purpose of the House of Lords, surely?

    The alternative vote system sounds like a waste of time if it won't be anymore representative.

  • Comment number 3.

    Throughout the modern political era electoral reform has only ever been proposed by parties who dont fair well through the current system, hence why the lib dems have been calling for reform for so long. Perhaps, finally, even Gordon Brown has realised that Labour stand no chance in the next general election under the current system or indeed any system known to man.

  • Comment number 4.

    Strangely enough Mr Brown and his predecessors seemed to think the voting system was OK when Labour was given majority after majority. Now that they have been destroyed in the European elections and facing the same in a general election he wants to change it.

    One wonders whether this referendum will be the same as the Lisbon referendum. I.e. not a referendum at all, they will change the name to Vote Idol or something and claim that it is totally different.

    Still, at least we now know the price Mr Brown paid to stop Alan Johnson from challenging him for power.

  • Comment number 5.

    Any system that prevents someone taking over as PM mid term, usurping power and refusing to give it up, will be a significant improvement.

  • Comment number 6. Labour lose heavily in council and Europe and are on course to be annihilated next year so they want to change the system. Will the 'new system' apply to councils too? If this fails will they then try to declare a state of emergency or something to hang on to power? Wouldn't put it past them!

    Labour/Gordon Brown - we never do ANYTHING unless it is for PARTY advantage not the country's.

    Oh and can someone PLEASE stop Brown claiming that he has to stay as we wouldn't forgive him for walking away in our hour of need? I think the last few days have shown we don't need him and certainly don't want him. Labour MPs have ensured they have another year of troughing but after that? Yet again thinking about themselves not the voters they claim to love. Cowards all apart from the likes of Frank Field and others who stood up for their constituents!

  • Comment number 7.

    Cowardice and arrogance in the same move from Mr Brown and his Governement croanies, toadies and lickspittles.

    Firstly they say that they want to consider changing the voting system, not through any sense of altruism one feels but because they might - no, would - lose a General Election under the current system and then they form a Democratic Renewal Council wich, democratically, is only made up of Government Ministers!

    Yesterday all we heard from The Cabinet and the PLP was taht Mr Brown was putting the country first by staying on to sort out the problems we face. No he's staying on to keep his party in power. If he really wanted to put the country first he'd call a General Election!!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    So GB wants to change the voting system.
    Could this be a desperate ploy by Labour to gain a few extra seats in the
    next general election?
    With the current first past the post system labour have no chance.

  • Comment number 9.

    Is an elected house of Lords wise, as surely this will just mirror the make-up of Parliament therefore acting as a rubber stamp on any legislation passed. What is needed is an independant upper house that scrutinises and puts checks and balances in place.
    What it should not be is a back door for getting 'friends' into the process of Government as in members of the cabinet, or reward for supporting the parties as at present.

  • Comment number 10.

    This doesn't amount to much. So Brown is making noises about "debating" electoral reform; didn't Labour promise rather more than that before the 1997 election? They still kicked it into the long grass when they found they didn't need the Liberals as much as they thought they would. The only way for AV to happen will be to hold the next election using it, before the Tories can come to power and bury the issue for another 10 years. Even Alan Johnson would not be likely to do that. So I'll once again end up with an MP who has the support less than a quarter of the voters in the constituency.

    I sense more real intent regarding Lords reform; after all, the process has at least begun. But there is no time for the legislation to be rammed through before the election.

    It does seem we are sentenced to many more years of quasi-elected governments with near-complete power and no effective review chamber. This will keep us locked in this spiral of growing public cynicism, leading to falling voter turnouts at elections, leading to even more unrepresentative and unresponsive government, leading in turn to growing public cynicism, falling... You get the picture. Depressing, isn't it?

  • Comment number 11.

    Ah, so it's just another of Gordon Brownzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz councils/committees/five-year plans. Should have known by now that nothing ever actually gets done by him.

    Incidentally, why has Political Reform become the new hot topic in Westminsphere? Is it because it's being used as a decoy away from MPs' expenses? I fail to see how the "first past the post" voting system compelled Gerald Kaufman to claim for an £8,865 Bang and Olufsen tv set etc.

    The People (so patronisingly referred to as "the ordinary people" by politicians. Remember us?) want to see some prosecutions and, maybe, convictions for the MPs' expenses scandal. Reforming the voting system, Parliament or changing the window dressing at No10 is completely irrelevant and will NOT assuage public outrage. Alas, it seems the police have all but washed their hands of the matter and most of those involved have quietly been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Parliamentary authorities and crawled back into ministerial positions.

    The voters will not forget.

    On an entirely different note, please encourage Stephanie Flanders to avail herself of a Twitter account.

  • Comment number 12.

    This is the leader of a party, and government, who was never elected into his current office, and has just gone through a round of elections which put them (depending on the poll) either worse than 1918, or behind UKIP.

    He might not even manage to be in charge of his party at the next election either.

    And he thinks he had the moral authority to totally change the democratic nature of the UK, in terms of both how votes are counted, and what chambers are to be elected?


    And no, I don't think the House of Lords should be fully elected. I think it needs to be held accountable - but not to the same whims that drive the elected politicians around election time. We need a set of politicians whose vote can't be bought.

  • Comment number 13.

    Again another example of the elite political class not taking any personal responsibility!
    - Mps defrauded taxpayers with their expense claims - blame the system..change it.
    - Main parties get properly challenged in an election - blame the system..change it.
    At least we know, whether we agree with them or not, what the small parties stand for. The main parties flip-flop with whatever the media decide is a big story from week to week.
    The lack of consistency puts me off voting for the main parties.

  • Comment number 14.

    Is this supposed be bold decision making? It is pathetic and nothing more than an attempt to pull the wool over the electorates eyes. Brown is a lame duck premier and nothing he says and does will be taken seriously by anyone, especially so when a significant number of his party have voiced openly what they think about him, which tallies with what many critics have said about him for years. This sorry situation will drag on until next Spring, and all because Brown hasn't the courage to resign.

    There is indeed a case for electoral reform to the process itself, but what he could and should do is change the system:-

    a) by creating fixed term parliaments;
    b) preventing parties changing premier mid-way through a term;
    c) and change legislation to automatically trigger a general election if a premier, for whatever reason, decides to retire mid-way through his term of office.

    And if they really want to be radical they should consider moving towards a system like the American Senate and Congress with a directly elected Premier, but don't hold your breath.

  • Comment number 15.

    Isn't it funny how when facing electoral wipe out the Labour party all of a sudden shows an interest in electoral reform.

    And a referendum to be had too eh?

    How about the Labour party sticking to its word and giving us a referendum on the Lisbon constitution... sorry - treaty?

    The constitutional reform I am most interested in is on recognition and representation for England. The only country in Europe without its own parliament.

    The reform I want to see is to have English legislation handled exclusively handled by English MPs.

    Is it too much to ask that a nation handles it's own law?

  • Comment number 16.

    So Crash Gordon becomes Klingon Brown?

    A government with so little elected talent. Fewest elected ministers since 1945. First speaker to be forced out for over 300 years. Fewest votes since 1918?

    Labour will go down in the history books but not for the reasons they thought back in 1997.

    Good grief.

  • Comment number 17.

    It's all just PR again. More spin and mirrors.

    From Nick's article:
    Gordon Brown's statement "will call for a debate..."
    Gordon Brown "chaired a meeting which agreed to consider..."

    Typical Brown isn't it. More reviews, debates, commissions, reports, meetings to discuss this, or consider that. All so he can put out a press statement to make it seem like he is the man of action.

    But he's not capable of action, except to waste more taxpayers' money so that some of the usual suspects can sit in a room all day and discuss.

    Gordon, the time for discussing is past. Look around you man! The country is in trouble. You shouldn't need a full-scale review on everything to tell you to act. For God's sake man! DO SOMETHING!!!

  • Comment number 18.

    What we need is a load more committees, lots of unelected princes of darkness ennobled, more civil servants.

    The other day browns vote of confidence was promoted by the bbc as a 'victory'

    For gods sake how low will it go?

  • Comment number 19.

    ...and while all this is going on LDV has gone, Vauxhall is being set up for a fall, the economy is (expletive deleted)

  • Comment number 20.


    No comment on the loss of personal freedoms in this country?

    Is it OK for the Metropolitan Police to torture suspects and use waterboarding? Who sanctioned this? Of course it is too much to expect that any cowardly member of this government will accept responsibility.

  • Comment number 21.

    However cynical the reception to this news of proposed reform - understandable given the timing - an overhaul of the voting system is desperately needed.

    Fewer people vote, and the numbers have been dropping since the days of Thatcher, which means every government since has been voted in by the minority of people in the country.

    "Voter apathy" is an over used phrase, and something of a misnomer: people want to vote, but the struggle is with who to vote FOR (rather than against).

    AV is certainly an alternative worth considering - making the House of Lords electable may be more problematic, but desirable if we want to be a real democracy.

  • Comment number 22.

    This is a smokescreen to deflect public anger over MPs expences That is the first issue that should be addressed. I am reminded of a government funded advertising campaign addressing benefit cheats with the rather apt tag line of "No ifs or buts". Until Parliament accept that flipping is tax evasion - phantom mortgages is fraud - and claiming for charity donations is offensive, and in cases like the WW11 battle of Britain £5 donation offensive to servicemen and should be automatic deselection.
    The second thing Parliament must address is the size of Parachute payments MPs receive when they are not re elected at a general election, the amounts reported are obscene. I don't know how true it is but on a BBC phone a retiring serviceman phoned in to say after 23 years dodging muck and bullets in Northern Ireland Bosnia Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan his resettlement grant is £550.If this is true its wrong and the government and Parliament as a whole must accept it and deal with it without any further smokescreens

  • Comment number 23.

    Mortified, mortally wounded, Brown would want to reform the voting sys tem wouldn't he? Is he not the architypal window dresser?

    Yes, he said he would reform the House of Lords on the Andrew Marr programme (along with an investigation into local council and the BBC's expenses and salaries, hmmmm).

    By "reforming the House of Lords" does he mean no more parachuting of his unelected mates into it such as Mandelson, Sugar and Glenys Kinnock, in each case to save he, Brown's, own skin?

  • Comment number 24.

    The first thing he should do if he is going to reform the Lords, is change the rule that you can't be kicked out for misdemeanors, fraud, graft, theft, troughing -merely sent to Coventry for 6 months and a slap on the wrist.

    That doesn't seem to difficult to organise, does it?


  • Comment number 25.

    calm down everyone, it's just a little chat about possible different ways to count votes - there's no way the system is going to change for the next general election - or the one after, for that matter

  • Comment number 26.

    Any reform of the voting system might include an incentive for voting which would lead to more than 75 per cent of the electorate using their right to vote. Proportional representation is preferable, but any kind of reform would lead to a step in the right direction. How can we have a representative Government, at any level, when only about 35 per cent of voters contributed to the results?
    In my opinion, this is where reforms need to be targeted.
    How about money off vouchers for food as an incentive to turn out on polling day!? Or something similar could be initiated, but only if it could be seen to be completely devoid of any party-political connections.

  • Comment number 27.

    Thank goodness.

    They are thinking about considering about debating about setting up a committe to discuss the possibility of reviewing the options for electoral reform.

    if that isn't an example of the type of decisive government we've come to expect from Gordon Brown then I don't know what is.

  • Comment number 28.

    I am glad Mr Robinson has made it clear that this is not yet fixed and is still to be debated, he made it clear on TV, but no doubt the media decided oh Robinson said that this may happen so that means it will we will put it as it shall happen typical media rubbish.
    Mr Robinson you did make it clear, no need to apologise, just some people who have selective hearing obviously decided to change the 'may' to 'shall'

  • Comment number 29.

    newthink wrote:
    "Is an elected house of Lords wise, as surely this will just mirror the make-up of Parliament therefore acting as a rubber stamp on any legislation passed"

    Depends on how and when elected. If HofL elected on entirely proportional methods or if elected mid-term of HofC then would probably be a different make up.

  • Comment number 30.

    When Gordon Brown reforms the political system in Britain I shall eat my hat riding a frozen flying pig from hell whilst revealing the Theory of Everything to all the angels that can dance on the head of pin. I shall be carrying out this feat on the Greek Kalends.
    My witnesses will be a Dodo, the first Rabbi to become Pope and an infinite amount of chimpanzees.

  • Comment number 31.

    What I do think is that they should make in depth investigation and radical reform of the postal voting system.

    My son is very severely disabled due to a bike accident as a teenager and had a postal vote, quite rightly, when in hospital, rehabilitation centres etc. Now he accompanies us to the poll station and that is what HE wants. An officer there takes him into the booth (he is wheelchair bound) and sees that he votes for who he wants OF HIS OWN VOLITION, ie we are not looking over his shoulder trying to influence his vote (he wouldn't mind you knowing he always votes Conservative by the way!)

    BUT there are millions who have a postal vote for nebulous and strange reasons. Our Disability Social Worker has one although he is able bodied, fully employed, married with a young family and a bike rider. Why?

    It is well documented that millions here not speaking proper English (that old immigrant chestnut again) get postal votes and their relatives complete them on their non speaking relatives' behalves - usually Labour voters I believe).

    THAT is a cat among the pigeons too, but needs reforming before anything else - in my opinion.

  • Comment number 32.

    excellentcatblogger wrote:

    "No comment on the loss of personal freedoms in this country?

    Is it OK for the Metropolitan Police to torture suspects and use waterboarding?"

    They have been ACCUSED of this. I am sure you don't assume everyone accused by the police is guilty so why assume the police are guilty when accused of something?

    And actually, if it stopped me being blown up by some crazed suicide bomber then yes, I think it is OK to torture suspects.

  • Comment number 33.

    Have they addressed the problem of when 70million Turkish Moslems will have carte blanche to come here when Turkey joins the EU later?

    How will they be voting when we let them in?

  • Comment number 34.

    Well said #1 timbrowne.

    How can a party tht just scored a whopping 15.4% in a countrywide election possibly assert their authority in a move to cahnge the voting system?

    This is school playground politics. I didn't win the game so we're going to change the rules. The only transparent thing about the man who wants to improve transparency is that you can see straight through him. How ironic.

    Why are the BBC choosing not to report the news that the man who wants to improve transparency is blocking the publication of the enquiry into Lord Malik's expense claims?

    The only thing that has happened in 36 hours since newlabour MPs saved Gordon Brown's hide is that he has got even worse than before.

    He will go, there is no question in my mind; the examples from history are legion of people begging for forgiveness and then becoming even worse examples of themselves than before. He will go down in flames with his party. And there is no question that newlabour have been drifting for five years and from a policy perspective will go out with a whimper... they have achieved nothing except rising household debt and a bloated public sector coupled with an horrendous arrogance towards the pople who put them in power.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 35.

    Didn't the BNP just pick up two MEP Seats using Proportional Representation for the EU Parliament?

    I think that the Liberals-Socialists might need to be careful of what they wish for when seeking changes to an Electoral System that does allow for fringe and 'beyond the fringe' parties to exist but realistically prevents these fringe parties from ever attaining a voice in the UK Parliament.

    Do we really want people to vote for anyone other than Labour and see MPS from the Monster Raving Loony Party as MPs via preference vote?

    There again is there much difference between the Labour cabal in Parliament today and Screaming Lord Sutch's followers .... they all live in Cloud Cuckoo Land?

  • Comment number 36.

    How surprising, faced with losing power, and struggling even to be the major party in opposition, all of a sudden McStalin wants to talk about electoral reform. Only 12 years since they made a manifesto promise on the subject, although to be fair, that promise was made to keep the lib dems happy while there was a possibility of a hung parliament.

    My guess is they will bring an experimental system in the south where the candidate who finishes 5th in each constituency gets elected. Based on the recent elections, that would give Labour a huge power base.

  • Comment number 37.

    Shouldn't he deal with the expenses first. He seems to have covered up the report into Mr. Malik's expenses. It seems that he will not change and he will ignore public opinion.

    What a worthless distraction. I'm not surprised you took the bait.

  • Comment number 38.

    'In a statement to MPs tomorrow, Mr Brown will say . . .'

    If, Nick, you have a reliable crystal ball, then fine.
    Otherwise, why is this announced/leaked/spun to you before the House of Commons?

  • Comment number 39.

    Reform Higher Education

    There is NO informed public debate about significant decisions.

    The public are NOT able to participate effectively in decisions affecting them.

    There is NO adequate scrutiny of the decision-making process.

    The authorities are NOT accountable for the spending of public money.

    The authorities are NOT scrutinised to ensure they do their job properly.

    No public right of complaint to the regulators.

    NO public right of complaint to the National Audit Office.

    Powers of the Auditor General to intervene have been removed.

    There needs to be an inquiry as to why 75% of undergraduates from poorer families drop out or are forced out of University.

  • Comment number 40.

    Perhaps I'm a bit thick or something, but I really don't see the point of putting the voters to the trouble of rating the candidates from 1st to 4th choice (or if there are more candidates perhaps to 12th or 17th or whatever) and then not doing something more useful with the information gained.

    Surely, if the voting was just directly weighted - e.g. a '1st' vote gets 4 points, a '2nd' vote gets 3 points, etc - then the voters might perhaps feel more connected to the appointed MP (or Councillor, or MSP) even if s/he wasn't their first choice.

    Then again, perhaps some people would be happy to vote for one person only, but not be prepared to vote 2nd or 3rd place candidates.

    Couldn't the BBC and ITV - with all their expertise on voting, e.g. Strictly Come Dancing, X-Factor and the like - proffer Gordon a bit of a steer on this?

    But Gordon really does need to do more than just reform the mechanics of the election system - not that he probably has the time to even do that now.

    We really need an English Assembly, a much smaller Westminster UK Parliament and an elected prime minister - at minimum - to substantially restore confidence in the UK democratic system.

    And much more importantly, the British people, in my view, have clearly voiced that they want some mechanism to be able to boot out of office MPs, or seemingly also Prime Ministers, who let them down. So his reforms need to address that issue too.

    The era when the electorate voted in their allegedly respectable and trustworthy representatives from their communities who then, because they had the trust of their electorate, went on to do pretty much what they liked - however altruistically or otherwise - without further reference to the people and protected by some assumed parliamentary immunity to accountability, are surely well past.

    In the main, nowadays, it seems the electorate trust their MPs no further than they can see what they're up to.

  • Comment number 41.

    Labour propose AV as there are fewer reasonable options on the left than on the right, so Labour would be more likely to win and remain in power indefinately as a second choice.

    This should NOT be a matter for one party to reform. It should be investigated by a cross-party panel which should include independents and academics, where there is a majority of academics. There proposals should then be placed before the people in a neutral information campaign leading up to a referendum.

    No one system should be "promoted" over any other system. Each system should be explained fully to the electorate in a dispassionate and neutral manner and the electorate allowed to choose the system they would prefer to use.

  • Comment number 42.

    So Brown is not planning to change anything until after a referendum? Why does that not inspire the greatest amount of confidence? Could it be his track record on referenda?

  • Comment number 43.

    So an AV system works like this:-
    Labour voter -
    1st Labour (obviously)
    2nd Honey Monster Party (nutters don't stand a hope)
    3rd Lib Dems (lets push the Tories further down)
    4th Conservative (that's messed up their average)

    Conservative voter -
    1st Conservative (obviously)
    2nd Honey Monster Party (anything to do down the Socialists)
    3rd Lib Dems (glad they are standing, the more the merrier)
    4th Labour (I fixed their wagon properly)

    The Honey Monster Party win a landslide, form a government and invest 25% of government revenues in the honey industry. This kick starts recovery and economy is accidentally fixed.

    The law of unintended consequences will ensure that future governments will be less representative than under our present system. The electorate is now so used to tactical voting that an AV system could open the door to extremist political parties.

  • Comment number 44.

    The Jenkins report nicely describes the hugely negative and partisan impact of the AV system

    I quote

    "85. The Commission's conclusions from these and other pieces of evidence about the operation of AV are threefold. First, it does not address one of our most important terms of reference. So far from doing much to relieve disproportionality, it is capable of substantially adding to it. Second, its effects (on its own without any corrective mechanism) are disturbingly unpredictable. Third, it would in the circumstances of the last election, which even if untypical is necessarily the one most vivid in the recollection of the public, and very likely in the circumstances of the next one too, be unacceptably unfair to the Conservatives. Fairness in representation is a complex concept, as we have seen in paragraph 6, and one to which the upholders of FPTP do not appear to attach great importance. But it is one which, apart from anything else, inhibits a Commission appointed by a Labour government and presided over by a Liberal Democrat from recommending a solution which at the last election might have left the Conservatives with less than half of their proportional entitlement. We therefore reject the AV as on its own a solution despite what many see as its very considerable advantage of ensuring that every constituency member gains majority acquiescence. "

    It would appear that Brown lacks Jenkins' concerns about hugely partisan changes to the UK constitution :-(

  • Comment number 45.

    Andy C555 said,
    'They have been ACCUSED of this. I am sure you don't assume everyone accused by the police is guilty so why assume the police are guilty when accused of something?

    And actually, if it stopped me being blown up by some crazed suicide bomber then yes, I think it is OK to torture suspects.'

    With that kind of circular logic you may very well end up like the Oozelum bird.

  • Comment number 46.

    Let's get down to the basics. NuLabour are prepared to offer a referendum on a voting system that would benefit them. They are not, however, prepared to keep to their manifesto promise to have a referendum on the European Constitution now disguised as the Lisbon Treaty.

    Talk about arrogant hypocrisy.

  • Comment number 47.

    "Oh and can someone PLEASE stop Brown claiming that he has to stay as we wouldn't forgive him for walking away in our hour of need?"

    Indeed, when Brown says, "What would people think if we were to walk away now?" According to the recent poll, roughly 96% of the population, (those people eligible to vote who did not vote labour), would be utterly delighted! Labour only managed to get 4.6% of the population to vote for them (15% of the 31% turnout) Surely that makes labour OFFICIALLY a tiny, fringe party of wackos and loonies?

    As I have been saying for a number of years now, there is no such thing as a mainstream party anymore.

    What would hard working families think? Well my family is a tax paying hard working family, (my daughter, wife and myself all are lucky enough to be in work), would be deliriously happy if labour quit en masse!

  • Comment number 48.

    Er....haven't we been here before? What happened to Jenkins and AV top up, with a referendum on the change? Oh, on the back burner until the pilot light went out because New Labour realised that it was going to continue to benefit from our absurdly anti-democratic electoral system for the Commons. And what is the point of announcing that it might be considered all over again - but nothing will happen until a new general election, after which ... nothing will happen.

    The BBC also needs to reconsider its politics reporting. Last night on Radio 4's ten o'clock news there was no mention at all of the Jenkins' recommendations; not even Vernon Bogdanor mentioned it (is this because he's now in the sticky embrace of No: 10?), and Nick Robinson doesn't mention Jenkins here either. Please get up to speed.

    I expect that the sum total of any reform in our national politics will, in the end, be a visitors' centre at Parliament.

  • Comment number 49.

    Nick get them to look into postal voting - the potential and actual vehicle for immense voting fraud:

  • Comment number 50.

    apparently under the AV system labour would have had bigger majorities in the last three elections........ anyway this talk of reform is just more smoke and mirrors, so much for the fresh start....more openness etc, the first thing the new open GB does is keep secret the report that allegedly clears Malik..... so no change there then!

  • Comment number 51.

    Brown needs to look not at how Parliament is elected, but the shape of government. To that end, there is a case for adopting a US style approach/structure to our parliamentary system.

    1. All elections are fixed term

    2. We vote for a Prime Minister who selects his cabinet from the whole UK. Then we might have a cabinet of all the talents rather than the bunch of ninnies and self-serving cronies we currently have.

    3. We elect a Lower House and a Upper House. Each house then carries out what it should be doing now - but can't becasue Thugs and Bullies (under the guise of whips) are at work. Nameley, each house debates the proposals of the PM and his Cabinet and either approves or rejects them.

    In this way we are likely to have more independents in both houses since the election of the PM and his/her policy making quango will be independent from the elections for Parliament.

    This is the sort of thing Brown and his cronies should be investigating and proposing - not some half-baked mutterings to make it look as if the Cabinet is providing a vision for the future

  • Comment number 52.

    re32 andyc55

    On that basis, as all the recent terrorist attacks have been by muslims, why not take out every 10th muslim and beat and kill a few ?

    No ? I certainly hope it is no.

    Confession from torture is bound to be unreliable and therefore of doubful benefit never mind the primary humanitarian concern that all torture is evil.

    On the latest police out of control evidence, I believe it was on drug related matters anyway. They think they are USA Guantanamo guards. Have any been there for training?

  • Comment number 53.

    A man died and went to Heaven. As he stood in front St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, 'What are all those clocks?'

    St. Peter answered, 'Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone who has ever been on earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie, the hands on your clock move.'

    'Oh', said the man. 'Whose clock is that?'

    'That's Mother Teresa's', replied St. Peter. 'The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie.

    ''Incredible', said the man. 'And whose clock is that one?'

    St. Peter responded, 'That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abraham told only two lies in his entire life.'

    'Where's Gordon Brown's clock?' asked the man.

    St Peter replied, 'Jesus has it in his office - He uses it as a ceiling fan.

  • Comment number 54.

    Allowing a government who are up to their necks in the sticky brown stuff to move the goal posts is outrageous.
    This is a desperate attempt, by a desperate party, lead by a desperate man, desperate to stay in power any which way he can!!!
    yes the voting system for Westminster is extremely outdated and unfair but rushing in to an alternative so quickly with very little thought is going to solve absolutely nothing.
    REMEMBER up until yesterday Brown would have nothing to do with PR
    in fact he slagged off the lib- dums regularly!
    Goodness me the road to Damascus must be hell of a busy these days.

  • Comment number 55.

    You can only but be totally cynical about these latest moves by Gordon Brown. They are part of a desperate attempt to regain some popularity in the same way that delaying the bill for the privatisation of The Royal Mail is designed to appease his backbench detractors and win back some support. It may fool his MPs and buy him some time with them but it won't fool The Electorate.

  • Comment number 56.

    No electoral mandate in the country, no positive electoral mandate from his own party. Mr Brown does not have the mandate to wade into issues as serious as the constitution. He should stick to the "caretaker" role he is so desparate to cling on to until the matter can be debated as part of a general election campaign.

  • Comment number 57.

    "However cynical the reception to this news of proposed reform - understandable given the timing - an overhaul of the voting system is desperately needed."

    The real cynicism comes from the Government and particularly from Brown and his close circle.

    And it isn't the voting system that needs overhauling. It is the political parties and the attitude of MPs. What we need are political parties that balance leadership and vision with listening to the voice of the people and MPs who realise their purpose is to serve those who elect them and not feather their own nests. When we have those the proportion of people who vote will increase.

  • Comment number 58.

    Let the parties battle it out in a General Election with their manifesto's covering these key areas as standard:

    The Economy
    Electoral Reform
    The Lisbon Treaty

    The parties should pledge to implement their proposals on the above within the first two years of the new Parliament, if elected.

    The country can choose then which party is best placed to handle the downturn, which party has the best plan for Electoral Reform and which party is best for them when it comes to Europe.

    If you like Downing Street e-petitions, then there is one called Go to the Country Now and that is calling for Parliament to be resolved and an immediate General Election, at that point, we the electorate can choose who we want to govern the country.

    If the BBC permit it, then the link for Downing Street e-petitions is

  • Comment number 59.

    Rather than AV, we should perhaps look at AV Plus (

    This introduces a little more balance. I admit that I have moved more and more towards PR, to be honest. If nothing else, it helps eliminate the idea of the "safe seat" that has allowed MPs to take their jobs, and therefore the electorate, for granted.

    Also, looking at recall systems and changing structures in the way legislation is introduced in parliament - strengthening the committees and making the cabinet more accountable.

    PROBLEM: The Tories, as usual, are against almost any change and are stuck in the past. The few that Cameron has proposed are tinkering at the edges and are pointless with reforming the electoral system itself.

    Yet again, we will get conned out of fairness by the Politicians.

    They really don't give a damn about us, do they?

  • Comment number 60.

    "Just to be clear: the prime minister's statement will not - and was never going to - endorse a change of voting system nor any particular system."

    Of course it wasn't Nick, Gordon Brown is incapable of making a decision or having his own views on anything.

  • Comment number 61.

    44. Colin, thanks for that. EVERYBODY should read it and tell their friends!

  • Comment number 62.


    Sorry, I of course intended to write 'dissolve' Parliament and not 'resolve' Parliament, although resolving it would be pretty damn good!

  • Comment number 63.

    459. At 07:34am on 10 Jun 2009, Saintmm wrote:

    (Sorry, I blogged on the previous thread when this one was down)

    Seems like more Government tinkering but there are two serious points to consider.

    According to the 'experts', the AV system would have led to bigger labour majorities in each of the last three elections

    Secondly, this system is in use in Australia and has been described as producing "wierd" results by those in the know. Refer #43.

    Stop piddling around Gordon, it is a waste of Government time as it couldn't be introduced before the next election.

    Reform the house of Lords by all means if you dare. After all, we wouldn't want the Cabinet to lose the unelected Lord Mandelson or Lord Myners or the future Lady Kinnock or the future Lord Amstrad, or......or.....or.....etc, would we?

  • Comment number 64.

    @5 "seanspa wrote: Any system that prevents someone taking over as PM mid term, usurping power and refusing to give it up, will be a significant improvement."

    Agreed. The displacement of a Prime Minister, by his/her party, due to unpopularity, mid term, should lead to an automatic general election. The death of a leader would be different as that would not be due to unpopularity and then the deputy PM should take over.

    Recall powers must also be granted to the electors in each constituency.

    Most importantly, the MASSIVE in-built bias in favour of any party inherent in the constituency boundaries MUST BE ENDED.

    It is a gross and profoundly anti-democratic disgrace that currently, labour could get a million fewer votes than the tories and yet STILL be able to form a majority government. They could potentially lead a coalition minority government with 1.5 - 2 million fewer votes.

    The tories need to heavily defeat labour at the polls to even draw with them in seats (leading to a hung Parliament). Labour have a built-in majority (allowing for new boundries) of about 48 seats. This is a gross violation of democracy.

  • Comment number 65.

    This voting reform guff is just political smoke and mirrors, let's get back to MPs' expenses, that was much more fun - once you got over being angry at knowing that tax payers had been take for a ride for ages.

  • Comment number 66.

    Dear Nick,

    For AV voting, try this little test and see if it is fairer than FPtP.

    Four candidates stand for election.
    1- Mr A, Incease Tax Party
    2- Ms B, Cut Spending Party,
    3- Ms C, Love You Feely Party,
    4- Mr D, Hate All Foreigners, Right Is Might Party.

    But there are only 4 voters (Just for this test).

    Each voter decides No. 4 is by far their last choice so put him last but when the votes are counted, the other 3 candidates have only one vote each.

    To win under AV you must get over 50% of the votes and, as no-one but No.4 has, he wins! Hooray for democracy!

    In FPtP system, No.4 would of course loose his deposit as he would not recieve any votes.

    Am I being too simple, please tell me.


  • Comment number 67.

    Sorry Nick but Journalist and Politicians are tarred with the same brush they are all that busy telling us what we are saying that they dont listen to a word we are actually saying nor take anything in which is why ultimately actions speak louder than words

    The Great British public voted against Labour because they brought the world economy down by failing to regulate the markets and Bankers mainly hosted in London.

    When the financial sector went on a spree at the turn of the millennium, a spree that was predominantly immoral, certainly unethical and totally antisocial they were supported by the socialist government anxious for the tax revenue to stick into health and education where they had promised so much to the electorate

    Now having encouraged all the anti social behaviour of these fat cats they have had to pour billions of our money for years to come into these greedy mouths to keep them functioning.

    And worse they have done not one single jot to change the ways of these usurers or to regulate these people and have done nothing to persuade America or Europe to do anything about controlling them either.

    Worse the money they took in did not create a better education service or health service it was all tied into more and more jobs for administrators to replace the manufacturing losses.

    The by word became targets to check progress and checks to check the checkers al with targets to be checked its an administrators nightmare and no service in sight.

    In fact service either public or care for the customer is going backwards like fellowship support and community they are all being eroded by a beggar my neighbour, self interest, me first mentality that discredits us all and is amplified by the way some of our politicians have stuck their noses in the trough with expenses.

    Not because they are inherently bad people but because they are, like the vast majority of us, weak followers of fashion trends and of our leaders bad or good.

    So think first, we are deeply disappointed because the government is not tackling the issues but rather as usual papering over the cracks for the next incumbents to deal with. Government has to get back to basics make life simpler, less paper, less rules, give time to common sense, restore moral and ethical practice.

    To bring back civil values to which there is no trade, no price, no swap and to focus on service of public, neighbour, employee and family.

    Ask not what I can do for me but how can I help our society be a better place for thee.

  • Comment number 68.

    58. At 09:50am on 10 Jun 2009, damiendruce


    Why not be a bit more patient, really, its only till next year, just wait a year, this is what is wrong you see we have become such of a rush society no patience whatsoever, 'I'm gonna sit here until you get out the way' attitude 'i'm in a rush get out my way'.

    If we all be a bit more patient and understanding what better lives we'd lead, what a better country, what a better society so next time rather than rushing, think a bit, slow down.

    I know the majority are angered with our PM, but don't try to evict him, remember it will be the General election in what less than 12 months time, so please, just wait, I'm not an MP, I look forward to voting for the first time next year, I am only 17, but I think we should really be more patient about our politics, 'Rome was never built in a day'.

  • Comment number 69.

    "Just to be entirely clear.." - Paul Mason had this story a long time before you did, just as Betsan Powys had the Welsh 'Tory Story' ahead of you, and it would be polite of you to acknowledge that occasionally..

  • Comment number 70.

    This is classic mis direction. The magic circle would be proud!

    I think we can now conclude that NULab have continued to practice their magic tricks. Perhaps Gordy and Peter think that by pulling rabbits out of hats, flowers from up their sleeves and eggs from behind each others ears, that the electorate will forget about their recent electoral kicking, and the economic meltdown.

    Truly, this bunch are a stain on the underpants of humanity.

  • Comment number 71.

    #51# IDB123

    Totally agreed.

    Sadly though, those currently in any position to make such changes are far too attached to the status quo, so any reform is unlikely to be comprehensive, or even significant, and almost certainly won't reflect the wishes of the electorate.

    I particularly agree with the separation of voting for an MP from, by inference of the party that MP belongs to, voting for a prime minister.

    It's total twaddle and probably always has been. If the people are going to in any way choose the prime minister then just let them vote for the one they want.

    I've never understood why British people haven't demanded the right to do that. It seems so fundamentally undemocratic.

    I also quite like the idea that the person elected to govern the country can select his/her cabinet from a wider base of expertise than just those who managed or were popular enough to get elected into the House. Though, as we increasingly see, Gordon seems to have a way around that.

  • Comment number 72.

    Is it possible that when a posting is considered, we could be positive and say which system we would like, instead of being cynical and suggesting that any decision a politician make sis for their own good.

    I would agree with flamepatricia, that no-one should have a postal vote unless they have a good reason. I am suprised though, that she is so sure the she knows how her son votes. With-in our family, we discuss politics and we openly talk of how we might vote, but I have no idea who my sons vote for.

    I would say that some form of PR is preferable, but I'm not sure which one would produce the most representative parliament. I'd be open to persuasion on that. We need a system that allows new ideas to grow but keep out the lunatic fringes.

    There has been a lot of talk concerning how many MPs we really need. I can't say I know the answer to that. How big should the government be? How many ministers?

    How much should they be paid? At the moment an MP gets arond 68k, I would say that is enough, but if that's enough for an MP then I should say we should have a maximum wage, as we almost had until 1979. I have suggested before it should be in the region of 150k.

    So, instead of just criticising every move that the government make, how about adding to the debate?

  • Comment number 73.

    GB will no doubt want us to accept that he has been 'trying to reform' the parliamentary voting system for years. But as always with this 'last past the post''s too little, too late. Unfortunately the recent circus in Westminster means nothing GB does will ever be seen as right for the country. We are at the begining of very worrying times evidenced by the attacks on the BNP leader yesterday ouside our House of democracy.......I fear there will be much more direct action as the people are revolting!

  • Comment number 74.

    My Local election ballot had three parties on it. They were CON, LAB, LIB.
    If you consider that Labour are somewhere in the middle of this group, then using the proposed system:

    The average LIB voter would vote LIB, LAB, CON.
    The average CON voter would vote CON, LAB, LIB.
    And the average LAB voter (many of whom won't vote CON EVER) would vote LAB, LIB, CON.

    Isn't this simply a way to guarantee that if Labour came in second as no one would get 50%, they would win an election based on second votes?

    Or am I being too cynical here?

    Please discuss.

  • Comment number 75.

    Dear All,

    A bit of a correction to my post at Number 66.

    For AV voting, try this little test and see if it is fairer than FPtP.

    Four candidates stand for election.
    1- Mr A, Incease Tax Party
    2- Ms B, Cut Spending Party,
    3- Ms C, Love You Feely Party,
    4- Mr D, Hate All Foreigners, Right Is Might Party.

    But there are only 4 voters (Just for this test).

    Each voter decides No. 4 is by far their last choice so put him last but when the votes are counted, the other 3 candidates have only one vote each.

    To win under AV you must get over 50% of the votes and, as 3 candidates got only 2 votes each and No.4 has 4, he wins! Hooray for democracy!

    In FPtP system, No.4 would of course loose his deposit as he would not recieve any votes.

    Am I being too simple, please tell me.

  • Comment number 76.

    #44 colin_dancer

    On the other hand, even an 'unfair' system would probably feel more fair to many voters than finding the person you voted for to have no integrity and to be cheating the expenses system.

    A great deal of this is about people FEELING disempowered and unable to change things.

    (That - in all honesty - is probably the main cause of last week's electoral results, including the low turn-out)

  • Comment number 77.

    I assume everyone has noticed that hypcracy of sticking all your mates into the lords, then proposing to reform it to stop people sticking their mates in the lords.

  • Comment number 78.

    Hmm - sounds a wee bit fishy to me, as others have said.
    The solution is really pretty simple.
    1) Elected House of Lords, but elected during mid term of House of Commons
    2) Fixed term House of Commons terms - say 4 years. This means House of Lords would be 4 years too, but 2 years after H o C General Elections
    3) Executive to be separate from the Parliament. By all means, the leader of the largest party is PM, but then ministers are nominated by him / her, and scrutinised by both houses, within a fixed time of say 1 month, and then appointed. Ministers need NOT be elected, but must be approved by thise who are elected.
    4) I might be in the minority here, but the existing 1st past the post system is what I would describe as the very basis of democracy - i.e. simple majority rule, so I see no need to change to a system which will undoubtedly lead to hung parliaments and little progress
    5) Compulsory voting - but a "None of the above" option. If this option is the majority in a constituency, then election has to be re-run with new candidates.
    These measures may be "couragous" and in a Yes Minister world that would be "brave", but make the changes now, and confidence in the system would surely be restored.

  • Comment number 79.

    35. At 09:27am on 10 Jun 2009, Menedemus wrote:

    "Do we really want people to vote for anyone other than Labour and see MPS from the Monster Raving Loony Party as MPs via preference vote?"

    If that's what the electorate vote for made manifest by a particular voting system then, by definition, that surely IS 'what we really want'.

    Or are you saying 'we really must manipulate the system to ensure that the electorate don't get what they really want'?

  • Comment number 80.

    To appease Cameron, and to deliver something close to real democracy, adopting the Irish Single Transferrable Vote system is the best way forward; a good mix of PR - from party lists - and constituency-based MPs. Only problem with this system is its complexity, as poor Peter Snow would be kept up much later waiting to fill the colours in his swingometer.

  • Comment number 81.

    #74 sweet

    Why do you think your average tory voter would put Labour as their second choice. Seems unlikely to me.

  • Comment number 82.

    My God Nick the labour party are well and truly done for. More consultations, more debate? When are they gonna get the message that we've had enough. We're sick and tired of their endless abstractions and non action. What a disaster they are. What choice do they offer for 'leader': a tony Blair clone (David and Ed perhaps) or a mock new leftie, you know what I mean, a blairite with a bit of a conscience. What a wreck of a party, what a bunch of woodentops.

  • Comment number 83.

    AV will very likely be helpful to both labour and the lib dems, with a voter expressing a preference for either of them, resigned to having the second choice in case first choice vote goes wasted. Conservatives hardly have a party that is very much aligned on policy.

    More principally, voters will be largely in the dark on how AV will work out after polling. And there will be much miscounting and horse (policy) trading between parties.

    AV is a clever labour trick. It is not a good system, but it favours labour who will point to other parties as opposing reform when these parties raise valid objections against it.

    Mr Robinson, I suppose that you asked about Sugar, Myners, Vadera, Mandelson and the Standard Chartered when that labour politician commented that the conservatives should come clean on reforming the lords.


  • Comment number 84.

    67 Hack-round.
    Neat analysis, but a tall order for any government "to give time to common sense, restore moral and ethical practice."
    With the current MPs expense/allowance exposures we have an opportunity to compare our elected representatives against each other by what they have done, rather than what they say.
    I suggest this gives the electorate an additional power to judge who we would like to represent us.
    "Ask not what I can do for me but how can I help our society be a better place for thee."
    This is an ace comment Hack-round. In one sentence you have summed up my perception of all the recent expense exposures and cabinet resignations.

  • Comment number 85.

    "And actually, if it stopped me being blown up by some crazed suicide bomber then yes, I think it is OK to torture suspects. "

    Andy, I just bet you are in favour of dunking suspected witches and other assorted heathens too aintcha?

    There is no proof, (ZERO NONE NADA ZIP ZILTCH) that torture keeps us safer from terrorists. Torture does NOT create truth. It only creates legally worthless confessions and a very deep motivation to enact revenge. NOTHING MORE.

    Torture is used to extract confessions, NOT to get to the truth. The American administration tortured a confession out of one innocent man who confessed to Al Queda having links to Saddam, THUS creating the fictional link between Saddam and September 11th which the British and American adminstrations knowingly and falsely used to gain some degree of popular support for the Iraq war leading to the deaths, mutilations and displacement of over 4 million people.

    That is what torturing people into confessing to false plots gets you!

    Additionally, give me 45 minutes and a waterboard and I could have you confessing to abducting Maddie McCann, SERIOUSLY! so the whole issue of "gaining intelligence by waterboarding" is legally dead!

    IF regular juristic dilligence proves beyond doubt that a person is committing or planning to comit a terrorist act, then upon the successful and fair conviction in a court, that person could be imprisoned and tortured slowly to death, rescussitated again and then repeatedly killed, for all I care, BUT ONLY UPON CONVICTION.

    All 'suspects' by the nature of the term 'suspect' are innocent until PROVEN guilty. Would you really have our entire judicial system overturned? In answering that, ask yourself if YOU have EVER been left alone with a child. Now think how you could PROVE that you have never molested that child, should YOU need to prove your innocence? And in thinking about that, would you like to change the current system of justice to be guilty of charge until you prove yourself innocent?

    Therefore under the current correct system ALL suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court, before a jury of peers.

    Innocent people should NEVER be tortured! END OF!

  • Comment number 86.

    #78 davie

    Fixed term would mean it was ok for a party to change leader without having to go to the country again?

    How would we fit all the other elections in in the meantime? Euros, County and District?

  • Comment number 87.

    They can propose all they want but ,whatever voting is in place at the next election will see labour decimated.With Gordon Brown not listening to the electorate , the electorate are going to have their say......

    If he had time he would no doubt be looking at ways to reform the system without us getting a referendum,he has a track record on this.

  • Comment number 88.

    No55 Caractac,
    Are you prepared to forecast how many more political lunatics will, on this blog, demonstrate their ignorance by implying that we elect Prime Ministers in the UK.It may be of interest to you, however , I doubt it, that Mr Brown was elected by his party unopposed, a common occurence in democratic organisations.

  • Comment number 89.

    #86 wasowenright

    With a fixed term 4 year parliament, "none of the above" voting, all cabinet position held up to scrutiny by parliament, the chances of a leader leaving mid term is vastly reduced.

    As for fitting in the other elections - time the ones we can control (council, district) etc. to take place at same time (on separate ballot sheet) as either the H o C General Election or H o L elections - means that on a fixed date every 2 years, we vote.

    Electorate would be better able to put concerns to elected members as there would be no huge time gaps between national elections - compulsory voting gets the tunrout a "mandate" issue resolved.

  • Comment number 90.

    68. At 10:13am on 10 Jun 2009, defenderofparliament

    Why should I wait? I have a wife and children that I need to support, I have been made redundant twice in twelve months because the Government could not regulate my industry - Financial Services, and to be honest young man I have seen quite enough of this ineffective Government.

    I admire your interest in politics at such a young age, I was very much the same at fourteen, but there are issues that need dealing with right away and that can only be done with the country deciding on who they want to take us forward.

    If it is Labour, then so be it, if Conservatives get in then great, lets see how it goes. The key here is to make them all more accountable, when they mess up then they need to allow their employers, the electorate, to decide on the best course of action, just as your boss would in the private sector.

    Stay interested young man, but please remember there are families up and down the country that have been paralysed by this incumbent Government! You need to take a look at the bigger picture.

  • Comment number 91.

    Completey Outrageous.
    An unelected leader, with a cabinet full of unelected ministers, who is facing political meltdown at his next election has decided that the electoral system (the one that just gave him and his cronies a kicking) is outdated and need reforming ...
    Where do we live? Is this any kind of democratic process? Are we now living in some 3rd world dictatorship?
    Dear Gordon Brown
    Kim Jong Ill, Robert Mugabe, Hu Jintao and others must be saluting you and wondering how they can give their regimes the vener of democracy that you have managed to.

  • Comment number 92.

    "How can a party tht just scored a whopping 15.4% in a countrywide election possibly assert their authority in a move to cahnge the voting system?"

    Let's get the scale of this correct shall we? It was 15.4% of a 31% turnout! So, in reality LESS THAN 5% of those eligible to vote supported Gordon Brown's labour party.

    There is NO SUCH THING as a mainstream political party anymore.

    The MASSIVE MAJORITY of non-voters can easily throw out the old-guard, EX mainstream parties now. ALL OF THEM! ALL they have to do is actually VOTE.

    Do something positive

  • Comment number 93.

    31 flame patricia
    ie we are not looking over his shoulder trying to influence his vote (he wouldn't mind you knowing he always votes Conservative by the way!)

    How do you know he votes conservative? or is it with your attitude he dare not do otherwise, and what gives you the right to tell all and sundry the way he votes, isn't it supposed to be a secret ballot.
    I know the lads severly disabled, but dont foist your opinions on him to further your cause, if you dont see his ballot paper you don't know if he may of voted Libdem or even Labour, he could tell you anything he wants to keep you quiet.I guess you'll refer this one too Patricia

  • Comment number 94.

    RE: 51 IDB123
    You are describing something like a US system without the electoral college. This is spot on. I have been thinking along those lines for some years. Without repeating what you have already written, I will add why this is so important.
    The problem with the British parliamentary system is that the PM wields more power than the president of the US (in relative, not absolute terms) for the simple reason that there is no separation between the executive and the legislature. In a word, by holding a majority, the executive is able to force the legislature to vote a certain way by using the 3 line whip. This is not democracy but autocracy. MP's have a stark choice: if they defy the whip they will alienate the PM and may probably jeapordise their careers. They may even have the whip removed in extreeme cases. There has been a notable increase in use of the whip in recent years which has lead to a raft of barmy legislation being forced through the commons. This amounts, imo, to a violation of the spirit of parliament and is leading to an abuse of power. If the lower house exists only to serve their constituents, AND cannot sit in the cabinet then this abuse cannot happen. The PM, for his part, will be free to select his (talented) ministers from the among the great and the good of our country PROVIDED they are approved by the lower house.
    That's it. Any tinkering with the way votes are counted is like a man painting his windows while his house is subsiding off the edge of a cliff.

  • Comment number 95.

    Who cares about electoral reform?

    Just stop fiddling your expenses and claiming it was - within the rules.

    Classic Brownian attempt to blow smoke up the electorate's as*.

    More dividing lines, more useless rhetoric from Brown aides.

    Call an election

  • Comment number 96.

    75. At 10:23am on 10 Jun 2009, tobytrip
    Am I being too simple, please tell me.

    I cannot say, but in the absence of an as neatly explained contrary explanation (so far), and the certainty that our WUVI-obsessed, bubble-centric, Lobby-dependent MSM 'reporting' stars will fail to do so, I will simply say thank you and err on not being too impressed with any future efforts to spin this otherwise.

    Should my opinion on the matter ever get sought rationally via the ballot box again, of course.

  • Comment number 97.

    Until and if it actually happens, I will treat it as spin designed to stall, distract and buying time. Politicians are good with words and excel in applied psychology.

    It is better not to believe and be pleasantly surprised (very small chance) than believe and be disappointed, yet again.

  • Comment number 98.

    No23 flamepatricia
    I am sure you will be aware that there is always a substantial number of government ministers in the House of Lords, regardless of which party forms the government, all unelected. Are you arguing for all politicians at Westminster to be accountable to the public through the ballot box? Do you think the people should have the right to decide on who should be their Head of State?

  • Comment number 99.

    On the quiet we have already had electoral reform.We now have a system of government along the EU lines,non elected commissioners running the country and a house of commons that is only there for the pretence of the electorate.Poor old window dressing Harman has been replaced as deputy prime minister by someone was wasn't even voted in by his own party let alone the country,still,she cannot complain as she fully supports Brown.

  • Comment number 100.

    81. At 10:31am on 10 Jun 2009, wasowenright wrote:
    #74 sweet

    Why do you think your average tory voter would put Labour as their second choice. Seems unlikely to me.


    I agree, but is it less likely then putting the lib dems second (I thnking under normal circumstances, not our current ABL kind of situation).


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