Campaigners have said that Gordon Brown’s announcements which include proposals for an elected second chamber, a referendum on a change in the voting system, and a vote on lowering the age of voting to 16, amount to "a lot of words but no action".
Power2010, the democratic reform campaign of which Ekklesia is a member, point out that just last night, the Government dropped plans in the Parliamentary ‘wash-up’ which were aimed at strengthening Parliament. They also point out he has continued to appoint unelected members to the House of Lords.
Labour had a 1997 manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on a proportional system of voting for elections to Westminster which they never fulfilled.
Pam Giddy, director of Power2010, said: “Gordon Brown is fond of these sweeping announcements on constitutional reform, but it’s clear by now that he’s all words and no action.
“At the same time as the government trumpets the reform commitments in its manifesto, it has quietly ditched reforms to strengthen Parliament in the ‘wash up’.
“He talks about a democratic House of Lords while drawing up his own list of cronies to be appointed to the Lords, who will hope to live out their retirement in the chamber at the taxpayer’s expense.
“Even his promise of a referendum on the voting system is not all that it seems – he wants a vote on a system hand-picked by ministers, showing he is only interested in a controlled, stage-managed democracy in which voters are treated like children.
“Until they prove they’re serious about reform, this all just looks like politics as usual, I’m afraid, and a cynical bit of electioneering.
“Power2010 will be campaigning from now until the election to ensure every candidate in the next Parliament understands the need for real change, not more of the same.”
Brown's Speech also followed the fall of the AV referendum amendment in last night's wash-up. The group is now seeking to campaign for a reforming parliament.
Willie Sullivan from the Vote for a Change campaign said:
“Yesterday, the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill – which would have guaranteed us a referendum on a new electoral system during the next government – died during the wash-up process. The Tories chose a scorched earth policy rather than trust in their arguments on First-Past-the-Post or in the judgment of the British people.
“Both parties claim they can deliver change alone. Today Brown offered us a Democracy Day, and a future referendum on fair votes. We welcome these moves, but we’ve heard promises before, we’re still waiting.
“David Cameron talks change. His draft manifesto even promises 'Fair Vote' reforms, but he offers nothing that might actually deliver on it, short of an obsession with boundary changes.
“We don’t have a referendum on the statute book. But voters still have a chance to vote for a change. A hung parliament is a reforming parliament, and that must be the objective of anyone interested in democratic renewal."