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Aren't all election promises hypothetical?

Michael Crick | 11:39 UK time, Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Gordon Brown's pledge to hold a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) voting system - after the election, if Labour win - may partly be a bargaining chip in the event of a hung Parliament and the need to woo the Lib Dems, who have long wanted proportional representation (PR).

The trouble is that most advocates of PR don't regard AV as a proportional system, and in certain circumstances it can actually produce a less proportional result.

So I rang the Lib Dems twice last night to ask them what they thought of Gordon Brown's pledge.

"We have no comment," they told me, "about a hypothetical referendum in Labour's hypothetical fourth term."

Hypothetical? Aren't all election promises hypothetical? Lib Dem promises more especially.

Nick Clegg did tell the Guardian on Monday, however, that he would welcome a referendum on AV-plus, the more proportional variant on AV advocated by the Jenkins commission some years ago.

So an AV-plus referendum could be the obvious compromise which might see the Lib Dems backing Labour in a hung Parliament.

I stress "might".


  • Comment number 1.

    AV is not PR...end of

  • Comment number 2.

    Michael Crick:

    Yes, almost all promises in elections process are

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 3.

    Let us not forget; we have no legitimate expectation that manifesto pledges will be adhered to and party conference promises carry even less weight. Whatever Brown Cameron and Clegg promise is worthless. Judge them by what they do.

  • Comment number 4.


    As Brown was doing his Brownie Vows, I waited for him to pledge his future in politics against promises being made (as with disqualification of bankers) but it never came. It should be a simple matter to nail promises to careers such that they go down together.

    Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after deviousness, for they shall be called the Children of Westminster.

    You know - Life and Soul of the Party Brown. King of the one liner. "I say I say: What do you call a Prime Minnister who chews his nails? Digitally remastered." You had to be there . . .

  • Comment number 5.

    It is merely an attempt to get the Lib Dems on board should there be a hung Parliament.

    Labour are desperate to cling onto power.

  • Comment number 6.

    Wisest I found, to promise to do my best to move heaven and earth or whatever . . .

    National politicians tend to be more ambitious.

    The Lib-Dems may have forgotten Rpy Jenkins' report, which Tony Blair commissioned, but then did not like sufficiently to try and battle into law. As suggested on Tom Harris blog I think it is, AV is not uniformly popular among Labour MPs, but if it is Labour's manifesto the Lib-Dems might find themselves having to make a difference for a change, and either voting for Labour's bill, or getting 'owt.


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