Monday 14 June 2010

All five Labour leadership candidates say they back the Alternative Vote

All five Labour leadership candidates said they support the Alternative Vote at tonight's hustings co-hosted by the Fabian Society, and would lead Labour to campaign for a change in a referendum. Andy Burnham was the most cautious in stressing that there were a range of views in the party which should be reflected, but said that he was tending towards the Alternative Vote.

"We should campaign for AV. It is a fairer system for the House of Commons", says Diane Abbott. She is sceptical about forms of PR which would weaken the local engagement of MPs.

"I believe strongly in AV for the House of Commons: two-thirds of MPs are elected on a minority vote. We also need to combine it with PR for the House of Lords", says David Miliband. The next stage is empowerment of local government, on which the Labour government got stalled. A package of structural changes to make our system "more proportional and more representative"

"It is right to have the debate, but we must recognise that for people out there this is not the biggest issue in their lives. If we looked like it is the biggest issue, we risk looking out of touch". Andy Burnham stresses that Labour is not united on electoral reform. "However Labour approaches it, it must represent the breadth of views in the party. I am tending towards AV, but let's have all of those caveats in our mind when we approach this debate".

He wants Lords reform too: "There isn't any place for clergy in the House of Lords", he says (to applause), saying he doesn't know what his mother will think of that and that "I'll go to confession tomorrow". (There aren't, however, Catholic Bishops in the Lords!).

"The answer on AV is that I will campaign for AV", says Ed Balls. "On constitutional reform, I support AV; I support an elected House of Lords. I don't want to go further down the road to PR: I don't want to see the BNP in the House of Commons as we have in the European Parliament".

Ed Balls says that he wants a written constitution, as a lesson of taking too piecemeal a view to reform. He says the LibDem-Tory approach to constitutional increasingly looks like an anti-state view. He wants to see a written constitution and one which commits to social goals, like an end to child poverty".

Balls says the leadership candidates should be more consultative on party reform and policy-making: "it is not really consistent for us as leadership candidates to say we are going to listen and then to say we have all the answers". For too long, we have said we have decided and then we ask the members to agree.

"Isn't the truth about this that we are living in the 21st century with a 19th century political system - and that's what needs to change", says Ed Miliband, also supporting AV as well as reform of the Lords. He moves on to talk about gender, and his support for 50% of the shadow Cabinet being women.

1 comment:

Daan said...

Slightly disappointed... I would have hoped at least one contestant supported PR. Ed must know better than the old, PR will let the BNP in...

To be honest, I've never quite understood how any Labour supporter can oppose PR. Obviously it may threaten the duopoly on power which has proved very useful for Labour, but it goes against our principles:

1) Labour is democratic, PR is democratic. It removes tactical voting, it encourages positive campaigning, it opens up politics, under STV it can strengthen the constituency link. Need I say more?

2) One of the oldest ambitions of the Labour movement is the classless society (or at least a society in which there is a less immediate division between people of different socio-economic backgrounds). But as it stands, one of the greatest causes of class conflict is the party tribalism linked with our current two-party system. How can we ever hope to progress to a more socially equal society if our politics is limited to a "party for the rich" and a "party for the poor"?

3) PR would stop the tories ever ruling on their own again. Let us not let the current coalition mislead us, Britain is fundamentally a social democratic nation.