Monday, May 25, 2009

Alan Johnson calls for electoral reform

The Health Secretary breaks the conspiracy of silence over a new voting system.

Alan Johnson becomes the first senior Labour figure to call for a referendum on electoral reform. In a piece published by the Times today, 'There is an alternative to our damaged system', the Health Secretary backs the recommendations of the Jenkins commission - shelved by the Blair government back in 1998.

A choice between the current First Past the Post (that handed Labour a massive majority with less of a quarter of the popular vote) and the Alternative Vote Plus system is Johnson's proposal. "On the date of the next general election", he writes, "we should have a national referendum and let the people decide. This is a genuinely radical alternative that only Labour in government can facilitate".

At government level, the subject has been considered taboo for years. Following the ridiculously distorted results of the 2005 general elections, the Independent started a campaign for electoral reform. Barely did some support come in from Labour MPs that party whips went on-message and nipped enthusiasm in the bud. As the Independent reported, "MPs were ordered not to speak in favour of electoral reform".

Alan Johnson's renewed interest may signal the beginning of a new approach.

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