National politics

PR machine

Alan Johnson is viewed by some people as having the potential to be the next leader of the Labour party. It is clear from his pronouncements on proportional representation today in the Times that he is only interested in the narrow interests of the Labour party and has no interest in what is good for our country. He wants to confuse people by mixing the issue of reforming the behaviour of MPs with the issue of reforming the electoral system. In doing so Johnson is showing his true colours. In the Times he proposes that we have a referendum on the Alternative Vote Plus (AV+) system of proportional representation proposed by Roy Jenkins.

In 1997 the Labour manifesto promised:

We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons. An independent commission on voting systems will be appointed early to recommend a proportional alternative to the first-past-the-post system.

Whatever happened to that idea? In 1998 Roy Jenkins produced the Jenkins report which proposed the AV+ system of PR for the House of Commons. It did not suit Labour (because it would have reduced their majority) and the whole idea was dropped. Twelve years later Johnson raises it again because he thinks it has the power to clip the wings of the next Conservative government. Does Johnson think we have no memory?

The AV+ system of proportional representation is not that different from the little understood AMS system used by the London Assembly in 2000 and then again in 2004 and 2008. That system has given us a BNP member and a number of Green and UKIP members and a toothless scrutiny body. Great. Nice one Alan.

The biggest challenge for our next government will be tackling our country’s out of control debt. There is no way that we need a watered-down, PR type Parliament to tackle this challenge. In 2005 the largest home nation, England, voted for a Tory government but had to submit to a Labour government willed by the smaller home nations. We need a large Conservative majority at the next general election to allow our next government to do its job. Johnson is not part of the solution.

2 replies on “PR machine”

You criticise a PR system – and purists would argue it isn’t strictly proportional anyway – in London elections because “That system has given us a BNP member and a number of Green and UKIP members and a toothless scrutiny body.”

A/ The system in 2008 elected one BNP member and 2 Greens to the London Assembly. No UKIP member was elected.

B/ 130,714 (misguided) fools voted for the BNP across London. 203,465 people voted for the Greens. That’s a lot of people who voted for ‘their ‘ Party. Why should almost 14% of the people who voted in those part of the Assembly elections be denied a voice?

C/ When people know their vote may count, maybe turnout will rise from it’s current miserable level of just over 60% overall in the 2005 General Election.

D/ Get the next – likely to be – Conservative government to give the London Assembly more powers and allow it to properly hold a Mayor to account. The present system allows too much power in the hands of one man.

One final point. Just because you may not like what the BNP or Greens say, and neither do I, the way to defeat them is not to deny them representation. That’s a very slippery slope.



On a point of detail Damian Hockney and Peter Hulme Cross were elected as UKIP AMs in 2004 and formed One London in 2005 after UKIP was split by Kilroy Silk leaving to form Veritas.

The main point is that PR will give us weak, ineffective government at a time when we need strong government. I would not spend too long in a country where PR effectively allowed the LibDems to rule.


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