I was a bit baffled by an article in the Independent this morning with the headline 'Liberal Democrats urged to side with Labour over voting reform proposals." I read through the article and could find nothing in it as to what position Labour were adopting on reform other than to vote against the Bill today in the Commons. If Labour really want to attract the support of Lib Dem MPs, their means of achieving it are bizarre. Let's examine it in detail.
Labour fought the election on a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on changing to AV. The referendum itself was a key concession to the Lib Dems in the Coalition Agreement from the Conservatives. Labour, having performed an opportunistic and cynical u-turn, now want the Lib Dems to vote with them against something Labour campaigned for only 4 months ago and which was a key offering to the Lib Dems in the first place. Precisely which planet do Labour inhabit?
Labour claim that they are against what they previously were elected to deliver because they claim the government are "gerrymandering" the election process. The reality behind their claim is that the undemocratic advantage that unfairly boosted their majorities over the Blair years is being scrapped. Constituencies are being redrawn so that they are of a similar size. Under the current boundaries, Labour tends to hold the majority of the smaller seats, giving them an undemocratic advantage. No doubt, had Labour been around in 1832 they would have campaigned to retain the rotten boroughs!
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to begin the reform process this country needs. Labour needs to be on the side of reform and change. Yet it seems they are interested only in short term political gain and sticking the knife into the Lib Dems. Opportunity (or rather opportunism) knocks for Labour. Looks like they could blow that opportunity.
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