Brown half-measures challenged by PR and Citizens' Convention call

By staff writers
June 10, 2009

Unlock Democracy, the bi-partisan campaign for political and constitutional reform, says that Gordon Brown's gestures towards changes in the voting system are "a textbook example of how not to do electoral reform."

The comments came from Unlock Democracy's deputy director Alexandra Runswick after it was announced yesterday that the embattled Prime Minister will announce plans to examine a new system of voting MPs to the House of Commons.

Ministers have discussed the much-critiqued alternative vote (AV) system to choose MPs. This would replace the first past the post method with a slightly more representative one, but would not introduce the across-the-board proportionality of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) favoured by the Electoral Reform Society and other campaigners.

Alexander Runswick declared; "Gordon Brown has clearly learned nothing from the last few weeks."

The Unlock Democracy deputy director continued:"The Alternative Vote system certainly has some superficial advantages over first-past-the-post and would ensure that no MP was elected with less than 50 per cent of the vote. But it is not a proportional system and in certain circumstances can be less proportional than first past the post."

He added: "Where there is a major swing against a political party, AV can actually exaggerate that swing. Under AV for example, Labour would probably have no MEPs at all after last Thursday's election."

Runswick went on: "Unlock Democracy believes the UK should adopt a proportional electoral system that gives voters a choice of both parties and individual candidates. But fundamentally, we believe the people - not politicians - should be leading this process. For this reason we are calling for a Citizens' Convention to decide how to make Parliament and government more accountable and ethical."

He continued: "The Citizens' Convention (Accountability and Ethics) Bill has been tabled in the House of Commons. If he is truly serious about reform, we call on Gordon Brown to announce tomorrow that he will allow time for the Bill to be debated."

The Citizens' Convention Bill received its first reading in the House of Commons on Monday 8 June 2009.

Supported by a cross party group of MPs (Martin Caton, David Drew, Jim Dowd, Norman Lamb, Julia Goldsworthy, Norman Baker, Douglas Carswell), the bill would establish a citizens' convention of randomly chosen members of the public to look at ways to make the UK political system more accountable.

Among other things, it will bring forward proposals to bring elected representatives to book when they step out of line, to change the way in which Parliament is run to ensure that the government is properly held to account and to decide on our electoral system.

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