Bishop joins calls for voting reform

By agency reporter
June 25, 2009

Britain should re-examine its voting system for elections to the House of Commons in the light of ‘the constitutional crisis’, the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, told Lancashire’s senior Church of England representatives last night. (Wednesday)

"I personally now believe the time has come when we should, at the very least, look seriously at our voting system," the Bishop told the Diocesan Synod of the Blackburn Diocese, meeting in Preston.

Election to the central bodies of the Church of England had been by single transferable vote since 1920, he said.

The Church of England’s General Synod had passed a motion six years ago calling on the Government and leaders of the main political parties to enhance voter participation by reforming the voting system.

This motion, passed with only six votes against, asked the politicians "to encourage and enable, by legislative and administrative action, and especially by introducing proportional representation by the single transferable vote for elections to Parliament, all members of our society to play a full part in our democracy".

The Labour Party broke its commitment, contained in its 1997 election manifesto, to hold a referendum on the voting system for elections to the House of Commons.

Gordon Brown has now indicated that reform is back on the agenda following the revelations about MP's expenses and a correlation between MPs in so called 'safe seats' and expenses claimed. However, many believe that the new system offered will not be proportional.

The Bishop added: "While I understand all the arguments for retaining the first past the post system, I see the strength of the argument for a change, and my hope is that a change in the voting system should be openly discussed."

The Bishop said he was "disturbed" by the election of two British National Party representatives in the European elections.

"I find the language they use offensive and in many places 'beyond belief'. But throwing eggs at them and mobbing their cars as we saw in London recently is not the way to deal with any form of extremism.

"I believe the better way is to challenge their arguments in public, in the cold light of day, and not to make martyrs of them.

"The fact that they have two seats in the European Parliament does not in any way let them off the hook, because we can never forget that any movement that tries to divide communities on racial grounds is an affront to the nature of God."

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