Reform agenda

If you have often been confused by the phrase “cutting off the nose to spite the face”, may I point you to the news that the parliamentary Labour Party are to vote against the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill not for reasons of principle but for misguided and misunderstood ignorance.

Labour are all for voting reform, we’ve heard many a Labour MP (including Gordon Brown during the leaders debates) say as much. Tony Blair wasn’t so much of a fan, kicking Roy Jenkins’ “AV+” model into the long grass without barely having enough time to dog-ear the report’s index page. Most MPs agree that the UK needs to replace First Past The Post, the “winner takes all” system whereby an MP can have 5 years on the Green Benches on the back of being LESS popular than all the other candidates on the ballot paper combined.

Labour fought the 2010 election on a manifesto pledge to support AV. To turn away, as they have announced they will do, gives the impression that they would rather oppose for the sake of opposition, a truly pathetic reaction.

Their reasoning draws from the fact that the Bill also puts into place boundary changes to lower the number of MPs in Parliament from 650 to 600. It goes without saying, surely, that the UK is too small a country to have 650 MPs? An ever greater reduction would be welcome in the long-term, not least because India (with over a BILLION PEOPLE) has 545 members in its Lower House. We know now, then, that Labour support spending millions more on maintaining the House of Commons as the most bloated Chamber in the democratic world. Good that we have that sorted.

One of the most amusing – down right laughable – parts of Labour’s opposition is their use of the word “gerrymander”. If only they could use their insults correctly! How can it be fair that Labour can “stack up” smaller, compact urban seats with fewer electors while all other parties – not just LibDem – are forced to fight larger, mostly rural constituencies, often for less votes?

Some critics on Facebook and Twitter seem to be ignorant to the existence of the Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland and Wales, three organisations who have been doing this sort of thing independent of Government since the Second World War. “Tories want to gerrymander the country!!” is the kind of ignorant headline grabbing whinging I’d expect from less well tendered Student Unions, not the Labour Party. They know, as most of us know, that the Boundary Commission process is at arm’s-reach from Government. Opposing these changes for the sake of being anti-Tory is utter dribble.

What this means, of course, is another flip-flop in the known facts of British politics. Labour are not only the party against police accountability and now against progressive political reform, too.

To be against the AV referendum because of some misguided understanding of the boundary review process, as if it is some newly invented system never before seen under the eyes of God, is the most cynical and child-like ploy in modern politics.

Just what exactly is the current Labour Party in favour of?