Friday, 13 August 2010

Labour's Hypocrisy on Electoral Reform

One of the key points of the coalition pact was the Conservative agreement to hold a referendum on adopting the AV voting system, for both parties to push forward equalisation of constituency sizes, and to reduce the overall number of constituencies from 650 to 600.

Labour have, accordingly, announced their opposition to these plans, arguing that a review of the boundaries is effectively gerrymandering, and an attempt to 'fix' the electoral system to prevent a Labour majority in the future.

A couple of points:

  • Labour were the only major political party to have a commitment to the AV voting system in their election manifesto. Why have they suddenly turned their backs on it?
  • Equalising constituency sizes is not gerrymandering - it is restoring balance to the electoral system. Even by Labour's own admission, 'the electoral system is... biased in favour of Labour'
  • Reducing the number of constituencies would again bring better balance to the electoral system, and reduce the cost of politics. Why is that gerrymandering?
And the Boundary Commission for England note in their 2009/2010 Annual Report their disappointment at the previous Government's refusal to review electoral law, despite the Committee on Standards in Public Life recommending it for review!

That thing that we all take for granted

It is not the coalition that are gerrymandering. Labour have been doing so for the past 13 years, allowing important legislation to become outdated, and population drift to take it's toll on constituency boundaries, simply because they benefited from the changes. And their hypocrisy now, accusing the coalition of fiddling while they themselves have been doing it for the past 13 years, is difficult to stomach.